About TIMSS 2015

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In 2015, IEA and its TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College conducted TIMSS 2015 at fourth and eighth grades and TIMSS Advanced 2015 for students in the final year of secondary school enrolled in special advanced mathematics and physics programs or tracks. Both TIMSS 2015 and TIMSS Advanced 2015 provide 20-year trend measures for countries that participated in the first TIMSS assessments in 1995.

TIMSS 2015 and TIMSS Advanced 2015 continue the long history of international assessments in mathematics and science conducted by IEA – the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. IEA is an independent international cooperative of national research institutions and government agencies that has been conducting studies of cross-national achievement since 1959. IEA pioneered international comparative assessments of educational achievement in the 1960s to gain a deeper understanding of the effects of policies across countries’ different systems of education.

IEA’s TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center is located in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College and has been responsible for directing TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced since 1995.

TIMSS 2015

TIMSS 2015TIMSS is an international assessment of mathematics and science at the fourth and eighth grades that has been conducted every four years since 1995. TIMSS 2015 is the sixth assessment in the TIMSS series monitoring 20 years of trends in educational achievement, together with comprehensive data on students’ contexts for learning mathematics and science.

In 2015, 57 countries and 7 benchmarking entities (regional jurisdictions of countries such as states or provinces) participated in TIMSS. In total, more than 580,000 students participated in TIMSS 2015.

The TIMSS 2015 mathematics and science assessments are based on comprehensive frameworks developed collaboratively with the participating countries. For each curriculum area at each grade, the frameworks are organized around two dimensions: a content dimension specifying the content to be assessed and a cognitive dimension specifying the thinking processes to be assessed. The TIMSS assessments contain nearly 800 assessment items, about 200 per grade for each curriculum area. The majority of TIMSS items assess students’ applying and reasoning skills.

New for TIMSS 2015, a home questionnaire was completed by fourth grade students’ parents or caregivers, in addition to the questionnaires routinely given at both fourth and eighth grades to students, teachers, school principals, and curriculum specialists. The questionnaire data primarily are reported in the form of indices created using IRT scaling methods, and results are presented for three regions of the scales (most to least desirable). When possible, scales were developed in parallel to provide comparisons between mathematics and science as well as the fourth and eighth grades.

TIMSS has the goal of helping countries make informed decisions about how to improve teaching and learning in mathematics and science. With its strong curricular focus and emphasis on policy relevant information about the home, school, and classroom contexts for learning, TIMSS is a valuable tool that countries can use to evaluate achievement goals and standards and monitor students’ achievement trends in an international context. The TIMSS 2015 Encyclopedia complements the quantitative information in the international reports with a chapter by each country summarizing mathematics and science curricula, instructional practices, and teacher education requirements.

Countries Participating in TIMSS 2015

Exhibit 1 lists the 57 countries participating in TIMSS 2015, including some distinct educational systems within countries that have always participated separately throughout IEA’s long history (e.g., the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China). In addition, TIMSS had 7 benchmarking participants including a variety of educational entities.

Exhibit 1: Countries Participating in TIMSS 2015
Belgium (Flemish)
Chinese Taipei
Czech Republic
Hong Kong SAR
Iran, Islamic Rep. of
Korea, Rep. of
New Zealand
Northern Ireland
Russian Federation
Saudi Arabia
Slovak Republic
South Africa
United Arab Emirates
United States
Benchmarking Participants
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ontario, Canada
Quebec, Canada
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Dubai, UAE
Florida, US

Countries and benchmarking participants could elect to participate in the fourth grade assessment, the eighth grade assessment, or both. Also, countries where students were expected to find the TIMSS assessments too difficult at the fourth grade could participate in the newly developed TIMSS Numeracy assessment, a less difficult version of the fourth grade mathematics assessment. Fifty countries and the 7 benchmarking participants administered the fourth grade assessments. Of those, 7 countries and 1 benchmarking entity participated in the Numeracy assessment, including Bahrain, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, and South Africa as well as Buenos Aires. Each of these participants gave both the fourth grade assessments in mathematics and science as well as the Numeracy assessment, except Jordan and South Africa that participated in Numeracy only. Thirty-nine countries and the 7 benchmarking participants administered the eighth grade mathematics and science assessments. Norway chose to assess fifth and ninth grades to obtain better comparisons with Sweden and Finland (but also collected benchmark data at fourth and eighth grades). Botswana and South Africa assessed ninth grade to better match their curricula and to maintain trend measurement. Exhibit 2 provides more information about the students assessed in TIMSS 2015, including average ages as well as policies for age of entry, promotion, and retention.

