Answering 5 Questions about the PISA Test

Answering 5 Questions about the PISA TestYou may have seen in the news that the PISA results were released this week, which always generates conversation in the education community. You might be wondering – what is the PISA test, and does it tell me anything about individual schools or how we can make improvements? Let’s sort it out. On a global scale, OECD’s PISA results, are used to compare how well a countries’ education system prepares students for success in the global economy and provides country-to-country comparisons.

OECD, which developed the PISA test, is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Their mission is to examine and address the economic, social, and environmental impacts of globalization. One tool they use to compare education systems is the PISA test, which stands for the Programme for International Student Assessment.

So it’s one global test to compare education systems across countries?

Yes, that’s the primary purpose of the PISA test. But what you may not know is that there is also a school-level test that is based on PISA. It is called the OECD Test for Schools here in the United States (but referred to as the PISA-Based Test for Schools elsewhere). The OECD Test for Schools is offered by OECD in partnership with NWEA as the U.S. Test Service Provider. It’s uses the same scale and rigor as the PISA test, but the purpose is to provide detailed information at the school level, rather than at the country level.

What does it measure?

Both PISA and the OECD Test for Schools measure knowledge in reading, math and science. Both tests also ask students questions about engagement and their school culture and climate.

Who takes it?

The PISA test is conducted every 3 years by a random sample of 15-year olds around the globe. The OECD Test for Schools tests the same age group, also uses a random sample, but may be taken annually. (In other words, not every 15-year old in the country takes the test in either case; a sample size is used.)

Why would my school want to do it?

While PISA is designed to provide insights for macro, country-level education improvement, the OECD Test for Schools provides individual schools with data to guide school-level improvement. The schools that participate receive a detailed report (150+ pages) with international benchmarks, performance results, survey insights on student engagement and the learning environment, and best practice strategies from the highest performing schools.

So while PISA results can tell us how the U.S. compares to Finland, the OECD Test for Schools tells principals and district leaders how their school compares to Finland – along with a lot of other data that can be used to inform program decisions.

Wait, so we can compare our school to Finland?”

Wait, so we can compare our school to Finland?
Actually, you can! The OECD Test for Schools reporting includes comparisons to the PISA averages of the other countries that participated in the PISA test. So you could see how your school measures up to high-performing countries like Singapore, Finland, and others.

If you’re interested in learning more about the OECD Test for Schools, you can check out a virtual panel discussion that featured participating schools as part of “PISA Day” this week here:


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