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07 May 2013

In response to the new survey questions we introduced almost two years ago regarding IELTS and TOEFL scores for foreign learners of English, we now have results.

IELTS is used particularly for admissions to British and Commonwealth universities, while TOEFL is used more for American purposes. Both tests are geared towards advanced learners of English, since they're designed especially to gauge ability to perform at university level. And here is how their scores correlate with vocabulary sizes:

Note that TOEFL scores are rounded to the nearest 10, so a score of 570 on the paper exam actually includes scores in the range 565–574 (and the "impossible" score of 680 is actually 675–677). In all three tests, we've cut off lower levels of scores where we had less data (they also tended to be relatively flat). Finally, note that the very highest score of each test "jumps" quite far up relative to the rest — this is to be expected, since the highest score includes people who would score even higher if the test examined even more difficult English.

While there's nothing particularly unexpected from this data, it is interesting to see that the three exams basically cover vocabulary ranges from lower-advanced (around 6,000) to lower-native (around 20,000) — which makes sense, since the tests are geared towards university admissions. Of course, the tests evaluate far more than just vocabulary, and include things like grammar, listening, and writing — which are not reflected in the TestYourVocab quiz.