English Proficiency Ranking - The Middle East Remains the Lowest



Table of Contents

The Importance of the English Language

EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI)

English Proficiency by Gender

EF EPI Regional Averages

EF EPI Regional Trends (2022)




The Importance of the English Language

Although there are more than 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, English is the most commonly used around the world and it is considered as "the Language of International Communication".


English is the official language in 53 countries and is spoken as a first language by millions of people worldwide. In addition, around 52% of the world’s most visited websites are displayed in English. Therefore, learning this language gives access to over half the content of the internet.


In summary, English is the language of science, aviation, computers, tourism and diplomacy. With English, you can study almost all over the world and your chances of getting a good job increases whether in your home country or abroad.


This article explore the English proficiency rank of 111 countries and where English proficiency is developing and declining around the world using EF Standard English Test data (2020 - 2022).



EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI)

The data used in this article to explore the English Proficiency ranking is obtained from EF EPI 2022 which is an English proficiency index based on test data from more than 2.1 million test takers around the world who took the EF Standard English Test (EF SET) or one of the English placement tests in 2021.


The EF SET is a free online, adaptive English test of reading and listening skills. It is a standardized, objectively scored test designed to classify test takers’ language abilities into one of the six levels (Table 1) established by the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) which is an internationally recognized standard for describing language proficiency.


Table 1: The EF EPI Scores and the corresponding CEFR Levels


We specifically used the EF EPI data because the data have been found to correlate strongly with TOEFL iBT scores (r=0.81) and IELTS Academic Test scores (r=0.75). These correlations show that the EF EPI scores has similar trends regarding English proficiency index results.



English Proficiency by Gender

The data of EF Standard English Test based on test results of 2.1 million adults in 111 countries and regions showed that the median age of the test takers in 2022 was 25 years old; about 55% are females and 45% are males.


According to EF report, global women's English proficiency average scores before 2021 was higher than men's. In 2021 and for the first time, men outperform women and they still outperform women in most countries worldwide in 2022 (Figure 1) except Saudi Arabia where women scored better than men for the first time.


Figure 1: The English proficiency average scores of women and men (2020-2022).




EF EPI Regional Averages

The EF EPI data in Figure 2 showed that Europe has the highest level of English proficiency of any region, whereas Middle east has the lowest level. However, Middle East showed a slight increase in English proficiency in 2021 and 2022 comparing to 2020.


Figure 2: The English proficiency ranking by region



EF EPI Regional Trends (2022)


The EF EPI data showed that Netherlands scored the highest average levels of English proficiency compared to all other countries followed by Singapore, whereas Laos, DRC and Yemen has the lowest level (Table 2).


Regarding Africa region, South Africa scored the highest English proficiency level compared to all other countries in the region. In Latin America, Argentina has the highest English level, where as Haiti has the lowest. In Middle East, Lebanon was found to have the highest English level compared to all other countries in the region.


Table 2: EF EPI 2022 regional trends


It is worth mentioning that the EF EPI 2022 reported that "capital cities and other metropolises have higher average levels of English proficiency than the country as a whole in almost every case; however, it is relatively rare for a country’s top performing city to be its capital, and many cities do not appear to drain English speakers from their surrounding regions. Of the 500 cities included in this year’s index, 130 do not outscore their region and another 130 barely do. This finding is relevant for companies considering where to recruit talent at a reasonable cost, particularly given the massive shift towards remote and semi-remote working arrangements".