Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

These FAQs have been compiled from the most common questions asked by schools. If you would like to discuss any aspect of the study please feel free to contact the PISA Support Team on:

Phone: 020 7010 2010


1) What is PISA?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is the world’s largest international study of education systems, developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Every three years, PISA tests 15-year-old pupils from all over the world in mathematics, reading and science. PISA has been delayed by a year for this cycle to 2022 due to the Covid pandemic. The tests are designed to gauge how well the pupils master key knowledge and skills in order to be prepared for real-life situations in the adult world. More information can be found at and on the OECD’s PISA website at

2) When does the study take place?

The study will take place between Tuesday 1st November and Friday 16th December 2022.

A date has been proposed for the study to be conducted at your school. We hope that this date is convenient for your staff and pupils, and that suitable room(s) can be made available. If for any reason this date is not suitable, your PISA School Coordinator can contact our PISA Support Team to suggest two alternative dates between Thursday 3rd November and Friday 9th December 2022 for the study to take place. Our PISA Support Team will reply to confirm your new test date.

3) Why has my school been selected to take part in PISA?

Your school has been randomly selected to participate in PISA by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). One of the requirements of the study is to ensure that the sample of participating schools is representative of schools in England/Wales/Northern Ireland. We are only able to approach schools that are selected through the random sampling approach, to ensure the results show a true representation of the full range of schools, in respect of size, location and school type.

If you would like further information on the study methodology, please see

If too few schools participate in the study, then our national results will not be representative and our data will not be included in the international comparison. Your participation is therefore very important for the success of the PISA 2022 study.

4) Why does England, Wales and Northern Ireland take part in PISA?

PISA is the world’s largest international education study that measures the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds. The results help us understand the national picture of pupil achievement of this age group and directly influence national policy and developments.

PISA helps us to understand how well pupils can apply knowledge and skills in mathematics, science and reading to analyse, reason and communicate effectively as they examine, interpret and solve problems. The study also collects valuable information on pupils’ attitudes and motivations to help understand how they contribute to pupil performance.

PISA provides an opportunity to compare achievement internationally and encourages countries to learn from each other, creating fairer and more inclusive school systems. So far, more than 80 countries and economies have taken part, providing a rich set of data for comparison.

5) What have we learnt from PISA?

Results from the previous cycle of PISA, which took place in 2018, were released in December 2019. The Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment blog covers various findings from the study and can be read on the PISA 2022 website for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, along with the National Reports: As well as results in reading, mathematics and science (shown for each country below), the PISA 2018 study reported on pupils’ reading practices, their engagement with reading and their wellbeing.

Northern Ireland

In 2018, it was reported that pupils in Northern Ireland scored significantly higher than the OECD average in reading. PISA also reported that girls perform better than boys in reading, a pattern in common with most other OECD countries. Pupils in Northern Ireland showed relative strengths in the reading skills of ‘locating information’ and ‘evaluating and reflecting’ but were less strong in ‘understanding’.


In PISA 2018, pupils in England scored significantly above the OECD averages in reading, mathematics and science, and in common with all other participating countries, girls in  England performed better than boys in reading. In relation to reading skills, PISA also reported that pupils in England were relatively strong in ‘evaluating and reflecting’ and ‘locating information’ but demonstrated less strength in ‘understanding’.


PISA 2018 demonstrated that pupils in Wales were more confident in their reading ability than the OECD average. The PISA study also reported that pupils in Wales were more likely to read online than printed material.

Additional analysis of the PISA 2018 results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has showed that:

  • Engagement in reading is strongly correlated with reading performance and is a mediator of gender and socio-economic status;

  • Strength of personal relationships was the most important factor linked to pupils’ life satisfaction and wellbeing. Pupils’ sense of belonging in school had the highest correlation with life satisfaction, followed by parental and then teacher relationships; and

  • Higher performing disadvantaged pupils tended to use metacognitive strategies, had a growth mindset and higher aspirations for their future education or careers than their lower performing similarly disadvantaged peers.

6) What are the benefits to my school of taking part in the study?

The schools and pupils that participate in PISA are making a valuable contribution to the understanding of our education system and it is only with this participation that we can realise the opportunities that PISA brings to improve our educational policies and practices.

By participating in PISA, you will be:

  • Supporting a study that helps us better understand our education system, directly influencing national policy and developments.

  • Contributing to an international evidence base that shapes educational reform globally, helping to raise standards and reduce attainment gaps. See how PISA shapes education reform by visiting

  • Providing insights into areas such as social and gender equality, and attitudes to learning, allowing policy-makers to learn from best practice within the UK and internationally.

