Who takes part in PISA?

PISA assesses 15- and 16-year-old students, since, in most OECD countries, students at this age are approaching the end of compulsory schooling.

First, a representative sample of schools is selected (reflecting a mixture of schools by size, location, type, and gender and socioeconomic composition).

‎Next, students are sampled within participating schools.  For the PISA 2018 Field Trial, up to 60 students are selected at ‎random in each school.

In Ireland, participating students are in both junior cycle and senior cycle.  About 60% of students are in third year, 25% in transition year, and 15% or so are in fifth year.

PISA has rigorous technical standards, so response rates must be high. At least 85% of schools, and 80% of students, need to participate, in order for results to be deemed valid.

Teachers or Subject Co-ordinators (Department Heads) who are selected to participate in the national teacher/subject Co-ordinator survey are those who teach the ‘major domain’. For example, in PISA 2012, all mathematics teachers in each PISA school were invited to complete a questionnaire, and in PISA 2015, all Science Co-ordinators were invited to do so.

In PISA 2018, parents of students participating in the assessment will be invited to complete a parent questionnaire. This element of PISA was introduced in Ireland for the first time in 2015. Almost 90% of parents completed a parent questionnaire in 2015; it is important that as many parents as possible return a questionnaire so that the results, and can contribute to the development of educational policy.


Respondent Instrument
Students PISA assessment (2 hours) and
Student questionnaire (40 minutes)
School Principals School questionnaire (30 minutes)
Teachers or Subject Co-ordinators
of ‘major domain’
Teacher or Subject Co-ordinator
questionnaire (30 minutes)
Parents (new to PISA 2015) Parent questionnaire (30 minutes)

Which countries participate in PISA?

The number of countries/regions participating in PISA has increased from 32 in 2000 to over 80 in PISA 2018.

Since 2003, all OECD member countries have taken part in PISA.

The table of participating countries shows the countries that participated in PISA 2015, and of these, which implemented the ‎computer-based and paper-based assessments‎.

Given the large number of participants, for reporting purposes, it is helpful to compare results against a common international benchmark – the OECD average. In national reporting, comparisons focus on a subset of countries that are of interest for policy, linguistic or cultural reasons.