TOEFL score data for 2018 is now available.  Download a PDF right here.

The most notable bit of data is that the mean score of all test takers reached 83 points for the first time, after being stuck at 82 points for two years.

Here is a short history of mean score progression for a few selected dates.  Note that the mean score of the TOEFL iBT has increased by four points over the life of the test.  It also seems to be increasing more rapidly than before these days.  That probably accounts for the “required score creep” that bugs a lot of students.

  • 2006: 79
  • 2007: 78
  • 2008: 79
  • 2009: 79
  • 2010: 80
  • 2013: 81
  • 2014: 80
  • 2015: 81
  • 2016: 82
  • 2017: 82
  • 2018: 83 

Note that the data summaries from 2011 and 2012 don’t contain an overall mean score, as far as I can tell.

Score recipients have revised their requirements to keep up with these increases, which represent a challenge for all students. 

What makes this a challenge for some students more than others is that this increase is likely driven by huge jumps in countries with well-developed test preparation industries (and tons of test-takers).  For example, the mean score in Korea has jumped twelve points since 2006.  Korea has the absolute best TOEFL preparation options in the world, and it shows.  Here are scores from Korea for a few selected years:

  • 2006: 72
  • 2007: 77
  • 2010: 81
  • 2014: 84
  • 2017: 83
  • 2018: 84 

Meanwhile, scores in Taiwan have jumped 11 points:

  • 2006: 71
  • 2007: 72
  • 2010: 76
  • 2014: 80
  • 2017: 81
  • 2018: 82 

It is worth noting that scores in China have increased less dramatically, rising only four points from 76 to 80 between 2006 to 2018.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, China has a consistency problem when it comes to the test prep industry.  They have some of the best options for students… but some of the worst as well. It seems like things are improving for Chinese students, though, as China is likely the source of more recent increases to the overall mean score. Note that most of China’s increase has come since 2014.

In contrast to China’s recent growth, it is worth noting that the mean score in Korea has remained about the same since 2014. This indicates that there is a limit to the benefits that students can gain from research into test design and scoring. I imagine that the mean score in Taiwan will probably top out around the same level in a few years.

Once China reaches that level as well,  ETS should probably start developing the “next generation” TOEFL to replace the iBT. If there are too many teachers around the world who can show students how to “beat” the test and score way above their actual level the reliability of the iBT will be called into question.

For fun, here is the growth in a few notable countries from 2006 to 2018

  • Germany: 96 to 98
  • Brazil: 85 to 87
  • Japan: 65 to 71
  • Russia: 85 to 87
  • Iran: 78 to 85
  • India: 91 to 95

In case you are curious, the top performing countries in 2018 were Netherlands and Switzerland.  The mean score in both of those countries was 99 points.  

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Jason Jang

Thank you for the information. Didn’t know that Korea has the best resources for toefl.

Daniel Kang

Do you know a site named toefl bank? If you do, what do you think of that? They seem to offer free practice tests and scoring.

Daniel Kang

May I ask why?

Takuto

Hi there! Your information and tips about the TOEFL are very instructive!
Anyway, I’m from Japan, and I see the growth of Japan is much lower than any other countries in which you listed. I feel so related to this since I have a hard time getting the score of 100. I know some people succeed in obtaining their ideal scores at the end of the day, but it’s suddenly obvious that the average score tells us of everything. I’d love to know your thoughts about it. Thanks.

Takuto

Sorry for the late replay and thank you for letting me know your perspective about it. I believe that education system in Japan lay too much weight on systematic procedure which prevent us from gaining practical knowledge and skill to use it. Much worse, we don’t EVER speak in English. Rather, any public library over here have very little book in English, so fewer people read it, including kids, students, and even adults. I’d love to mention a little bit here that I also strongly believe that refugee acceptance in my country that is extremely low compared to countries in… Read more »