PISA 2012 Creative Problem Solving


The PISA 2012 Creative Problem Solving assessment measures students' capacity to engage in cognitive processing to understand and resolve problem situations where a method of solution is not immediately obvious. This includes the willingness to engage with such situations in order to achieve one’s potential as a constructive and reflective citizen. 


What is Creative Problem Solving?

A “problem” exists when a person has a goal but does not know how to achieve it. In order to reach their goal, individuals must overcome barriers such as a lack of relevant knowledge or strategies. “Problem solving” thus refers to transforming a given situation into a goal situation, when no obvious method of solution is available.

The PISA 2012 Creative Problem Solving assessment focused on students’ general reasoning skills, their ability to regulate problem-solving processes, and their willingness to do so, by confronting students with problems that do not require expert knowledge to solve.

Why is it important for students to develop Creative Problem Solving?

In modern societies, all of life is problem solving. Changes in society, the environment, and technology mean that the scope of an individual’s readily-applicable knowledge is rapidly evolving. Adapting, learning, trying out new things and being ready to learn from mistakes are key to resilience and success in an unpredictable world.

Few workers today, whether in manual or knowledge-based occupations, use repetitive actions to perform their tasks. Complex problem solving skills are particularly in demand in fast-growing, highly-skilled managerial, professional and technical occupations. It is thus important for students to develop creative problem solving skills so that they can confront and overcome complex, non-routine challenges with no immediately obvious solutions – both in their daily lives, and in preparation for their future. Problem solving skills can also help individuals to participate fully in society by enabling them to better adapt to new circumstances, engage in lifelong learning, and transfer knowledge into successful action.



What is innovative about the PISA 2012 Creative Problem Solving assessment?

The PISA 2012 Creative Problem Solvingassessment advanced large-scale, competency-based assessment beyond the traditional scope of literacy and numeracy. It focused on the general cognitive processes involved in problem solving, rather than on students’ ability to solve problems in particular school subjects.

The assessment  exploited the potential of computer-based simulated scenarios and response formats and assigned a central place to ‘interactive’ problems. Most of these interactive tasks asked students to explore and control an unknown system.

This assessment also employed entirely automated scoring, and in some tasks, exploited process data (namely log files about the sequence of actions performed by students) to inform the scoring of items. For example, where students had to troubleshoot a malfunctioning device, they needed to explore the device in order to uncover the information they needed; unless the data logged by the computer could establish that students had not guessed an answer, they were not awarded credit for selecting the correct answer.

Results and supporting documents


The PISA 2012 Results (Volume V): Creative Problem Solving results present student performance in the assessment of problem solving, including an examination of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each school system and how they are related to individual student characteristics, such as gender, immigrant background and socio-economic status. The volume also explores the role of education in fostering problem-solving skills.

 Country notes: England, Germany, Singapore, Turkey, France (French), Japan (EnglishJapanese), Spain (EnglishSpanish), United States

 PISA in Focus: Are 15-year-olds creative problem-solvers? Also available: French, German, Spanish

 Additional results

 Assessment framework and instruments


The full test of Creative Problem Solving (including the national versions) is available upon request via the test delivery software used in 2012. For interested researchers: please send your request, including the goal(s) of the request, to [email protected].

Additional resources

Supporting documents

Past events

Articles, blog posts and podcasts

Videos and presentations

PISA 2012: Creative Problem Solving - Students' skills in tackling real-life problems (Andreas Schleicher)


Contact us

For more information, reach out to the PISA innovative assessments team at [email protected]