You will be providing your pupils with the opportunity to:

  • Engage with questions that challenge their ability to retrieve and creatively apply knowledge, via scenario-based questions.

  • Practise their external assessment skills through an innovative ‘low stakes’ online assessment for which no prior preparation is needed. This may be a particularly valuable experience for pupils, following the cancellation of external examinations in 2020 and 2021 and other impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Have the experience of representing England/Wales/Northern Ireland in an important global study.

Your school will receive a personalised feedback report containing information on your pupils’ perspectives in a range of areas e.g. attitudes to mathematics, sense of belonging and wellbeing (provided the number of participating pupils in your school is high enough to protect pupil confidentiality). This personalised report is an opportunity to better  understand and gauge your pupils’ wellbeing and learn from their experiences as we emerge from the pandemic. A sample of this report is included in the welcome pack and can be viewed on the PISA website

7) How is our contribution recognised?

As a thank you for your support, schools and pupils will be awarded a certificate of participation. Your school will receive a personalised feedback report (see FAQ above).

In recognition of your valued contribution, your school will also receive a £200 administration payment. You will be sent a payment form following your initial call from the PISA Support Team.

8) Will school staff be required to invigilate the study?

No, the National Centre (Pearson) will provide a Test Administrator who will visit the school on the assessment day and have responsibility for running the study. Test Administrators are experienced education professionals, often ex-teachers, who all have DBS/Access NI clearance, and COVID safe protocols will be in place, ensuring our staff adhere to the most up to date guidelines. However, we do ask that a member of the school staff stays in the room during the assessment. Welsh speaking Test Administrators will be provided where required.

9) What does the assessment consist of?

Pupils will complete a two-hour interactive computer-based assessment, answering multiple choice and open-ended questions on mathematics, science and reading. In PISA 2022, the focus area will be mathematics. Each pupil will take different combinations of test items from a larger question bank. The assessment is designed to capture how pupils master certain skills such as problem-solving in mathematics, reading strategies and critical thinking in science; skills that are important beyond the classroom.

Pupils and staff will also be asked to complete an online questionnaire to provide important contextual information to supplement the assessment data:

  • The pupil questionnaire asks participating pupils about aspects of their home and school lives, including demographic information, their home environment, school climate for learning, their attitudes towards learning mathematics, science and reading, and their use of digital resources.

  • The school questionnaire asks the Headteacher/Principal (or member of the SLT) a range of contextual questions about the participating school, including demographic characteristics of the school’s pupils, the availability of resources for teaching, and the school’s learning environment. The school questionnaire should be completed before the assessment date.

Examples of the assessments and questionnaires can be viewed at

10) Can I choose which pupils take part in the study?

No – a random sampling process will be used to select up to 40 of your 15-year-old pupils (with a d.o.b 01/09/06 – 31/08/07). You will be informed of the pupils chosen as soon as the sampling is complete: we expect this to happen between 15/09/22 and 30/09/22. It is important that all pupils in the sample carry out the assessment, however for pupils that may find it difficult to engage with the assessments, exclusion criteria can be applied. You will be sent more detail on exclusions at a later stage.

11) How long will the study take?

On the day of the assessment, we will require pupils for around 3 hours. Most schools aim to complete the study by lunch, though we can make arrangements to start later.

The assessment lasts 2 hours. After a 5-10 minute break, pupils will be asked to complete the online questionnaire, which will take around 30-40 minutes.

Our Test Administrator will arrive at least an hour before your chosen start time to prepare the room. The School Coordinator should aim to arrive at the same time. Parking on the school premises is welcomed if available.

The school questionnaire can be completed in advance online. Instructions on how to access the questionnaire will be sent to the School Coordinator to distribute. This questionnaire takes about an hour to complete.

12) Do pupils need to bring anything or prepare?

No prior preparation or work is required for pupils to be able to complete the assessment.

Pupils should bring a calculator and a book to read quietly in the event of finishing the assessment early.

13) Where should the study take place and what IT equipment do we need?

Pupils will need to take the assessment in a room that is quiet and free from distraction. Pupils can sit next to one another in normal classroom spacing.

Each pupil will need access to an internet enabled computer with keyboard and mouse. Using one or two IT rooms (depending on the number of pupils) is ideal or alternatively a
classroom with laptops and wifi/internet.

14) Will I need to set up IT facilities and wi-fi in advance?

We will liaise closely with your nominated School Coordinator and IT Coordinator ahead of the assessment day to ensure that the IT facilities in your school are set up correctly.

