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Information for Participants

PISA is the largest international education study in the world. More than 60 countries participate, and together these countries represent nearly 90 percent of the world economy. Knowing how U.S. students perform on PISA provides us valuable information on how our education system compares with the education systems of the other countries with whom we collaborate and compete in the world economy.

What does PISA test? PISA assesses 15-year-old students' performance in mathematics, reading, and science. In 2012, problem solving and financial literacy were also assessed. PISA is unique because it focuses on how well students can apply their knowledge and skills in these areas and it uses problems set in real-life contexts. PISA is administered every 3 years. In 2012, PISA was administered using both paper and computer in the U.S. In 2015, PISA data will be collected through computer only.

What is PISA for? PISA results have been used by researchers and policymakers in the United States and around the world to chart national progress against international standards and to identify strengths and weaknesses in countries' education systems. Participating schools can also use the results to benchmark their performance against schools across the world. Students who participate in PISA are performing a national service, representing their country in an important education assessment. They can read about the results in the newspaper and know that they have contributed to an important source of information about education in their country and have influenced the national discussion.

Who sponsors PISA? PISA is a program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. In the United States, PISA is conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the U.S. Department of Education and its contractor, Westat.

Who is selected to participate? In PISA, each country is represented by a small sample of schools and students selected to reflect its population and educational contexts and to provide valid estimates of student achievement. In the United States, 240 schools were randomly sampled to take part in PISA 2012. In each school, 50 students were randomly selected to participate.

Where can I find additional information? Examples of PISA questions can be found here. Examples of reports from earlier cycles of PISA can be found here. For other information or questions, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) here, the OECD PISA FAQs here, or you can use the "Contact Us" button at the top of the page. In addition, if you have specific questions about PISA in your school, you may call PISA staff at 1-888-638-2597 or send an email to