About PISA

What does the PISA study involve?

PISA assesses the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science and is developed jointly by member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The PISA study has a three year cycle, focusing in turn on reading, maths and science. The main focus in PISA 2021 is maths, with some questions assessing reading and science, plus a new area called creative thinking. The PISA study in 2021 will be wholly computer based.

In order to help us understand how different contexts may affect the results of the PISA test, pupils and headteachers are also asked to complete questionnaires about themselves and their school.

PISA 2021 timeline

From March to August 2020, pupils from around 80 countries across the world will take part in the PISA field trial. In Scotland, the field trial will be in March 2020. Once the field trial has been completed and pupil responses marked, the data collected will be analysed. The international research team will select the questions which worked best internationally, to provide the most accurate and robust information about what pupils can do, to understand what pupils think about themselves and their schools, and to gather information on teaching practices in each country. The questions that met these criteria will be taken forward to the main study.

From February 2021 – schools selected to take part in the main study in Scotland will be contacted by NFER. We will support schools throughout the main study to ensure that participation is a rewarding experience for teachers and pupils.

From March 2021 – pupils across the world will be taking part in the PISA 2021 main study.

October and November 2021 – pupils in Scotland will take part in the PISA 2021 main study.

From December 2021 to December 2022 - international researchers will collate and analyse the data from all participating countries and prepare reports on the results.

December 2022 – the OECD will publish its international report about all countries and the Scottish Government will publish its report for Scotland. The reports will include trends over time and international comparisons of findings. The contextual background information is particularly valuable to governments and researchers and makes PISA different from many other sources of comparison used by governments in the UK and around the world.