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What are the benefits of the OECD PISA for Schools Test?

For decades teachers have struggled with how to better understand their students’ performance. The issue comes down to a few key challenges: (1) designing standardised tests year after year is difficult to do, in particular, producing tests that are consistent in their challenges and complexities, (2) comparing the results of just the students within your school makes it difficult to understand how the school as a whole is performing and where teachers can make the biggest improvements, and (3) tests normally don’t provide enough context for why student might be over or under performing.

These are the challenges that the OECD PISA for Schools Test was designed to address in the UK. The OECD or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is an international organisation instituted to find answers to complex social, economic and environmental challenges. Their program, PISA, is made to assess students in reading, mathematics and science, and then use this data to help benchmark students internationally. These results are then fed back to educators and policymakers to help them make better decisions about where to allocate funds and effort to maximise their students’ learning.

What is the OECD PISA for Schools Test?

When we talk about PISA, we are in fact talking about two different assessments. The first is PISA or the Program for International Student Assessment. This is a country level assessment that is run every three years to assess student abilities internationally and develop a benchmark for comparison. The second is the PISA for Schools Test, this is based on the first assessment but is run annually and designed to provide in-depth school-level reporting for educators using the international benchmarks.


The OECD PISA for Schools Test is taken in two parts:

1. 2-Hour Cognitive Test: This test includes an assessment of the student’s reading, mathematics and science capabilities. It uses real-life scenarios and aims to assess critical thinking and problem solving skills.
2. 30-minute Interpersonal Questionnaire: This questionnaire asks the student more personal questions, such as their situation at home, their perspective on school and their attitudes to learning.

What are the benefits of the PISA for Schools Test?

The PISA for Schools Test helps UK schools to address the three major challenges of standardised tests:

1. It provides a consistent test year after year. Crafting a standardised test is a science and requires serious investment and expertise. The PISA for Schools Test is designed to do this year after year, providing a test that remains consistent over time and consistent between learning institutions.
2. It allows schools to compare their performance locally and internationally. As the world becomes ever more globalised it is important that UK schools maintain their competitiveness. One of the best ways to do this is to understand how they compare to other schools within the country and internationally in a range of topics. Once they know how well they perform they can then adjust their curriculum to better address the areas of concern.
3. It provides context to student performance beyond just the results of the assessment. By asking students to provide context on their home and school life, as well as internal motivations for learning the test provides excellent content for why students might be over or underperforming, and allows schools to better understand how to help support students in their learning.

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