For Parents in Scotland

What does PISA involve?

Around 4,000 pupils in over 150 Scottish schools and around half a million pupils in in over 80 countries across the world will be selected to take part in PISA 2021. PISA is an important study as it is used by governments around the world to plan how to improve education systems in their countries.

On the day of the study an experienced Test Administrator will visit your child’s school and lead a PISA session during normal school hours. During this session, pupils will answer questions on maths, reading and science on a computer. In addition, there will be some questions on a new area, called creative thinking.

They will also answer a questionnaire about their background and attitudes and experiences in school. The main focus of these questions will be on their views about maths and their maths lessons. This questionnaire will also ask for some information on homes and families. Therefore, it would be useful for pupils to know their parents’ or guardians’ occupations and highest educational qualification. Your child will not need to answer any question that they do not feel comfortable with and the Test Administrators will be on-hand to answer any queries they have.

How will NFER look after my child’s data?

NFER takes data protection very seriously and complies with the Data Protection Act 2018. Any personal information we collect will be held securely. The information NFER collects is used to compare how well pupils around the world learn.

No-one will see your child’s answers except the researchers involved in the study. No names or anything which can be used to identify an individual or school is shared with the OECD, or included in any reports.

Please view the PISA 2021 privacy notice for further details about the information we will collect and how we will use it.

For examples of PISA questions, please visit our Sample Questions page.

In total, the session will last about 3 hours with a break in the middle and pupils will receive a certificate to thank them for taking part. 

Why is it important that my child takes part?

Pupils are selected randomly. This means all 15-year-olds in a selected school have an equal chance of being picked. This random selection means the pupils chosen will, therefore, give a fair representation of all Scottish pupils and this is important for an international study such as PISA. If an invited pupil does not take part, he or she cannot be replaced by another pupil. Therefore, we strongly encourage all invited pupils to attend the PISA assessment session and give the assessment their best effort.

Should my child prepare?

There is no need for any special preparation or studying.

On the day, NFER recommends that pupils bring:

  • a pen or pencil
  • a calculator
  • a book in case they finish early.

Will PISA affect my child’s school work?

Taking part in PISA will help develop your child’s skills. It will support the work that they are doing towards their exams and give them extra practice answering computer-based questions. Taking part in PISA has no effect on your child’s school results. NFER will not share any individual answers to questions or named results, with the school.

Who is carrying out the study?

PISA 2021 is being delivered in Scotland by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The participation of pupils is what makes PISA a success, and we are very grateful to all the pupils who take part. Pupil contributions are highly valued and of great importance to the Scottish Government and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Please visit our PISA Research page for a series of briefing papers based on the results of international surveys, including PISA.

Visit our frequently asked questions page for more information on the PISA study.