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Information for Students

What is PISA?

PISA is an important international study that has been conducted since 2000. Every 3 years, students from around the world participate in PISA, and the results are released in international and national reports. Often, media report on the results, and policymakers, researchers, educators, and the public get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. education system.

PISA measures how well students apply their knowledge and skills in solving problems in science, reading, mathematics, financial literacy, and collaborative problem solving. Each student participating in PISA is assessed in two or three of these subjects. No student takes every PISA test question, and most students will be assessed in only two of the subjects. PISA is administered on a computer.

PISA may be a little different from some assessments students have seen before because it focuses on the application of skills and knowledge and presents students with real-life problems. It is designed with some easier questions and some more difficult ones so that researchers can learn about the range of students' skills. Some PISA questions require that you select from a set of provided answers; other questions require that you write out a response. It is very important for students to try their best on the assessment so researchers have an accurate picture of what 15-year-old students know and can do.

How long does PISA take?

The PISA assessment takes approximately 3 hours in total to complete. This includes time for instructions, the assessment, breaks, and a brief questionnaire about the student. The assessment portion takes approximately 2 of these hours. Some students will also be asked to participate in an additional 1-hour assessment in financial literacy that is held after the main PISA assessment.

How did I get selected to take PISA?

Your school is one of about 240 from across the United States selected to participate in PISA. The schools that participate in PISA in the United States are scientifically selected from a list of all schools in the country that enroll 15-year-old students. This is done to ensure that U.S. participants accurately represent the entire population of 15-year-old students in the United States and not just particular types of schools or groups of students. The participation of every sampled student is critical to obtaining an accurate picture of students' knowledge and skills.

In each sampled school, up to 42 students are randomly selected from a list of all 15-year-old students enrolled in the school. Every 15-year-old student enrolled in a PISA-sampled school has an equal chance of being selected. Students in other countries are selected in the same way to make sure each country is fairly represented and no country is advantaged or disadvantaged because of the types of schools or groups of students selected. Across the United States, some 5,600 students represent the United States in PISA.

In 2015, schools, teachers, and students in more than 70 other countries and educational jurisdictions will participate in PISA.

How will my participation benefit others, and how will it benefit me?

Each selected student is one of about 42 students in each school who have been scientifically sampled to participate in PISA. Because each student is one of a select few in each school, student participation is very important. Each student that participates in PISA will…

  • receive a certificate for 4-hours of volunteer service from the U.S. Department of Education, and
  • represent similar students across the country.

Only around 5,600 students will have the unique opportunity to participate in PISA 2015 in the United States. How often do you get the chance to represent your country?

Participating in PISA is a national service. Your individual participation will have an impact on the bigger picture of education in the United States and around the world.

What is done with the information collected from me?

Individual student performance on PISA will not be reported. PISA is not designed to produce individual test scores and your individual performance is not shared with your school, teachers or district in any way. Student responses are combined with other student responses and are only used for statistical purposes. By law, data provided by schools, staff, and students may be used only for statistical purposes and may not be disclosed, or used, in identifiable form for any other purpose except as required by law [20 U.S.C. § 9573].

What if I have additional questions?

If you have questions about PISA in your school, you may call PISA staff at 1-888-638-2597 or send an email to 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, or you can use the "Contact Us" button at the top of the page.