PISA Testing in St. Aloysius Secondary School, Cork

PISA 2018 Main Study – March/April 2018 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment

  • PISA 2018 Main Study took place in March and April 2018.
  • 157 schools were selected to participate. St Aloysius is delighted to have been selected to participate.
  • 44 students were randomly selected in each school (across Second to Fifth Year).
  • Certificates of participation were sent out to each school after testing.

What is PISA?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a project of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). About 80 countries take part, making PISA the largest study of its kind. PISA assesses the skills and knowledge of 15- and 16-year-olds in three areas – reading literacy, science, and mathematics – every three years. The first cycle of PISA took place in 2000, and in 2018, reading literacy will be the main focus. PISA also collects other data related to student achievement such as well-being, home environment, ICT use, and occupational aspirations. In addition, parents of participating students, School Principals and English teachers are invited to fill in a questionnaire.

How is PISA carried out?

Internationally, PISA is implemented on behalf of the OECD by an international consortium of institutions. The lead institution is the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the USA. Key decisions are made by the PISA Governing Board. Each OECD country has a voting representative on this Board. PISA is managed on a day-to-day basis by the PISA National Project Manager and other staff from the National Centre in each country. In Ireland, the Educational Research Centre (ERC) is the National Centre. The ERC is a statutory body under Section 54 of the Education Act (1998) which carries out independent research on all levels of the Irish education system and implements PISA on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills (DES). A National Advisory Committee oversees the implementation of PISA in Ireland, and advises on aspects of the assessment, survey administration, and reporting of results.

What is involved?

In Ireland, 157 schools were selected to take part in the Main Study in March and April, 2018. In total, approximately 6,000 students were assessed. Test Administrators, working with Technical Support personnel, administered PISA in schools. About 60% of PISA-eligible students are in junior cycle (mostly Third Years), while the remainder are in Transition Year and Fifth Year. In each school, the 44 students who were selected to take part were assigned to one of two sessions and asked to complete the following tasks:

  • PISA computer-based test of reading literacy, science and mathematics (2 hours);
  • PISA computer-based questionnaires, including sections on family background, learning environment, well-being, educational and occupational aspirations, and interest in and engagement with ICT (approx. 60-70 minutes).

What does the assessment consist of?

PISA tests: Consist of ‘real life’ tasks in reading literacy, science and mathematics. About one-third of questions are multiple choice and the remainder are in other formats, such as typed response or drag-and-drop. There is no need for students to prepare in advance of PISA. Before the assessment, students take part in a practice session to familiarise themselves with the format of the PISA test. 

Student questionnaire: As part of PISA test administration, and directly after the PISA tests are completed, students are asked about their family and home backgrounds, learning environments, attitudes towards reading literacy, well-being, educational and occupational aspirations, and interest in and engagement with ICT.

Parent questionnaire: Parents of students participating in PISA are asked to complete a 30-minute parent questionnaire. The parent questionnaire seeks information on parental and home background, pre-school education and childhood activities of the PISA student, attitudes to reading literacy, student well-being and attendance at school.

School questionnaire: Principals of participating schools are asked to complete a 40-minute online school questionnaire about school resources, management, and policies in areas such as assessment and school organisation.

Teacher Questionnaire: English teachers of Third Year students within each school are asked to complete a questionnaire that seeks information on attitudes to reading literacy, classroom instruction of Third Year students, the Junior Cycle English Specification, the school library, and gives an insight into teachers’ background, training, and teaching experiences.

How are results used?

Following the Main Study in March and April 2018, the OECD published international results in December 2019. The ERC published national results in December 2019 also, with further thematic reporting in 2020. 

Where can I find out more on PISA?

More information, such as the list of countries participating in PISA, the individuals on the PISA National Advisory Committee, information materials and national reports, is available on our national PISA website www.erc.ie/pisa. Overall results from the study can be found at http://www.erc.ie/2019/12/03/pisa-2018-national-report-for-ireland-published/