I wrote about the TOEIC test in passing and mentioned that it is possibly the most popular English test in the world. Someone asked exactly how popular it is. ETS doesn’t list that number, but in 2022 about 3.2 million TOEIC test-takers completed ETS’s Background Questionnaire for the TOEIC reading and listening test. I don’t know if that number includes repeaters, but we can assume the test was taken at least that many times. Note that that does not include people who took the separate speaking and writing TOEIC test, which I don’t have figures for.
You can compare that figure to the rest ‘o the tests:
- About 1.9 IELTS administrations through IDP for the year ending June 2023.
- About 1.6 million IELTS administrations through British Council for the year ending March 2022 (a figure that will be much lower in 2023 given that BC has pulled out of India).
- About a million TOEFL administrations circa 2022 (according to Amit Sevak, speaking on PIE Live).
- About 700,000 Duolingo administrations for the year ending Q2 2023 (my guess based on the company’s financial reports).
- About 827,000 PTE administrations in 2022 (2023 will be much larger).
What makes the TOEIC volume particularly impressive is that it is mostly taken in Korea and Japan. Indeed, the TOEIC was specifically created for the Japanese market back in the 1970s.
For fun, I’ve included some snapshots from my local bookstore’s English test section. You can see that the TOEIC section is twice as big as the TOEFL section. I’ve also included a snapshot of the IELTS section, which is somewhat small. Not pictured are the OPIc and TEPS sections which are about as large as the IELTS section. I’m in a somewhat working class (and old) section of Seoul, so don’t take this as an indication of what the most popular bookstores offer.
Also: on my way into the bookstore I spotted a woman on the escalator reading a copy of a TOEFL speaking book. No kidding.