Every year, ETS releases a report on average TOEFL scores. Their Test and Score Data Summary for 2015 includes averages by native language and nationality. The detailed data in the report is a very interesting read. Below, I’ve outlined some of the most important data about average TOEFL scores for different countries and different groups of language speakers.
Average TOEFL iBT scores by native language
ETS gives data on test-takers from many different language backgrounds. It’s especially interesting to see the average scores for speakers of Middle Eastern, East Asian, Indian, and Romance languages. People from these language groups make up the majority of international students who come to American universities. Here are some statistics on average TOEFL scores by major language groups:
- Native Chinese speakers: 78
- Native Korean speakers: 84
- Native Vietnamese speakers: 80
- Native Arabic speakers: 84
- Native Farsi speakers: 82
- Native Turkish speakers: 77
- Native Assamese speakers: 97
- Native Hindi speakers: 94
- Native Bengali speakers: 92
- Native Spanish speakers: 85
- Native Portuguese speakers: 86
- Native Italian speakers: 90
It’s also interesting to note which native language groups had the highest and lowest average scores. The five language groups with the highest average TOEFL scores are Dutch (100), Danish (98), Konkami (98), Assamese (97), and German (97). In contrast, the seven groups of language speakers with the lowest average TOEFL scores are speakers of Kurdish (61), Kurukh (64), Bambara, Wolof, Tajik, Mossi, and Lingala (these five language groups all have an average TOEFL score of 65). Even more interesting? The TOEFL keeps data on native English speakers who take the TOEFL, and they are not at the very top of the list. Native speakers of English have an average TOEFL iBT score of 92!
Average TOEFL iBT scores by country
The TOEFL’s 2015 report on average scores lists the scores of nations and territories by region. Here are the top and bottom scoring countries and territories from each of the TOEFL regions:
- Top average TOEFL scores: South Africa (99), Mauritius (93), Zimbabwe (91)
- Bottom average TOEFL scores: Guinea (59), Cote D’Ivoire (60), Congo (60)
- Top average TOEFL scores: Uruguay (94), Antigua & Barbuda (91), Costa Rica (91)
(NOTE: Canada is actually number one for average TOEFL scores in the Americas. I’m excluding it from the list of top countries; for the purposes of this blog post, it’s more helpful to focus on non-native English speaking countries. Interestingly, the U.S.A. does not crack the top 3 in ETS’s 2015 stats for the Americas. The average TOEFL iBT score in the United States is 88.)
- Bottom average TOEFL scores: Haiti (65), Guadeloupe (71), Martinique (76)
- Top average TOEFL scores: Singapore (97), Pakistan (91), Philippines (90)
- Bottom average TOEFL scores: Laos (66), Cambodia (68), Tajikistan (68), Afghanistan (69)
- Top average TOEFL scores: Austria (99), Belgium (98), Denmark (98), Switzerland (98)
(NOTE: Here again, we won’t focus on the native English speaking countries and territories that ETS has collected data on. But again, we have some interesting stats for the English language countries. Ireland would be at the top of Europe for TOEFL scores, with an average of 100. Northern Ireland sits just outside the top 3, with an average TOEFL score 0f 97. And the Untied Kingdom actually ranks below several non-English-speaking European states, with an average score of just 93.)
- Bottom average TOEFL scores: Armenia (76), Montenegro (81), Albania (81), Kosovo (81)
The Pacific Region
NOTE: ETS collects data for only a few of the island nations in the Pacific Region. In 2015, Australia had an average TOEFL score of 90 and New Zealand had an average TOEFL score of 93. This puts the region’s two native English-speaking nations at the top for average TOEFL scores. But again, what’s more useful to look at is the scores for non-native English speaking nations and territories.
- Average TOEFL scores for non-English speaking Pacific Region countries and territories: French Polynesia (81), New Caledonia (80), Papua New Guinea (73)
As you can see, certain language groups and countries seem to be “better” at TOEFL than others. By looking at the information above (and the additional information in the full ETS report), you can see where your country and language group stands. Do you need to beat your group’s average to get a top TOEFL score? Or do you just need to meet your group’s average to do well on the test? Knowing this can help you as you plan your studies and set your target score.
Additionally, certain factors help determine whether a nation, territory, or group of language speakers will have good average TOEFL scores. Understanding these factors is useful too. If you know why your group has the average TOEFL score that it does, you can work to overcome your group’s weaknesses on the TOEFL. Or if your language/national group has high average TOEFL scores, you can take advantage of the resources your group has, making sure that you meet or pass the group average.