Raw Data: PISA Scores Around the World in 2012

The latest PISA scores in math were released today, and the results are below (along with earlier results in the reading test). US scores were pretty mediocre: 481 in math compared to an OECD average of 494, and 498 in reading compared to an OECD average of 496.

It’s hard to know for sure what to think of these results. On a different international test, the TIMSS, American kids did pretty well. 8th graders scored in the top ten in math and science, as did 4th graders in reading. So why the big difference between TIMSS and PISA?

This baffles me a bit. The idea behind PISA is that instead of asking kids to answer rote questions, it tests whether they can “apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society.” But a couple of months ago, when I was writing about Amanda Ripley’s book, The Smartest Kids in the World, I got curious about this and looked up some sample math questions from both tests. Obviously this is just anecdotal, but I didn’t really see much difference. They both seemed filled with fairly routine story problems: reading graphs, computing averages, figuring out areas and volumes, etc. There might well be a genuine difference that’s not obvious on casual inspection, and I understand that the quick impression of a 55-year-old college graduate doesn’t mean much, but I’d still be interested in data showing that scores on PISA predict future academic success (or economic success or something success) better than other tests.

In the meantime, the latest PISA scores are below. Make of them what you will.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.