For Pupils in Scotland

What does PISA involve?

If you have been selected to take part in PISA in March 2021, you are amongst around 2500 pupils from 40 schools throughout Scotland, and many thousands of pupils in over 80 countries worldwide, that have been selected to take part. 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 a Test Administrator (like an invigilator) will visit your school and run a session. When you arrive at the room where the study will take place, you will be asked to turn off your mobile phone, have a pencil or pen ready, and sit at a computer. The Test Administrator will then read some instructions and answer any questions you may have.

During the session, you will be asked to answer a selection of questions. The main focus will be on how you can  use maths in everyday situations. You may also answer some questions on science, reading or a new area called creative thinking. It is unlikely that the person sitting next to you during the study will have the same questions as you, as different pupils receive different combinations of questions.

You will also be given a questionnaire about yourself and your attitudes and experiences in school. The main focus of these questions will be on what you think about maths and your maths lessons. This questionnaire will also ask for some information on homes and families. It would be useful for you to know your parents’ or guardians’ occupations and their highest educational qualifications. At the beginning of the session, you will be told you only need to complete the parts of the questionnaire you feel comfortable answering. You can ask the Test Administrator about any questions that you are not sure about. No-one will see your answers except the researchers involved in the study. No names or information which can be used to identify you or your school will be shared with the OECD, or included in any reports.

How will NFER look after my data?

NFER takes data protection very seriously and complies with the Data Protection Act 2018. Any personal information will be held securely and no individual or school will be identified or identifiable in any report or publication. You can read the PISA 2021 privacy notice for further details about the information we will collect, how we will use it, and your rights to ask us to stop using your personal information.

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

The study will take place at school, using computers and will be during normal school hours. In total, it will take about 3 hours with a break in the middle. In recognition of your participation, you will receive a PISA 2021 certificate.

The results of the study will be published in December 2021.

Do I need to prepare?

There is no need for any special preparation, revision or studying. PISA provides a chance for you to practise assessment skills in a study for which no preparation is required.

On the day, NFER recommends that you bring:

  • a pen or pencil, in case you want to make notes
  • a calculator
  • a book or magazine, in case you finish early.

How will PISA affect my school work?

Taking part in PISA will help develop your skills. It will support the work that you are doing towards your exams and give you extra practice answering computer-based questions. Taking part in PISA has no effect on your grades. NFER will not share your individual answers to questions or results showing your name, with your 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.

It is your participation that makes PISA a success, and we are very grateful to all the pupils who take part – thank you! Your contribution is highly valued and of great importance to the Scottish Government and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

What have we learned from PISA?

NFER have produced a series of briefing papers based on the results of international surveys, including PISA.

For other briefing papers, including the national reports for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland from all PISA studies, visit our PISA Research page.

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

The results from PISA 2018 will be released on 3 December 2019.