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The secret questions only the top 2% of young mathematicians can answer

Think you're good at maths? Results to the OECD's 'Programme for International Student Assessment' (PISA) are out today and have been causing upset in Western democracies like the US and the UK, whose 15 year olds have scored badly by international standards.

The questions in PISA tests are segmented by difficulty, with level 6 questions being the hardest. Students answering level 6 questions must be able to, 'conceptualise, generalise, and utilise information based on their investigations and modelling of complex problem situations,' according to the OECD's own website.  In the U.K. and the U.S. only 3% and 2% of 15-year-old students respectively achieve level 6.

Fancy your chances? Unfortunately, the OECD's PISA questions are a highly guarded secret, with only one level 6 sample question provided on the OECD site. However, we've scoured the internet and found a further three listed on various government pages. These are below.

If you think you have the answers please enter them in the comment box at the bottom of this page. We'll add the correct responses tomorrow.


Pisa test question 1



Pisa test question 1a





Pisa level 6 2

ANSWER: “Design A, Yes; Design B, No; Design C, Yes; Design D, Yes.”


Pisa 6 3

Answer:  'The inappropriate cut in the y-axis indicates quite a large increase in the number of robberies, but the absolute difference between the number of robberies in 1998  and 1999 is far from dramatic.' In percentage terms the increase was only around 2%.


Pisa level 6 4

ANSWER: No, yes, yes, no.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Co
    16 February 2018

    Piece of piss really.

    I thought the average speed was gonna give you two speeds, and tempt you to average the two speeds to get the average speed (which always fails unless the time for each journey was the same).
    But it didn't, it was just find total distance and total time to get average speed.

  • no
    12 June 2014

    I'm 16, and I answered all those questions fine. I can see why people may have to think but they are not that hard.

  • Bi
    Biggus Dickus
    10 June 2014

    To the many posting answers here and to those quibbling about the qurestions: You are both math failures and annoying morons. Deal with it.

  • je
    6 June 2014

    I am a 15 year old. From Australia. And I could answer all of those questions, most of them correct....and I'm not even considered to be a really mathsy person.

  • Co
    Conspiring Cynic
    2 June 2014

    It is amazing, how if there is anything not on cue with our school kids or more to the point our teenager population, we blame the teachers. So, 'NotAmused' I'm afraid you're not quite correct, the amount of energy, hours and dedication that teachers put into attempting to educate the children of today can be said as unsurpassed by most other occupations. Remember the old adage about "it takes a community to raise a child", it couldn't be more true in this case. Parents, teachers, congregation and other community members are all responsible to raising a well disciplined and focused child. If people have to rely on teachers to do all the work then perhaps they shouldn't have children. We as parents are as much responsible as anyone else. Now with that aside, the public should be aware the teachers are governed by the education authorities of each state. The education departments are forever implementing new strategies to engage the students based on the latest research, however if you think about it, although there is more to learn in terms of technology, the basics haven't changed so why should the teaching strategies? As an engineer, one of the first things that we were ever taught was "if it's not broken don't try to fix it," and I'm sure any clear minded individual could align that with the so called advances in pedagogical strategies.

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