General Information

What is the EF Standard English Test?

The EF Standard English Test (EF SET) is a free, online English test designed to meet the high technical standards as the other standardized tests in the field, such as the TOEFL or IELTS.

With the EF Standard English Test, we set out to challenge the status quo – to build a testing solution that not only provides reliable measurement, but is also affordable, simple to use, and always accessible. It is the world’s first completely free standardized English test for learners of all levels, from beginner to advanced.

Who built this test?

The EF SET was created by EF Education First with a team of language testing experts. Our advisory team has extensive experience in large-scale, standardized language assessment, drawing from previous work on TOEFL, IELTS, and TOEIC for other organizations such as Educational Testing Service (ETS) and The College Board.

Chief among these have been Lyle Bachman (UCLA) , author of Language Assessment in Practice (Oxford 2010), the initial design consultant; Ric Luecht and John Willse of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, the psychometric consultants and data scientists; and Mari Pearlman (Pearlman Education Group), the lead test development and operations consultant. Nathan Carr and Yoko Ameriks have served as language assessment experts.

You say that the EF SET is built to "certification standards," what does this mean?

We mean that there is empirical evidence of the reliability of the score as well as the quality of the test design and delivery process.

Expensive, high-stakes tests that report a score that may have life-changing consequences for the test taker – such as TOEFL and IELTS for college admissions, immigration, or employment – must be able to support the scores with empirical evidence.

While the EF SET reports scores only to the individual test taker, it has been designed and built to meet all of the quality standards of certification English tests, and there is public documentation to support this claim.

Why is it free?

The EF SET is free because we want as many people to benefit from this test as possible. The design and development of EF SET borrowed from best practices in software engineering and manufacturing practices to significantly reduce development costs. The EF SET is also delivered online with automated scoring, making it possible for EF to offer this powerful tool for free to English learners with online access.

Does EF SET test all four skills?

Currently, reading and listening skills are assessed by the EF SET tests.

Why did EF create EF SET?

EF’s mission is to "Open the world through education." We believe that good education can break down barriers of language, culture and geography.

As one of the world’s largest private education institutions with over 50 years of experience, EF has been at the forefront of innovation in English language training. As online education and personalized learning content continues to become more sophisticated and increasingly more accessible, so is the need for students everywhere to accurately measure and assess their progress and achievements.

Regardless of how you are learning English – online, with a friend, in school or all of the above – we believe that the EF SET will fundamentally improve your learning journey.

With the launch of the EF SET, EF is also looking forward to more open discussions about the role of assessment in education, the future of personalized learning and the use of technology in classrooms.

What does "an adaptive test" mean?

An “adaptive” test is a test in which the content of an individual’s test is responsive to whatever language proficiency the person demonstrates as the test unfolds. For example, if a person is able to answer every question correctly at the beginning of the test, then much harder questions are presented. If, on the other hand, a person struggles with the questions at the beginning of the test, much easier questions are presented next. At each stage of the test, the content is adjusted to measure each individual’s ability as precisely as possible.

For more information about the Computer Adaptive Multi-Stage Testing engine, please download the resources available on Our Research page.

Is the EF SET reliable?

The EF SET was built to the same standards of reliability as the other standardized English tests like the TOEFL, TOEIC or IELTS:

  • All test content was pretested on hundreds of thousands of international population of English language learners over many years, at all CEFR* levels. These test results were intensively analyzed for statistical reliability;
  • The standard error of measurement – a way of predicting how similar scores would be for test takers who took different forms of the test at different times – is comparably low;
  • And the standards for each CEFR level were determined by a formal standard setting study.

For technical information about these features of the EF SET, please visit our Research to review our EF SET Academic Report. We will update the report as development continues and new features are added to the test.

*The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, abbreviated as CEFR, is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages, developed and approved by the Council of Europe. The EF SET test results provide English test takers comprehensive information about their English proficiency in the context of this internationally recognized standard.

If the test is available to the public online, how is it secured from cheating?

Because it is intended as a learning tool, using the EF SET to its fullest advantage is the learner’s own responsibility. We do not reveal the correct answers to test takers, so that they can retake the English test after further study and reconsider their responses. As an adaptive English test that covers multiple CEFR levels from beginner to advanced, the EF SET is designed to be useful to an individual as a measure of growth in proficiency over time and as a proxy to other expensive, high-stakes English tests like TOEFL, TOEIC or IELTS. To take advantage of this design, we advise that the test taker follow the timing guidelines and not try to cheat the test.

Who should take this test?

