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Programme for International Student Assessment 2003 (PISA 2003)

Research Question

PISA aims to measure how well students at age 15 are prepared to meet the challenges of today's knowledge societies and lifelong learning. The results obtained in the key competency areas of reading, basic education in mathematics and science, and problem-solving allow conclusions to be drawn about strengths and weaknesses of the education systems of participating countries. As PISA is carried out at three-year intervals, participating countries receive important information allowing them to gauge to what extent the quality of their educational outcomes has changed.

The PISA 2003 survey focused on the subject area of mathematical literacy also assessing student performance in reading comprehension and science on a smaller scale.

At the FDZ of the IQB are available the data of PISA-E and a sample of 9th graders. Data of PISA-I-Plus 2003 can be requested separately.

Test Language


Test Period


Test Area and International Link

National / International connection by the international sample

Target Persons

15-year-old students and 9th graders at all types of general education schools (adapted tests in special education schools)

Context Persons

Teachers (subjects: German, Physics, Biology and Chemistry) of the selected students, principals of the selected schools.

Population / Sample

The basic population is composed of all 15-year old students. The sample selection process in each country was subject to detailed quality standards defined by the international project management. In a first step, the educational systems of the participating countries were broken down by key characteristics such as regions (federal states, provinces, cantons, etc.) and school types. Within these subdivisions (in Germany: school types within the federal states), schools were then sampled at random. In the second step of the selection process, 15-year-old students were sampled within the sampled schools, again at random.

In Germany, the option of an additional grade-based sample was taken up.

For the purpose of Länder comparisons the school sample additionally included 1,307 schools. At each of these schools 30 fifteen-year-olds were tested. Additionally, up to 15 fifteen-year-olds with migration background were added (oversampling). All fifteen-year-olds of special education and vocational schools were included.

Sample Size

n= circa 45,000 target persons (all together)
n= circa 4,600 target persons (international sample)
n= circa 45,000 target persons (Länder comparison sample)
n= circa 38,000 target persons (age-based sample)
n= circa 6,300 (oversampling migration background)
n= circa 6,000 target persons (longitudinal study PISA-I-Plus 2003, 2004)

Survey Procedure and Instruments

Competence tests in German - reading comprehension, mathematics (main focus) and natural sciences and questionnaires for students, teachers and principals

Link to the Detailed Description of the Study

Persistent Identifier

DOI: 10.5159/IQB_PISA_2003_v1

Data Accessible via Research Data Centre

To the Study Documentation at the FDZ at the IQB:

Information about the user conditions can be found here:

Documentation of Variables

PDF-file for download can be found here:
(only available in German)


Monika Lacher
FDZ Secretary
Phone: +49 30 / 20 93 - 465 52
Email: fdz[at]

Selection of Publications using the Data

The PISA 2003 publications list can be found here as PDF-file for download:

Related Data

Programme for International Student Assessment 2000 (PISA 2000)
PISA-I-Plus 2003, 2004 (link)
Programme for International Student Assessment 2006 (PISA 2006)
Programme for International Student Assessment 2009 (PISA 2009)

Research Area(s)