FAQ about PISA

DIPF and the other institutions involved receive a lot of questions concerning the Programme for International Assessment (PISA). Here are the answers to the most frequently asked ones.

What is the overall aim of PISA?

The aim is to provide the participating countries with information on their students' basic competencies at the end of their compulsory schooling on a regular basis. Against this backdrop, (tentative) predictions  concerning the efficiency of the individual educational systems can be made and – if need be – measures can be taken to improve the systems.

When were the PISA 2015 results made available?

The results were published on 6 December 2016.

How many schools took part in PISA 2015?

In Germany, 256 schools participated with 10,500 students.

Where can I find test questions from PISA?

Some of the test questions have been made publicly available here: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test/.

Why aren't all test questions publicly available?

Test development, the international coordination and accounting for the quality of questions in pilot studies take up a lot of time and resources. At the end of this process, a comprehensive compilation of test questions with reliable quality is available for further assessment rounds. However, these can only be employed as long as they are not known to the public.

Which states participate in PISA?

PISA is designed as as an international comparative assessment, in which all OECD member states take part. Other countries, however, are in principle also welcome to participate: [List of participants to date]

Which subjects are tested in PISA?

PISA does not assess students' knowledge of particular subjects, but aims at testing adolescents' basic competencies in reading, mathematics and natural sciences at the end of their compulsory schooling. PISA 2015 additionally assessed students' problem-solving skills. The study also provides information about the so-called context factors of education, i. e. learning conditions such as social background, forms of teaching etc.

Who creates the test questions? Are they suitable for international comparisons?

International experts in the respective test areas carefully put together the questions included in PISA. Prior to their selection they are reviewed and practically tested in a multistep process. A field test is conducted in order to ensure that the questions are equally suitable for students in all participating states and the answers thus internationally comparable. Only those questions that are unanimously approved are used in PISA and presented to the states in the respective national languages.

Can teaching be internationally compared?

PISA is not laid out to evaluate in how far teachers were successful in conveying curricula content to their students, but aims at assessing the basic competencies students are meant to have aquired by the end of their compulsory schooling. These competencies are the same across different cultures.

How are the participating students selected? Is this selection representative?

The random sampling in the participating states is conducted following detailed instructions from the international project management. In the process, the respective structures of different school systems are taken into account (countries, provinces, cantons, types of school).

In Germany, all types of school which can be attended by 15-year-old students are represented, ranging from grammar schools to vocational colleges. The subsequent random sampling of students within these schools is computer-based. Sampling is overseen by both the national and international project management.

How much time do PISA tests take up?

Participating students work on only selcted parts of the whole test material available. The tests are designed ensuring the planned time frame of two hours is sufficient to complete the tasks.

Who pays for PISA?

In Germany, PISA is funded partly by the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Ständige Konferenz der Kultusminister der Länder in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, KMK) and partly by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). The KMK funds the national researchers, the BMBF provides a financial contribution to the OECD's international expert groups.

What are educational standards?

The educational standards adopted by the KMK are based on general educational objectives and define which competencies students should have acquired in certain subject areas by the time they complete a certain grade. Educational standards focus on the core areas of a subject and describe expected learning outcomes. They offer the individual federal states, the schools and teachers, and the students as well as their parents orientation regarding what should be learnt at school and by when. Educational standards serve to continuously review whether the desired competencies have actually been acquired. Further information can be found on the Institute for Educational Quality Improvement's (Institut zur Qualitätsentwickklung im Bildungswesen, IQB) website.