Duolingo English Test: all you need to know

  • 4 min read
Duolingo English Test: all you need to know

The Duolingo English Test has increased in popularity due to the closure of in-person test centers during the pandemic. We’ve explained everything you need to know about it, and compared it to other tests to help you choose the right one for you.

What is The Duolingo English test?

The Duolingo English Test is an online assessment that measures how well you can read, speak, and understand English. Your score will determine how well you’ve done on the test.

If English isn’t your native language but you’re planning to study at an English-speaking university, you’ll need to prove that you can speak and understand English, and proficiency tests like Duolingo are a way to do that.

An increasing number of institutions are accepting the Duolingo English Test from international students. Over 3,500 universities in over 50 countries currently endorse it, and the number continues to grow.

The test is adaptive which means the questions you’ll get asked are based on how you perform. The more answers you get correct, the more difficult the following questions become and vice versa.

What are the test requirements?

The test is administered entirely online. You don’t need to book an appointment or attend a test center in-person to take it - all you need is a computer, internet connection, webcam, microphone, and speakers.

The test takes no more than an hour to complete and costs $49. You’ll also need to have an ID document like your passport or driving license to hand to prove your identity before you can start the test.

What is the test structure?

The Duolingo English test is split into three parts:

  • Setup (5 minutes): create your account, test your equipment, and read the rules
  • Adaptive test (45 minutes): answer a range of questions that test your English skills
  • Writing and speaking (10 minutes): an ungraded section where you provide answers in verbal and written form

You’ll be asked a series of different types of questions including:

  • Read and complete
  • Read and select
  • Listen and select
  • Listen and type
  • Read out loud
  • Complete the sentence
  • Write about the picture

There is a time limit that ranges from twenty seconds to 8 minutes depending on the type of question or section you’re answering

How to prepare for the test

The Duolingo website provides a number of helpful resources to help you improve your language skills and prepare yourself for your test. There’s a selection of videos, information guides, useful tips, and a free practice test to give you a feel of what to expect.

There are also several other ways to prepare and English proficiency tests like Duolingo. It’s a good idea to read, watch and listen to English:

  • Television shows
  • News
  • Online videos
  • Radio shows
  • Podcasts
  • Articles and magazines

You can also take up an English course or join a class or club to strengthen your English skills.

How is the test scored?

The score you’ll receive will be between 10 and 160 - the higher the score, the stronger your English skills are. You’ll be given a proficiency level based on your score which are:

  • Basic (10-55)
  • Intermediate (60-85)
  • Upper intermediate (90-115)
  • Advanced (120 - 160)

You’ll also receive subscores for these four skills:

  1. Literacy: how well you can read and write English
  2. Comprehension: your listening and reading skills
  3. Conversation: assesses your speaking and listening ability
  4. Production: how good you are at speaking and writing

Each university will set its own score requirements for international students so make sure you check the minimum score you need to be accepted. Generally speaking, institutions typically expect a score between 100-120.

How does Duolingo compare to other tests?

TOEFL and IELTS are the most popular and widely accepted English tests for international students. The main differences between Duolingo, TOEFL, and IELTS include:

  • Duolingo is solely computer-based whereas TOEFL and IELTS can be done on paper or on a computer
  • TOEFL and IELTS can be taken in person at test centers
  • The price of TOEFL and IELTS is higher (can be up to $200)
  • The Duolingo Test takes an hour to complete yet the others are over two hours long
  • It takes 48 hours to receive Duolingo results but several days for TOEFL and IELTS

Duolingo test pros and cons

The benefits of The Duolingo Test are:

  • Take the test anytime from anywhere
  • Receive your result within 48 hours
  • Cheaper than TOEFL and IELTS

However, there are some potential drawbacks:

  • The test is not as widely accepted as TOEFL and IELTS
  • Technical issues like poor internet connection and speed can be a barrier
  • The limits for answers may be too short for some students