For Parents


What does PISA involve?

Around 21,000 pupils in over 500 UK schools will be taking part in PISA 2018. This participation contributes to around half a million pupils in around 80 countries that have also been selected to take part. PISA is important as it is used by governments around the world to plan how to improve education.

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 reading, maths and science on a computer.

They will also answer a questionnaire about their background and attitudes and experiences in school. The main focus of these questions will be on reading and their English lessons, or Welsh lessons if they go to a Welsh-medium or bilingual school. 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 2018 privacy notice here for further details about the information we will collect and how we will use it.

Examples of PISA questions can be found here.

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. When the results of the study are published in December 2019 we will send your child’s school a summary of the international findings and a brief report about their school.

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 UK 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. There are strict rules about the number of pupils who take part in the study, and if these are not met, the data collected will not be considered good enough to appear in the international report. 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. Only anonymised summary results will be provided in the school’s overview report.

Who is carrying out the study?

PISA 2018 is being delivered in the UK by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) on behalf of the Department for Education in England, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, and the Department of Education in Northern Ireland.

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 UK governments and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

NFER has produced a series of briefing papers based on the results of international surveys, including PISA which can be found here.

Visit our FAQs for more information on the PISA study.