The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an international assessment that measures trends in mathematics and science achievement at the equivalent of the Grade 4 and Grade 8/ Secondary II levels. Participating countries can choose to administer the assessment at either one or both grade levels. It is conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an independent cooperative of research institutions and governmental agencies.


The TIMSS assessments are based on a comprehensive framework developed collaboratively with the participating countries. This framework is organized around two dimensions:

  • content dimension specifying the domains or subject matter to be assessed within mathematics and science; and
  • cognitive dimension specifying the domains or thinking processes expected of students as they engage with the mathematics and science content.

The content domains and topic areas of the assessments are different for Grade 4 and Grade 8, but the cognitive domains (knowing, applying, and reasoning) are the same for both grades, and encompass a range of cognitive processes that are involved in solving problems throughout the primary and middle-school years.

TIMSS content domains

Grade 4 Mathematics

Grade 8 Mathematics



Geometric shapes and measures


Data display


Data and chance

Grade 4 Science

Grade 8 Science

Life sciences


Physical sciences


Earth sciences


Earth sciences

The assessment takes about 70 minutes to complete at the Grade 4 level and 90 minutes at the Grade 8 level. An additional 30 minutes are required for students to complete a contextual questionnaire intended to collect information on students’ characteristics and attitudes toward learning. Parents or guardians of participating Grade 4 students are asked to complete a questionnaire on home contexts, while teachers provide valuable information on the classroom environment in which mathematics and science are taught. School principals answer questions about student demographic characteristics, the availability of resources, types of programs, and environments for learning in their schools.


TIMSS has been carried out every four years since 1995. Canada participated in TIMSS in 1995 (nine provinces and two territories) and 1999 (nine provinces, Grade 8 only). In 2003, only Ontario and Quebec participated, as benchmarking participants. In 2007, they were joined by Alberta (at the Grade 4 level only) and British Columbia. In 2011, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec participated as benchmarking participants at both the Grade 4 and Grade 8/Secondary II levels. In 2015, Canada was represented by Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador at the Grade 4 level, and by the same provinces, except for Alberta, at the Grade 8 level. Ontario and Quebec participated as benchmarking participants at both grade levels. In TIMSS 2019, five Canadian provinces participated: Alberta, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador in Grade 4 (as oversampling participants), and Ontario and Quebec in Grade 4 and Grade 8/Secondary II (as benchmarking participants). TIMSS 2019 marks the seventh TIMSS assessment cycle. With the results of the 2019 assessment, the countries and provinces that participated in the first assessment cycle in 1995 will now be able to monitor students’ performance over time by comparing their results over the past 24 years.

In 2023, Canada will be represented by Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador at the Grade 4 level.