1979年、日本経済団体連合会と通商産業省（当時）の要請に応えて 米国ETS（Educational Testing Service、教育試験サービス）(en:Educational Testing Service)が開発した。
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the USA developed the TOEIC test based on its academic ETS counterpart, the TOEFL test. The Asahi Shimbun national daily's evening edition  interviewed Yasuo Kitaoka (北岡靖男 Kitaoka Yasuo) who was the central figure of the Japanese team that conceived the basic idea of the TOEIC test.
According to a Aug. 11, 2009 Japan Times article, "In the 1970s, Kitaoka began negotiating with ETS to create a new test of English communication for use in Japan. ETS responded that they required a nonprofit organization to work with as their partner.
Kitaoka tried to enlist the help of the Ministry of Education, but their bureaucrats actively obstructed his efforts. They didn't see the need for a new test to compete with the STEP Eiken, an English test already backed by the ministry.