Now, everyone’s favorite language learning app, Duolingo, has released its own English Test to help monitor and keep tabs on non-native speakers’ language levels. So, what is the Duolingo English Test, and how does it work? Let’s dive in and find out.
What is the Duolingo English Test?
Fundamentally, the Duolingo English Test is an English proficiency test designed to make English language tests and certificates accessible and affordable for the masses.
If you’re looking to get a standardized idea of your English skills, there are many increasingly expensive options that you can use to test your language competency. This might be for work purposes, to get into a college or university, or to be eligible for a visa.
Usually, if you need to prove your English skills to an institution or workplace as a non-native speaker, you’d take a TOEFL or IELTS test, and then you can send the results to the place you’re trying to get in.
The Duolingo English Test is designed in much the same way except that it’s a lot cheaper than the alternatives and only takes 60 minutes to complete.
If you pass, you’ll get your certificate within 48 hours and you can send it off to your institution in a speedy fashion.
You can complete the test from anywhere and at any time, so if you need a certificate in a pinch or can’t wait for a formalized external test, it’s a fantastic option.
Having launched in 2016, the Duolingo English Test has been going for a while now and is being accepted by a whole host of other places that we’ll go into further down in this article.
You don’t need a huge amount of materials either to get through this test, which is refreshing, considering a lot of English language tests are gatekept by financial barriers.
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How Much is the Duolingo English Test?
This is definitely one of the biggest selling points of the Duolingo English Test: the test itself only costs $49. When you consider that the alternative, in-person tests can cost up to $255, this is a huge saving.
Especially if you’re applying to a college or university, or moving overseas, it’s already an expensive experience – you want to save where you can!
There are two ways to pay. Once you’ve bought your test you have 21 days to take it, so you don’t have to sit down and do it straight away.
You can either pay $49 for one test or if you’re not sure that you’ll pass the first time, you can buy two tests for $78 which equates to the cheaper price of $39 each. It’s entirely up to you.
Where Can You Take the Duolingo English Test?
Unlike traditional IELTS or TOEFL tests, you don’t need to go to a specific test center to take the Duolingo English Test. As with everything to do with Duolingo, it’s on their online platform, so you can do it anywhere, at any time, as long as you have a reliable WiFi connection.
It’s super convenient and means that if you live miles away from a test center, or there isn’t a physical test when you need one, it’s not an issue!
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How Does it Work?
The Duolingo English Test works in three distinct, separate parts. All of the questions are easy to follow and offer a range of topics and skills to help show that you’re well-rounded when it comes to your language skills.
In the first five minutes of the Duolingo English Test, you’ll be shown an introduction to the test. This will essentially give you a quick idea of what to expect, and how it’s going to work, and generally prepare you for the next 55 minutes.
The bulk of the test is a 45-minute exam that has been designed to test your reading, listening, writing, and speaking skills. Each question has its own time limit ranging from 20 seconds up to seven to eight minutes for whole writing sections.
In the final ten minutes, you’ll be given more open-ended questions that allow you to show off your extended writing and speaking skills. These questions are more like samples, where you’ll be given a topic or question and asked to respond in a more conversational way.
A lot of people find this to be the trickiest section, so make sure that you practice a lot before you take the test.
What Are the Different Question Types?
So in the Duolingo English Test, you’ll be faced with a variety of different question types that will test all four key language skills. You’ll want to practice these question styles in advance. Like with any test, you want to be prepared.
The question types are the following:
- read and complete
- read and select
- listen and select
- listen and type
- read aloud
- complete the sentences
- write about the photo
- read, then speak
- writing sample
- speaking sample
1. Read and Complete
This is a classic fill-in-the-gap style exercise. You’ll be given a paragraph with some words removed which you’ll have to type in.
There are some context clues in the question and the paragraph which should help you out. You’ll be given the correct number of letters in each word, so this can give you a good idea of the correct words as well.
2. Read and Select
This style of question is a little unusual as it gets you to select all the “real” English words from a selection. The question won’t tell you how many are real and how many are fake, and some may have more than others.
Pick all the ones you think are actually English words and ignore the ones you think are made up. It’s designed to test your vocabulary skills.
3. Listen and Select
The listen-and-select style of question is very similar to read and select, except you need to listen to nine different English words and select which ones are real and ignore the fake ones. You can listen to them as many times as you like.
4. Listen and Type
In this style of question, you’ll get to listen to a statement, and then you’ll have to type it out in the box on the screen. Unlike the listen-and-select questions, you can only listen to the statement a maximum of three times, so use them sparingly.
5. Read Aloud
You need a microphone to complete this test, and this is one of the reasons why. Read the statement on the screen and then record yourself saying it.
Critically, you only have 20 seconds and one chance to record, but the statements are short.
6. Complete the Sentences
This questioning style is a little bit longer and you’ll essentially fill the gaps from a selection of words in a drop-down menu. You’ll have a long paragraph with a few missing words and you can fill them in any order.
So, if you’re unsure about a sentence, do the others first and then you can complete the task using the process of elimination.
7. Write About the Photo
Writing about a photo is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll be given an image and you basically just say what you see. You don’t need to write an essay, but you do need to write at least one full sentence, describing what you see in detail.
Just saying it’s a beach, or it’s a dog, is not really good enough.
8. Read, then Speak
In the only other reading question, you’ll be given a question with three or four bullet-point prompts. It’ll be around a similar subject, and ask you to describe your favorite subject or holiday, or book.
The bullet points will give you talking points within that subject that you need to hit, and you have to speak for at least 30 seconds. It sounds like a long time, but if you methodically run through the talking points, the time will fly by!
