Launched in 1997 by the OECD, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international study which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. To date students representing more than 70 countries and economies have participated in the assessment.
Since the year 2000, every three years, a randomly selected group of fifteen-year-olds take tests in the key subjects: reading, mathematics and science, with focus given to one subject in each year of assessment. The students and their school principals also fill in background questionnaires to provide information on the students' family background and the way their schools are run. Some countries and economies also choose to have parents fill in a questionnaire.
In 2000 the focus of the assessment was reading, in 2003 mathematics and problem solving, in 2006 science and in 2009 reading again. The 2012 data collection focussing on mathematics is well under way and includes an optional computer-based assessment of mathematics and reading involving some 30 countries as well as an optional area of assessment: financial literacy, which 19 countries have taken up. Preparations for the PISA 2015 assessment began in September 2012 with the first meeting of the PISA 2015 National Project Managers.
PISA is unique because it develops tests which are not directly linked to the school curriculum and provides context through the background questionnaires which can help analysts interpret the results. The tests are designed to assess to what extent students at the end of compulsory education, can apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society.
PISA data provides governments with a powerful tool to shape their policy making.
Go to our 'PISA Products' page to find out more: PISA data; analysis of the PISA results; PISA test questions; the organisation of the assessment and the theory behind it.