What PISA assesses
In all cycles, the domains of reading, mathematical and scientific literacy are examined. Within each cycle, the focus is on one assessment area while the other two are regarded as minor domains: in PISA2000 and PISA2009 the focus was on reading literacy, in PISA2003 and 2012 the focus was on mathematical literacy (and problem solving) en in 2006 the major domain was scientific literacy. In PISA2015 again scientific literacy will be the major domain.
Cognitive tests in PISA do not only capture the level of students’ knowledge. The PISA literacy concept is mainly concerned with the extent to which students can apply their knowledge to real world issues. PISA aims to measure how far students approaching the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in the knowledge society. The assessment is forward looking, focusing on young people’s ability to use their knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges, rather than merely on the extent to which they have mastered a specific school curriculum.
Questionnaires are also part of the PISA-study. Students are asked to complete a questionnaire about their attitudes and approaches to learning. Schools have to answer questions about the school’s background. The information from the questionnaires is used to help explain differences in performance.