9. Writing Sample
The final two samples are in the last 10 minutes of the Duolingo English Test and are much more long-form. In the writing sample, you’ll be given three to five minutes to write on a given topic.
The guidance tells you to think about this question like an exam question, so consider the structure and the spelling of your response. You’ve got a good amount of time, so proofread your answer!
10. Speaking Sample
This style of question is a little different – your response will be a video recording, not just a voice recording. Examiners can see your response, how casual you are, if you have notes, and more, so be wary of this.
You’ll have to speak for between one and three minutes, and you’ll be given a topic and a couple of prompts to talk about.
How Difficult is It?
It’s pretty difficult to judge the difficulty of the Duolingo English Test in a traditional way because the test itself adapts as it goes. This isn’t to trip you up, it’s to keep the test challenging enough for you.
It’s not a pass-or-fail style test so the questions are designed to accurately gauge your language level.
Using this Computer Adaptive Test or CAT method of examination, it’s arguably a more effective result and a less stressful one.
You’re not spending money on a test that might be too high of a level for you, or spending a lot of money to cruise through a test that’s too easy. It should be just right!
What’s Considered a Decent Test Score?
Depending on your experience, what passes as a decent score is going to vary. Essentially, most universities, visa allowances, and businesses use the CEFR or Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
This ranges from A1 to C2 and registers fluency across different languages. It’s a universal way of assessing language skills.
Below you can see the conversion between the Duolingo English Test Score, which is out of 160, against the standardized CEFR scores:
|Duolingo English Test Score
So, depending on what level you need to hit to get into your chosen institution, job, or country. You might need to prove that you’re B1 level for a visa, for example, so if you only get 61 out of 160, that’s going to be decent for your level!
What Do I Need to Pass?
As we’ve already outlined, the Duolingo English Test isn’t a pass-or-fail style of test. It’s all about what fluency level you need to prove for your specific purposes.
You know what level you need to hit before you take the test.
If you only need to show a basic understanding up to 55 out of 160 is going to be good enough for you. If you want to demonstrate full fluency, you’re going to need to hit that top percentile. It all depends on your situation.
In basic terms, you need to score more than 10 out of 160 to get a certificate of some kind. It’s a pretty low bar to hit, so as long as you prepare and answer every question as best you can, you should be able to achieve at least an A1 level on the Duolingo English Test.
What Do I Need to Complete the Duolingo English Test?
You can do the Duolingo English Test from anywhere, at any time – that’s a huge part of its appeal – but you do need to have some specific tools and documentation handy to get started.
Before you begin make sure that you have:
- Government ID – like a driver’s license or passport
- 60 minutes where you’re not going to be disturbed
- A computer with either Windows or Mac operating systems
- A room that’s light and quiet
- Reliable internet connection
- A webcam that’s either internal or external
- A microphone
With there being listening and reading components, as well as a recorded portion of the test, make sure you test all your audio-visual devices before you hit begin on the test.
How Should I Prepare For the Duolingo English Test?
Of course, there are many different ways to prepare for the Duolingo English Test. Obviously, practicing your English language skills through the Duolingo app or testing out your conversational skills with English speakers or tutors are great options to have.
I highly recommend using iTalki for this, since the tutors are great with conversation practice and also super affordable per hour.
You may also want to immerse yourself in the language by either visiting an English-speaking country, listening to English language music, or watching English language shows and films.
There is also a 15-minute practice test available on the Duolingo English Test homepage. You can take this practice test as many times as you like to get a feel for the pace and style of the exam.
Of course, being just 15 minutes, you’re not guaranteed every style of question every single time, so we’d recommend having a couple of goes at the practice test first.
Where is the Duolingo English Test Accepted?
This is the big question – after all, what’s the point of taking the Duolingo English Test if it’s not accepted at your institution of choice? The good news is that it’s currently accepted at over 3,500 schools, colleges, and universities across the world.
Duolingo has a full database of the accepting institutions here, and you can use the search function to find your school easily.
If you’re looking for undergraduate institutions to get your degree, you’ll find around 1,400 schools and colleges in the US and 64 across the UK. That’s a lot of choices to have, and if your chosen institution isn’t on there, you can find plenty of alternatives.
If you’ve already graduated and looking for proof of language for your next level, the Duolingo English Test is accepted at 792 institutions across the USA and 55 institutions throughout the UK.
So, if you want to do a postgraduate degree or Master’s degree, there are a lot of options open to you.
Duolingo is adding more places to this list every day as more and more institutions become aware of the efficacy of the Duolingo English Test. If your school isn’t on there at the moment, ask the admissions office or international student department if they will accept it.
It might be that they’ve just started, haven’t yet heard about the test, or might be interested in the concept. It’s always worth asking before you splurge out on a TOEFL or IELTS.
You’re Now Ready to Take the Test!
All in all, if you’re looking for a much cheaper and more accessible English language test that provides results and a confirmation certificate within 48 hours, you absolutely need to check out the Duolingo English Test.
Covering all the key language skills and now being accepted by over 3,500 schools, universities, and colleges across the globe, it’s quickly becoming the test of choice.
Currently, English language tests are stuffy, lengthy, expensive, and limited to certain locations. English education is for everyone no matter where you’re from and the Duolingo English Test is open to everyone, making these kinds of certificates truly accessible.
It’s awesome! Hopefully, more institutions will start accepting them soon, but for now, make sure your institution accepts Duolingo English Tests before you go ahead and purchase the test!
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Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.