PISA 2022 Science Literacy Results

Explore How U.S. Science Performance Compared Internationally in 2022

Science literacy was a minor domainAs a minor domain, a smaller proportion of the assessment is devoted to the subject area and utilizes only items that have been developed for previous cycles of PISA (trend items only). Analysis of the minor domain subject is more limited than when it is a major domain. in PISA 2022. For 2022, the PISA science literacy assessment component administered to students included only trend items used in prior cycles of PISA, including the 2006 and 2015 cycles, when science literacy was the major domainAs the major domain, a greater proportion of the assessment is devoted to the subject area, including newly developed items, allowing for more detailed analyses of student performance in the subject. In addition, most items in the background questionnaires for students and schools focus on some aspect of the major domain subject, such as how it is taught, school resources related to the teaching of the subject, or students' levels of engagement with the subject.. Read more about the latest version of the science literacy framework for PISA 2022.

In PISA, the assessment of science literacy focuses on students' ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen. It requires students to engage in reasoned discourse about science and technology utilizing their knowledge of facts and theories to explain phenomena scientifically. It also requires students to know the standard methodological procedures and patterns of reasoning used in science to evaluate or design scientific inquiries and interpret evidence.

In PISA 2022, science literacy is defined as students' ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen. A scientifically literate person is willing to engage in reasoned discourse about science and technology, which requires the competencies to explain phenomena scientifically, evaluate and design scientific inquiry, and interpret data and evidence scientifically.

How does the performance of U.S. 15-year-olds in science compare internationally?

Compared to the 80 other education systems in PISA 2022, the U.S. average science literacy score was higher than the average in 56 education systems, lower than the average in 9 education systems, and not significantly different from the average in 15 education systems.

  • The U.S. average score (499) was higher than the OECD average score (485).
  • Compared to the 36 other participating OECD members, the U.S. average in science literacy was higher than the average in 16 education systems, lower than in 5, and not significantly different from 15.
  • On a scale of 0 to 1,000, average scores in science literacy across the education systems ranged from 347 in Cambodia to 561 in Singapore.

Click on the column headers below to sort data by education system, average score, or difference from the U.S. average score. The default display shows education systems ordered by the 2022 average score from largest to smallest. When a user selects customized ordering, footnotes and special symbol notes will be retained as they were in the default view.

Table S1. Average scores and difference from U.S. average score of 15-year-old students on the PISA science literacy scale, by education system: 2022

Filter by:

Education system Average score Difference from U.S. average score
Education system Average score Difference from U.S. average score

Average score is higher than U.S. average score at the .05 level of statistical significance.

Average score is lower than U.S. average score at the .05 level of statistical significance.

Average score is not significantly different from U.S. average score at the .05 level of statistical significance.

! Interpret data with caution. Estimate is unstable because the standard error is between 30 and 50 percent of the estimate.

At least 50 percent but less than 75 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

Less than 50 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

NOTE: Scores are reported on a scale from 0 to 1,000. Differences were computed using unrounded numbers. The default graphic or table view shows education systems ordered by their average scores in 2022. The ordering of notes and special symbols in the NOTE section follows the order shown in the default graphic/table view. Education systems are marked as OECD countries if they were OECD members in 2022. All OECD members except for Luxembourg participated in the PISA 2022 cycle. The OECD average is the average of the national averages of the participating OECD member countries, with each country weighted equally. Italics indicate non-OECD countries and education systems. Some apparent differences between estimates may not be statistically significant.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2022.

See details for this data and perform your own analyses in the PISA Data Explorer.

For More Information

What is the percentage of 15-year-olds reaching the selected PISA proficiency levels in science?

In addition to scale scores, PISA describes student performance in each subject area in terms of levels of proficiency, from the lowest level (Level 1b) to the highest (Level 6). Students were classified into proficiency levels based on their scores. Read more about the skills and knowledge of students at each science literacy proficiency level. To reach a particular proficiency level, a student must correctly answer a majority of items at that level. Students were classified into science proficiency levels according to their scores. Exact cut scoresThe minimum score required for performance at each PISA proficiency level. A cut score is a specified point on a score scale, such that scores at or above that point are interpreted or acted upon differently from scores below that point. PISA cut scores are determined through a standard-setting process that convenes subject-area expert groups and the PISA test developers. are as follows: Below Level 2 is a score less than 409.54; Levels 5 and above is a score equal to or greater than 633.33. See Technical Notes for details.