All English learners, regardless of how they are currently learning English, or their level should use the EF SET. Every learner can benefit from a trustworthy way to measure current proficiency level and mark progress over time.

What are EF's future plans for EF SET?

EF is excited to continue the development on EF SET and improve our assessment tools. In fact, the launch of the EF SET is just the beginning of what we believe will be an incredibly exciting future.

We encourage all English learners and teachers to use our English test and give us feedback or comments on their experience. Please get in touch.

EF SET Tests

How is the EF SET Certificate different from other standardized tests of English like the TOEFL or IELTS?

You can feel confident that your EF SET Certificate and Certificate Plus scores reflect what you would receive on TOEFL and IELTS because the EF SET was built to the same standards of accuracy and reliability as other standardized English tests.

However, EF SET is designed to fill a gap that none of the other high-stakes English tests currently fills – to give the individual users power over his or her own progress and to support English language learning for everyone, regardless of their economic status or location. EF SET removes these barriers by making our tests free and available online.

Adding to these benefits, EF SET is currently the only standardized English test that accurately measures all skill levels, beginner to proficient, in alignment with the internationally recognized standard, the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Other standardized English tests are able to assess some proficiency levels, but not the entire CEFR scale.

Why should I take the EF SET Certificate™ if I have already taken the Quick Check?

If you want a detailed profile of your English language proficiency, you should take the EF SET Certificate™ or EF SET Certificate Plus™. The Quick Check is designed as a quick quiz to give a broad indicator of the general level of your English proficiency, not as a full, reliable measure. The EF SET Certificate™ is designed to give you a complete sense of your proficiency as it aligns to the full continuum of the CEFR levels from Beginner (A1) to Proficient (C2).

EF SET Score

What can I do with my EF SET score?

Your EF SET score can be posted to your LinkedIn profile in one click. Anyone who completes an EF Test can use the "Add to Profile" button to upload their test score. EF is working in collaboration with LinkedIn to make it easier for English learners to show proof of their skills to millions of recruiters around the world.

What does 0 or "No score" mean?

If you receive an EF SET result of “0” or “No score” it is because you either did not answer any questions or you likely achieved very different scores on the reading and listening sections. Unfortunately, with scores that fall into two very different levels, we cannot provide a valid or meaningful combined EF SET score.  

If you are looking to improve your English, there are a number of ways that you can achieve this with EF Education First. Contact us to find our more information EF’s opportunities to study abroad and our online courses for all ages and levels.

How do the scores differ on the Quick Check and the Certificate tests?

The Quick Check, EF SET Certificate™ and EF SET Certificate Plus™ are reported on a 0-100 scale. However, the actual numerical representations of a score have different meanings. While the Quick Check will give you a general sense of your English proficiency, which is reported as a single numerical score (represented as a percentage for simplicity), the Quick Check score should be considered only an estimate of your English proficiency. It is also not necessarily predictive of your score on EF SET Certificate™ and EF SET Certificate Plus™ tests of your English proficiency. Your numerical scores on the Quick Check and the EF SET Certificate™ may place you in a different CEFR category because of the differences in the tests themselves. Please refer to the EF SET score comparison chart above for more detailed information about scores on these tests.

How can I improve my EF SET score?

If you are looking to improve your English, there are a number of ways that you can achieve this. Contact us to find out more information tailored to your needs.

Is the EF SET score being accepted by schools, companies, and governments?

The EF SET is designed primarily as a tool for individual students to support their learning. The scores are not reported to anyone else other than the test taker, unless the student chooses to provide the EF SET results as supplemental information to verify their English skills for university admissions or employment.

Technical Information

How do I create a new user?

To set up a new user account just sign up by starting a test. Quick, simple and best of all it is free.

If you sign up or login using a social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn, please know that we will not post anything on your online profile page without your permission. The social login functionality is available only to make it easier for you to sign up and login. You have complete control over what to do with your test scores.

What internet browser should I use?

Our website works best on latest versions of Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer 11. We therefore recommend that you search for and upgrade your internet browsers to the most recent version of one of the browsers mentioned above.

Does EF SET work on Internet Explorer 9 or below?

Unfortunately IE9 or below are not fully compatible with our technical configuration, at present. We are diligently working on making EF SET.org work on older browsers like IE8 and IE9 and will let you know as soon this is ready. Our website works best on the latest browsers of Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. We therefore recommend that you search for and upgrade your internet browsers to the most recent version of one of the browsers mentioned above.

Other Information

Can't find what you're looking for?

If your question was not answered above, or you are looking for additional information about EF SET, get in touch and send us an email.