For Schools

What is PISA?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international study 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 reading, mathematics and science.  However, due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the PISA 2021 assessment has been postponed to 2022, with over 80 countries participating in this cycle.

The tests are designed to assess how well the pupils master key subjects in order to be prepared for real-life situations in the adult world. PISA results are used by our government and governments from around the world to compare the strengths and weaknesses of their education systems. It provides an opportunity to compare our achievement internationally and to learn from the policies and practices of other countries.

See the About PISA page for more information on the study.

Why does England/Wales/Northern Ireland take part in PISA?

PISA is the only international education survey to measure the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds. It builds the national picture of pupil achievement of this age group, with implications for local and national policy and developments.

PISA helps us to understand how well pupils can apply knowledge and skills in reading, science and mathematics 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 in PISA, providing a rich set of data for comparisons.

(N.B. Scotland also participates in PISA)

What are the benefits 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 your school and pupils are contributing to a worldwide evidence base that can inform policies and strategies to help address the challenges associated with raising standards and reducing attainment gaps.

– The study also provides 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 other countries.

– PISA enables comparison of pupils’ attainment together with their background and attitudes to school and learning.

– Pupils can practise their assessment skills in a study for which no prior preparation is needed.

– Pupils will have the opportunity to represent their country in an international study involving over 80 countries.

What support is provided to schools who participate?

We greatly appreciate the contribution of schools to this important study and are committed to ensuring that participation is as straightforward as possible for your staff and pupils. Minimal administration is required from school staff and there is no prior preparation for pupils. A PISA Test Administrator will attend your school on the day of the study to administer the test and you are not required to do any marking.

We have a team dedicated to supporting you throughout the study. You can contact the PISA Support Team with any questions you may have (Monday-Friday).

What does the assessment consist of?

The PISA study comprises a two-hour computer-based assessment in which pupils answer multiple-choice and open-ended questions on mathematics, science and reading. Each pupil will take different combinations of test items from within a larger question bank.

In PISA 2022, the focus area will be mathematics. The tests are 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. Examples of PISA test questions can be found here.

Pupils are also asked to complete an online questionnaire about themselves, their attitudes to learning and their use of ICT. The questionnaire should take around 30-40 minutes.

There is also a School questionnaire that we ask the Headteacher/Principal (or member of the Senior Leadership Team) to complete online. This should be completed before the assessment date, and no later than the assessment day itself.

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 book to read quietly in the event of finishing the assessment early.

Where can I get support/ further information?

We have compiled a set of FAQs for participating schools.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the study please feel free to contact the PISA Support Team.

We would like to thank all of the schools and their pupils who participate in PISA, your contribution is greatly valued and contributes to the improvement of educational policies and practices across the world.