About EF EPI
The EF SET is an online, adaptive English test of reading and listening skills. It is a standardized, objectively scored test designed to classify test takers’ language abilities into one of the six levels established by the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The EF SET is available to any Internet user for free. For more information about the research and development of the EF SET, visit www.efset.org/about/.
EF EPI 2022 scores have been found to correlate strongly with TOEFL iBT 2020 scores (r=0.81) and IELTS Academic Test 2019 scores (r=0.75). These correlations show that, while these tests have different designs and test taker profiles, they reveal similar trends in national English proficiency.
Although the sample of test takers for the EF EPI is biased toward respondents who are interested in pursuing language study and younger adults, the sample is roughly balanced between male and female respondents and represents adult language learners from a broad range of ages.
- Female respondents comprised 41% of the overall sample.
- The median age of respondents who provided age information was 25.
- 87% of those respondents were under the age of 35, and 97% were under the age of 60.
- The median age of male respondents was 26, slightly higher than the median age of female respondents, which was 25.
Only cities, regions, and countries with a minimum of 400 test takers were included in the Index, but in most cases the number of test takers was far greater.
The test-taking population represented in this Index is self-selected and not guaranteed to be representative. Only those who want to learn English or are curious about their English skills will participate in one of these tests. This could skew scores lower or higher than those of the general population. However, there is no incentive for test takers to inflate their scores artificially on these low-stakes tests by cheating, as the results are purely for personal use.
The EF SET is free and online, so anyone with an Internet connection can participate. Almost all of our test takers are working adults or young adults finishing their studies. People without Internet access would be automatically excluded. The EF SET site is fully adaptive and 35% of test takers complete the exam from a mobile device. In parts of the world where Internet usage is low, we would expect the impact of an online format to be strong. This sampling bias would tend to pull scores upward by excluding poorer and less educated people. Nevertheless, open access online tests have proven effective in gathering very large amounts of data about a range of indicators, and we believe they provide valuable information about global English proficiency levels.
To calculate an EF EPI score, we used weighted components which include the EF SET and the EF EPI of the previous two years. Inclusion of the previous indices helps to stabilize scores year over year, but test takers from the previous years are not counted in the total test taker count for the current year. Regional averages are weighted by population.
Based on score thresholds, we assign countries, regions, and cities to proficiency bands. This allows recognition of clusters with similar English skill levels and comparisons within and between regions.
|CEFR||EF EPI Score|
- The Very High Proficiency band corresponds to CEFR level C1.
- The High and Moderate Proficiency bands correspond to CEFR level B2, with each EF EPI band corresponding to half of the CEFR level.
- The Low Proficiency band corresponds to the upper half of CEFR level B1.
- The Very Low Proficiency band corresponds to the lower half of CEFR level B1 and A2.
The EF EPI does not aim to compete with or contradict national test results, language polling data, or any other data set. Instead, these data sets complement each other. Some are granular but limited in scope to a single age group, country, region, or test taker profile. The EF EPI is broad, examining working-aged adults around the world using a common assessment method. There is no other data set of comparable size and scope, and, despite its limitations, we, along with many policymakers, scholars,and analysts, believe it to be a valuable reference point in the global conversation about English language education.
The EF EPI is created through a different process from the one used by public opinion research organizations such as Euromonitor and Gallup, or by the OECD in skills surveys such as PISA and PIAAC. Those studies select survey participants using age, gender, level of education, income, and other factors. Their survey panels tend to be small, with at most a few thousand participants. Because they have been composed using complex sampling methods, they are considered representative of the entire population. Unfortunately, no such survey of English skills has ever been performed at an international level.
Another source of data about English proficiency comes from national education systems. Many schools test the English skills of every high school student or university applicant using a standardized national assessment. The results may or may not be made public, but educators and government officials use the data to assess the efficacy of education reform and pinpoint areas for improvement. Unfortunately, those national assessments are not comparable to each other, and they are not administered to adults, so while they give a good indication of English proficiency among high school students in one part of the world, they cannot be used for international comparison, nor can they tell us much about adult English proficiency levels.
EF Education First (www.ef.com) is an international education company that focuses on language, academics, cultural exchange, and educational travel. Founded in 1965, EF’s mission is “opening the world through education.” Millions of students, companies and organizations have participated in an EF program. The EF English Proficiency Index is published by Signum International AG.
EF EPI Proficiency Bands
The EF English Proficiency Index places the surveyed countries and territories into five proficiency bands, from Very High to Very Low. The bands make it easier to identify countries and regions with similar skill levels and to draw comparisons between and within regions.
In the chart below, we give examples of tasks that an individual could accomplish at each proficiency band. The selection of tasks is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is a useful reference for understanding how skills advance across the bands.
It is important to keep in mind that a proficiency band merely indicates the level of the “average” person. The EF EPI seeks to compare countries and territories, which necessitates overlooking individual strengths and weaknesses.
EF EPI score 600+
- Use nuanced and appropriate language in social situations
- Read advanced texts with ease
- Negotiate a contract with a native English speaker
EF EPI score 550 - 599
- Make a presentation at work
- Understand TV shows
- Read a newspaper
EF EPI score 500 - 549
- Participate in meetings in one’s area of expertise
- Understand song lyrics
- Write professional emails on familiar subjects
EF EPI score 450 - 499
- Navigate an English-speaking country as a tourist
- Engage in small talk with colleagues
- Understand simple emails from colleagues
Very low proficiency
EF EPI score < 450
- Introduce oneself simply(name, age, country of origin)
- Understand simple signs
- Give basic directions to a foreign visitor
EF EPI – Frequently asked questions
The EF EPI calculates a country’s/region's average adult English skill level using data from three different versions of the EF SET. Two versions are open to any Internet user for free. The third is an online placement test used by EF during the enrollment process for English courses.
In order to calculate a country’s EF EPI score, each test score was normalized to obtain the percentage of correct answers for that test. All the scores for a country/region were then averaged across the three tests, giving equal weight to each test. Regional and global averages were weighted by the populations of each country/region within each region.
We recognize that the test-taking population represented in this index is self-selected and not guaranteed to be representative of the country/region as a whole. Only those people either wanting to learn English or curious about their English skills will participate in one of these tests. This could skew scores lower or higher than those of the general population.
In addition, because the tests are online, people without Internet access or the ability to complete online applications are automatically excluded. In countries/regions where Internet usage is low, we expect the impact of this exclusion to be the strongest.