In each grade, nationally representative samples of approximately 4,000 students from 150-200 schools participated in TIMSS 2015. Including the mathematics, numeracy, and science assessments and questionnaires, more than 312,000 students, 250,000 parents, 20,000 teachers, and 10,000 schools participated in the fourth grade assessments, and a further 270,000 students, 31,000 teachers, and 8,000 schools in the eighth grade assessments.

TIMSS Advanced 2015

With the current emphasis on college and career readiness and increasing global competitiveness in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, in 2015 TIMSS Advanced once again was joined with TIMSS. First conducted in 1995 and then again in 2008, TIMSS Advanced is the only international assessment that provides essential information about students’ achievement in advanced mathematics and physics. It assesses students in their final year of secondary school (often 12th grade) who are engaged in advanced mathematics and physics studies that prepare them to enter STEM programs in higher education.

TIMSS Advanced 2015 was offered together with TIMSS to provide 20 years of trends at three important points in students’ schooling (4th grade, 8th grade, and final grade) and provide information about how the foundations established in primary school can influence students’ educational career through lower secondary and impact achievement in students’ final year of secondary school.

Quality Assurance

TIMSS 2015 made every effort to attend to the quality and comparability of the data through careful planning and documentation, cooperation among participating countries, standardized procedures, and rigorous attention to quality control throughout. The assessments were administered to nationally representative and well-documented probability samples of students in each country. Staff from Statistics Canada and the IEA Data Processing and Research Center (DPC) worked with National Research Coordinators on all phases of sampling activities to ensure compliance with sampling and participation requirements, with the few exceptions from compliance annotated in the data exhibits. The IEA Secretariat worked with the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center to manage an extensive series of verification checks to ensure the comparability of translations of the assessment items and questionnaires, and to conduct an international quality assurance program of school visits to monitor and report on the administration of the assessment. IEA DPC staff worked closely with National Research Coordinators all through the project to organize data collection operations and to check all data for accuracy and consistency within and across countries.

TIMSS 2015 Results

The international results for TIMSS 2015 are reported on this website and the results for TIMSS Advanced 2015 also can be accessed from here.

The TIMSS 2015 results are presented separately for mathematics and science, and within each subject separately for fourth grade and eighth grade. Each of the two reports contains 10 chapters or sections providing overviews in the form of infographics and numerous exhibits summarizing fourth and eighth grade student achievement distributions, performance at the TIMSS International Benchmarks, achievement trends over time, and achievement in relation to students’ home, school, and classroom educational contexts for learning mathematics and science. The exhibits can be downloaded and printed from the Download Center.

The website includes links to:

TIMSS 2015 Assessment Frameworks presents the mathematics and science assessment frameworks that describe in some detail the major content and cognitive domains to be assessed at the fourth and eighth grades as well as the framework describing the types of learning situations and factors that will be investigated via the questionnaire data and an overview of the assessment design.

TIMSS 2015 Encyclopedia: Education Policy and Curriculum in Mathematics and Science describes national contexts for mathematics and science teaching and learning. It contains selected data about the countries’ curricula together with a chapter written by each participant summarizing the structure of its education system, the mathematics and science curricula and instruction in primary and secondary grades, the teacher education requirements, and the types of examinations and assessments employed.

Methods and Procedures in TIMSS 2015 describes the methods and procedures used to develop, implement, and analyze the results from the TIMSS 2015 assessments.

Exhibit 2: Information About the Students Assessed in TIMSS 2015
Click to Enlarge Information About the Students Assessed in TIMSS 2015