In the United States, 11 percent of 15-year-old students in 2022 were top performers in science literacy, scoring at proficiency levels 5 and above; 22 percent were low performers in science literacy, scoring below proficiency level 2.

  • The United States had a larger percentage of top performers in science literacy than the OECD average (11 percent vs. 7 percent, respectively). Compared to 73 other reportable education systems, the U.S. percentage was larger than in 55 education systems, smaller than in 5 education systems, and not significantly different from 12 education systems. The percentages of top-performing 15-year-old students in science literacy ranged from 24 percent in Singapore to nearly 0 percent in 14 education systems. Estimates are not reportable for 8 education systems because reporting standards were not met.
  • The United States had a smaller percentage of low performers in science literacy than the OECD average (22 vs. 24 percent, respectively). The U.S. percentage was larger than in 12 education systems, smaller than in 48 education systems, and not significantly different from 20 education systems. The percentages of low-performing 15-year-old students in science literacy ranged from 7 percent in Macau (China) to 90 percent in Cambodia.

Click on the column headers below to sort data by education system or different proficiency levels. The default display shows education systems ordered by the percentages of 15-year-olds in levels 5 and above. When a user selects customized ordering, footnotes and special symbol notes will be retained as they were in the default view.

Display as: |

Figure S2. Percentage of 15-year-old students performing at selected science literacy proficiency levels, by education system: 2022
Sort by:
Filter by:

# Rounds to zero.

! Interpret data with caution. Estimate is unstable because the standard error is between 30 and 50 percent of the estimate.

!! Interpret data with caution. Estimate is unstable because the standard error represents more than 50 percent of the estimate.

‡ Reporting standards not met.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from the U.S. percentage at the .05 level of statistical significance.

At least 50 percent but less than 75 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

Less than 50 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

NOTE: The default graphic or table view shows education systems ordered by the percentages of 15-year-olds in levels 5 and above in 2022. The ordering of notes and special symbols in the NOTE section follows the order shown in the default graphic/table view. Education systems are marked as OECD countries if they were OECD members in 2022. All OECD members except for Luxembourg participated in the PISA 2022 cycle. The OECD average is the average of the national averages of the participating OECD member countries, with each country weighted equally. Italics indicate non-OECD countries and education systems. Some apparent differences between estimates may not be statistically significant. Students were classified into science proficiency levels according to their scores. Exact cut scores are as follows: Below Level 2 is a score less than 409.54; Levels 5 and above is a score equal to or greater than 633.33.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2022.

See details for this data and perform your own analyses in the PISA Data Explorer.

Table S2. Percentage of 15-year-old students performing at selected science literacy proficiency levels, by education system: 2022

Filter by:

Education system Below level 2 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Levels 5
and above
commodi distinctio 422 21 332 17 22

# Rounds to zero.

! Interpret data with caution. Estimate is unstable because the standard error is between 30 and 50 percent of the estimate.

!! Interpret data with caution. Estimate is unstable because the standard error represents more than 50 percent of the estimate.

‡ Reporting standards not met.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from the U.S. percentage at the .05 level of statistical significance.

At least 50 percent but less than 75 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

Less than 50 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

NOTE: The default graphic or table view shows education systems ordered by the percentages of 15-year-olds in levels 5 and above in 2022. The ordering of notes and special symbols in the NOTE section follows the order shown in the default graphic/table view. Education systems are marked as OECD countries if they were OECD members in 2022. All OECD members except for Luxembourg participated in the PISA 2022 cycle. The OECD average is the average of the national averages of the participating OECD member countries, with each country weighted equally. Italics indicate non-OECD countries and education systems. Some apparent differences between estimates may not be statistically significant. Students were classified into science proficiency levels according to their scores. Exact cut scores are as follows: Below Level 2 is a score less than 409.54; Levels 5 and above is a score equal to or greater than 633.33.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2022.

