FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions | EF SET


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.

With completion of our 50-min EF SET, you will receive a breakdown of your Reading and Listening skills, and also an official EF SET Certificate URL. You can add your personalized URL to your LinkedIn profile or include on your CV. Our score scale, based on the CEFR, is internationally recognized – making it easy for you to share your results and prove your English learning achievements.

We also offer a 15-minute English quiz which is a free and fast way for you to start with in getting an estimate of your English proficiency.

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 did EF create EF SET?

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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.

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.

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 about page.

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 page 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.

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




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

You can feel confident that your EF SET score reflects 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 (50 min) if I have already taken the Quick Check (15 min)?

If you want a detailed profile of your English language proficiency, you should take the EF SET. In 15 minutes, the Quick Check is designed as an English quiz to give a broad indicator of the general level of your English proficiency, not as a full, reliable measure. The EF SET 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). Also, with completion of the 50-minute EF SET, you’ll receive an official English certificate which you can easily share with your school or employer.