PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can do : Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science (Volume I) [Revised edition February 2014]



PISA 2012 Vol I (what students know and can do)

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This report is the first in a series of volumes presenting the results of PISA 2012 that assessed the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science (with a focus on mathematics) in 65 countries and economies. It provides an introduction to PISA and examines the performance of students in mathematics, reading and science.

Around 510 000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months participated in the assessment, representing about 28 million 15-year-olds globally.


  • Snapshot of student performance in mathematics, reading and science (pdf) English, French, German
  • Summaries (English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish)

Try PISA test questions



Chapter 1

What is PISA?


The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern society, particularly in mathematics, reading and science. This section offers an overview of the Programme, including which countries and economies participate and which students are assessed, what types of skills are measured, and how PISA 2012 differs from previous PISA assessments. 

> Download Excel snapshot of student performance in mathematics, reading and science

Chapter 2

A Profile of Student Performance in Mathematics


This chapter compares student performance in mathematics across and within countries and economies. It discusses the PISA definition of literacy in mathematics and describes the tasks associated with each PISA proficiency level. The chapter then digs deep into the results of the mathematics assessment, showing gender differences in performance, trends in mathematics performance up to 2012, and differences in students’ abilities to handle certain mathematics processes, such as formulating situations mathematically, and certain mathematics contents, such as uncertainty and data, and space and shape.

> Download Excel tables 

> Download Excel figures

Chapter 3

Measuring Opportunities to Learn Mathematics


This chapter examines whether and how exposure to mathematics content, known as “opportunity to learn”, is associated with student performance. The analysis is based on students’ responses to questions that appeared in the PISA Student Questionnaire on the degree to which they encountered various types of mathematics problems during their schooling, how familiar they were with certain formal mathematics content, and how frequently they had been taught to solve specific mathematics tasks involving formal or applied mathematics.

> Download Excel tables 

> Download Excel figures: figures 1.3.1a - 1.3.4c and figures 1.3.6 - 1.3.17

Chapter 4

A Profile of Student Performance in Reading


This chapter examines student performance in reading in PISA 2012. It provides examples of assessment questions, relating them to each PISA proficiency level, discusses gender differences in student performance, compares countries’ and economies’, performance in reading, and highlights trends in reading performance up to 2012.

> Download Excel tables 

> Download Excel figures

 Chapter 5

A Profile of Student Performance in Science


This chapter examines student performance in science in PISA 2012. It provides examples of assessment questions, relating them to each PISA proficiency level, discusses gender differences in student performance, compares countries’ and economies’ performance in science, and highlights trends in science performance up to 2012.

> Download Excel tables 

> Download Excel figures

Chapter 6

Policy Implications of Student Performance in PISA 2012


The PISA 2012 assessment dispels the notion that mathematics achievement is mainly a product of innate ability rather than hard work. Results also suggest that improvement is possible among high performers as among low performers. This chapter considers how education policies of school systems and individual schools are associated with student performance and with gender differences in performance.


Technical Background

Annex A

Annex A1: Indices from the student, school and parent context questionnaires

Annex A2: The PISA target population, the PISA samples and the definition of schools

Annex A3: Technical notes on analyses in this volume

Annex A4: Quality assurance

Annex A5: Technical details of trends analyses

Annex A6: Development of the PISA assessment instruments

Annex A7: Technical note on Brazil (Excel tables)

Annex B

PISA 2012 Data 

Annex B1: Results for countries and economies 
Chapter 2, Chapter 3Chapter 4, Chapter 5 (Excel)

Annex B2: Results for regions within countries (Excel)

Annex B3: Results for the computer-based and combined scales for mathematics and reading (Excel)

Annex B4: Trends in mathematics, reading and science performance: OECD countries, Partner countries & economies (Excel)

Annex C

The development and implementation of PISA - a collaborative effort


> Back to PISA 2012 Results for Volumes II, III and IV


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