See details for this data and perform your own analyses in the PISA Data Explorer.

For More Information

How large is the gap in science performance between top and bottom performers?

Score gaps between top and bottom performers provide one indication of equity within an education system. The distribution of U.S. student scores in science literacy showed a score gap of 282 points between the 90th and 10th percentiles.

  • The U.S. score gap between the 90th and 10th percentiles (282 points) was larger than the score gap across the participating OECD countries on average (254 points).
  • The U.S. score gap was larger than the gap in 62 education systems and not significantly different from the gap in 18 education systems.
  • Internationally, score gaps between the 90th and 10th percentiles ranged from 128 points in Cambodia to 296 points in the Netherlands.

The figure below shows the threshold (or cut) scores for students at the 10th percentile (the bottom 10 percent of students) and at the 90th percentile (the top 10 percent of students). The score gap for each education system is the difference between its 90th and 10th percentile scores. The percentile ranges are specific to each education system's distribution of scores and scores can be compared across education systems.

Click on the column headers below to sort data by education system or by the 90th–10th score gap. The default display shows education systems ordered by the 2022 90th–10th score gap from largest to smallest. When a user selects customized ordering, footnotes and special symbol notes will be retained as they were in the default view.

Display as: |

Figure S3. Average scores and 10th and 90th percentile scores of 15-year-old students on the PISA science literacy scale and percentile score gaps, by education system: 2022
KEY: 10th Percentile Average Score 90th Percentile

* Score gap is significantly different (p < .05) from the U.S. 90th to 10th percentile score gap at the .05 level of statistical significance.

At least 50 percent but less than 75 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

Less than 50 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

NOTE: Scores are reported on a scale from 0 to 1,000. Differences were computed using unrounded numbers. The default graphic or table view shows education systems ordered by the 90th–10th score gap in 2022. The ordering of notes and special symbols in the NOTE section follows the order shown in the default graphic/table view. Education systems are marked as OECD countries if they were OECD members in 2022. All OECD members except for Luxembourg participated in the PISA 2022 cycle. The OECD average is the average of the national averages of the participating OECD member countries, with each country weighted equally. Italics indicate non-OECD countries and education systems. Some apparent differences between estimates may not be statistically significant. Selected percentiles are defined as: 10th percentile—the bottom 10 percent of students; 90th percentile—the top 10 percent of students.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2022.

See details for this data and perform your own analyses in the PISA Data Explorer.

Table S3. Average scores and 10th and 90th percentile scores of 15-year-old students on the PISA science literacy scale and percentile score gaps, by education system: 2022
Education system 10th percentile score Average score 90th percentile score 90th–10th score gap
Lorem ipsum 370 0.6 489 0.4

* Score gap is significantly different (p < .05) from the U.S. 90th to 10th percentile score gap at the .05 level of statistical significance.

At least 50 percent but less than 75 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

Less than 50 percent of the 15-year-old population is covered by the PISA sample.

NOTE: Scores are reported on a scale from 0 to 1,000. Differences were computed using unrounded numbers. The default graphic or table view shows education systems ordered by the 90th–10th score gap in 2022. The ordering of notes and special symbols in the NOTE section follows the order shown in the default graphic/table view. Education systems are marked as OECD countries if they were OECD members in 2022. All OECD members except for Luxembourg participated in the PISA 2022 cycle. The OECD average is the average of the national averages of the participating OECD member countries, with each country weighted equally. Italics indicate non-OECD countries and education systems. Some apparent differences between estimates may not be statistically significant. Selected percentiles are defined as: 10th percentile—the bottom 10 percent of students; 90th percentile—the top 10 percent of students.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2022.

See details for this data and perform your own analyses in the PISA Data Explorer.

For More Information

Suggested Citation: Highlights of U.S. PISA 2022 Results Web Report (NCES 2023-115). U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Available at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2022/.