Sample Assessment Questions

The items below are examples of questions 15-year-olds were asked to answer for PISA. When you click an item in one of the four subject categories, you will see the item image and links to the item questions. Click on these links and a new window will open with a question, its answer, and the percent of students in the United States and other OECD countries who answered correctly.

Reading Literacy Sample Items
Mathematics Literacy Sample Items
Internet Relay Chat
Science Literacy Sample Items
Problem Solving Sample Items


Question 1 and Answer   |   Question 2 and Answer
Can these questions on the ozone layer be answered by scientific research?  Circle yes or no.

 Read the following section of an article about the ozone layer.

The atmosphere is an ocean of air and a precious natural resource for sustaining life on the Earth. Unfortunately, human activities based on national/personal interests are causing harm to this common resource, notably by depleting the fragile ozone layer, which acts as a protective shield for life on the Earth.

Ozone molecules consist of three oxygen atoms, as opposed to oxygen molecules which consist of two oxygen atoms. Ozone molecules are exceedingly rare: fewer than ten in every million molecules of air. However, for nearly a billion years, their presence in the atmosphere has played a vital role in safeguarding life on Earth. Depending on where it is located, ozone can either protect or harm life on Earth. The ozone in the troposphere (up to 10 kilometers above the Earth's surface) is "bad" ozone which can damage lung tissues and plants. But about 90 percent of ozone found in the stratosphere (between 10 and 40 kilometers above the Earth's surface) is "good" ozone which plays a beneficial role by absorbing dangerous ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation from the Sun.

Without this beneficial ozone layer, humans would be more susceptible to certain diseases due to the increased incidence of ultra-violet rays from the Sun. In the last decades the amount of ozone has decreased. In 1974 it was hypothesized that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could be a cause for this. Until 1987, scientific assessment of the cause-effect relationship was not convincing enough to implicate CFCs. However, in September 1987, diplomats from around the world met in Montreal (Canada) and agreed to set sharp limits to the use of CFCs.

PISA's definition of literacy

For more sample questions from the PISA assessments view this OECD publication:
Take the Test: Sample Questions from OECD's PISA Assessments