On the assessment day we will require:

  • an internet enabled computer with keyboard and mouse for each pupil: this can be a laptop or PC and will be required for a maximum of 3 hours (including breaks)

  • if laptops are used, they should be fully charged before the day of the study

  • a wi-fi or internet connection, since the assessments and questionnaires are accessed over the internet using a secure log in

  • we also ask that your IT Coordinator is available on the assessment day to assist should any issues arise.

In September/October, we will send you a link to run a short (5 minute) automated diagnostic test on a computer on your school system, to test the compatibility of your computers with the Amazon Workspace site (that hosts the assessments). If the test detects any issues, we will be in touch and work with your IT staff to remedy the issue(s). (The compatibility testing applies to schools in England and Wales only, in Northern Ireland Pearson are working directly with C2K).

If your school doesn’t have enough PCs or laptops we can provide additional laptops for the assessments: please get in touch with the PISA Support Team who will be happy to help you.

15) What are the main duties of the PISA School Coordinator?

The PISA Support Team will support your PISA School Coordinator throughout the process and aim to keep administration to a minimum. A year 11 class teacher (year 12 in Northern Ireland) or examinations officer is often selected for this role. The main duties include:

  • Being the main point of contact for Pearson and for the PISA Test Administrator.

  • Agreeing the date and making arrangements for pupils to complete the assessment in school.

  • Working with Pearson to confirm details of all eligible pupils and then those sampled to participate.

  • Informing pupils and parents of the study, using the letter templates provided by Pearson.

  • Informing the board of governors about the school’s participation in the study (your Headteacher/Principal may wish to do this).

  • Ensuring IT facilities are set up ready for online assessments.

  • Ensuring secure storage of any materials sent prior to the study.

  • Overseeing the distribution, completion and collection of school questionnaires prior to the test date.

  • On the assessment day, supporting the PISA Test Administrator(s) (see Next Steps document, section four ‘Day of the study’).

The Next Steps document provides more detailed information on the duties of the PISA School Coordinator.

To check that we are delivering the study in a similar way in all schools, a Quality Monitor may attend your session. If this happens, the School Coordinator will be asked some questions about the arrangements you school were required to make and your views of the way in which the study was organised.

16) What if a pupil does not want to answer a particular question?

Pupils are encouraged to do their best when answering the assessment questions to demonstrate what they know and can do. In the questionnaire, pupils are encouraged to give honest answers, with the knowledge that their responses will remain confidential throughout the process. However, pupils may refrain from answering any question/s they do not feel comfortable answering.

17) Will results remain confidential?

Yes – pupil and school identities will remain confidential and the results of individual schools or pupils will not be published.

The data shared with the international study organisers will be de-identified: pupil and school details will be removed and replaced with a code so that no individual school or pupil can be identified.

The data will be analysed alongside that of other schools in England/Wales/Northern Ireland and in other participating nations. Findings about each country will be published in an international report by the OECD in 2023. Academics at the University of Oxford will produce country reports in 2023.The government and any organisation granted access to the data for the purposes of international comparison or research will not publish information which identifies or makes it possible to identify any individual or school participating in the study.

18) How will the study protect my school’s data?

We take data protection very seriously and follow the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Any personal information we collect will be held securely and no individual pupil or school will be identifiable in any report or publication. The National Centre (Pearson and OUCEA) will only hold the PISA data long enough to allow the analysis and reporting of the study after which they will delete the data from their systems.

For the purposes of this research, the Government and its approved contractors will link the information to other information the Government already holds (such as on the National Pupil Database) or that it is lawfully permitted to access from other sources. This is to avoid repeatedly asking participants to give us information that we already hold and to enable analysis of the longer-term benefits of early learning. You can view data privacy notices at

19) How will pupils and parents/guardians be informed about the study?

We will provide template letters for you to send to pupils taking part in the study and their parents/guardians. These templates will be emailed to you so you can edit them as necessary and print or distribute electronically. We will provide you with letters on data privacy (one for pupils and one for parents) which must be sent to pupils and their parents/guardians and should not be altered. Letters should be sent once we have confirmed the pupils taking part in the study (not before).

To find out more, parents/guardians and pupils can be directed to the dedicated website we have set up for PISA 2022 specifically for participants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at

20) Where can I get support/further information?

The PISA Support Team can be reached Monday to Friday between 8am-4pm on 020 7010 2010 or by email on

To find out more about PISA 2022, please access the dedicated website we have set up for PISA 2022 specifically for participants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at

For more general information about PISA, please access the OECD PISA website at