U.S. 15-Year-Olds Lag on Test Scores, OECD Results Show

Though we tell our kids that they're each a special little snowflake, new test results confirm that American youngsters are just average at best — at least when it comes to academics. The new results come from the Program for International Assessment (PISA), a test administered periodically to 15-year-old students in 65 different school systems, and it included 6,100 American students. The results? Americans are average in reading and science, and below-average in math, with little change from when the test was last administered in 2009.

Top scores on the tests went to students from Hong Kong, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore, and South Korea, as well as other Asian countries. Other countries that had scored close to the U.S. in the last testing session, like Ireland and Poland, improved their results, while Finland (often looked to as a model educational system) slid down a few points. Despite the renewed focus on STEM education in America, the poor results were especially prominent in math, where only nine percent of American 15-year-olds scored in the top two levels. Yikes.

But now that the results of the test administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are in, questions remain about why the U.S. continues to be just average.

"The United States' standings haven't improved dramatically because we as a nation haven't addressed the main cause of our mediocre PISA performance — the effects of poverty on students," the National Education Association's Dennis Van Roekel said in a statement. Others cautioned that continued mediocre performance, especially compared to other countries, might eventually have dire economic effects.

The question we have now, however, is simpler: Are you smarter than an American 15-year-old? Try some of the PISA questions below to find out.


Helen has just got a new bike. It has a speedometer which sits on the handlebar.The speedometer can tell Helen the distance she travels and her average speed for a trip.

On one trip, Helen rode 4 km in the first 10 minutes and then 2 km in the next 5 minutes.Which one of the following statements is correct?


A revolving door includes three wings which rotate within a circular-shaped space. The inside diameter of this space is 2 metres (200 centimetres). The three door wings divide the space into three equal sectors. The plan below shows the door wings in three different positions viewed from the top.

The door makes 4 complete rotations in a minute. There is room for a maximum of two people in each of the three door sectors.What is the maximum number of people that can enter the building through the door in 30 minutes?


Mount Fuji is a famous dormant volcano in Japan.

The Gotemba walking trail up Mount Fuji is about 9 kilometres (km) long. Walkers need to return from the 18 km walk by 8 pm.

Toshi estimates that he can walk up the mountain at 1.5 kilometres per hour on average, and down at twice that speed. These speeds take into account meal breaks and rest times.Using Toshi's estimated speeds, what is the latest time he can begin his walk so that he can return by 8 pm?

(No multiple choice for this one!)

Ready? The answers below this photo of people climbing Mt. Fuji.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images News/Getty Images

1. B, 2. D, 3. 11AM

Just be glad you're not in high school anymore.