How To Ace The New Duolingo English Test

Recently, Duolingo has introduced an English test that is now accepted on par with IELTS and TOEFL at universities worldwide.

Let’s break down the sections of this Duolingo examination and learn about ways to prepare for the test in advance.

Due to the global pandemic, many testing centres for IELTS, TOEFL, and other language certificates were closed, thus, leaving prospective students unable to take English language exams.

Duolingo known for its language app and gamification-driven approach to language learning, created their own test that you can take in the comfort of your home.

The test has four typical sections, i.e. reading, speaking, listening, and writing.

However, it is only 45 minutes long which is more than three times shorter than IELTS and TOEFL.

Nevertheless, the question types allow to assess one’s understanding of academic English which is sufficient for university studies.


Key Facts About The Test

You can retake the test twice a month. When it comes to assessing student’s answers, the system uses both examiners and automated scoring methods.

Necessary equipment for an online test

Students receive the results in two days. The certification costs $49 and you can send the results directly to all schools on your list at no extra cost.

The first five minutes of the test are allocated to a quick setup and an introduction that walks you through the test rules.

Then comes the 45-minute test itself. After which you have a 10-minute video interview where you give answers to open-ended questions are recorded.

To take the test you must have an ID (passport, driver’s license or government ID). You need to be in a quiet, well-lit room with a reliable internet connection.

Your computer must have a front facing camera, a microphone, and speakers.

To double check which universities accept the test, simply pop the name into the search engine on the website or scroll through the list of 2,000+ institutions.


Assessment Criteria

The tasks of each section evaluate four sub-scores:

  • Literacy. The test taker’s ability to read and write.
  • Comprehension. The test taker’s ability to read and listen.
  • Conversation. The test taker’s ability to listen and speak.
  • Production. The test taker’s ability to write and speak.

The overall score is not an average of all the sub-scored but rather a weighted combination of the questions.


How The Test Is Scored

The highest score you can get on the Duolingo test is 160. Depending on how well you score, you will fall into one of the four categories which describe your level of English.

What´s your score
What´s your score

10 – 55

A student can understand basic English and express themselves in a familiar setting.

60 – 85

A student understands the main gist of concrete speech and can describe experiences and opinions with some hesitation.

90 – 115

A student can interact with proficient speakers and express opinions on unfamiliar topics.

120 – 160

A student understands a variety of demanding written and spoken language and can grasp figurative and idiomatic language.

Comparing Scores To TOEFL, IELTS, Or CEFR

In case you’re curious what your Duolingo score would translate to had you taken another test, the official website provides a table with score comparisons. Next, let’s see what to expect from the different section on the Duolingo test.


Reading and Listening Sections

Question Type 1: Read and Complete

You will have three minutes to read through a passage that contains words with missing letters. The task is to complete the text using context clues available.

Question Type 2: Read and Select

You will see three rows of words – some of them are English words while others are made up. The task is to select all English words in 60 seconds.

Question Type 3: Listen and Select

For this task, you will hear nine words – some of them aren’t real. At the same time, on the screen there will be boxes numbered one to nine.

The task is to select all the real English words that you hear in 90 seconds.

Question Type 4: Listen and Type

You will have one minute to type the statement that you hear in a recording. You can replay the audio up to two times.

Question Type 5: Read Aloud

You will have 20 seconds to record yourself reading one sentence that you will see on the screen. Speak loudly as you only have one chance to record the statement.


Photo Time

Question Type 6: Write About The Photo

You will see a photo and a box where you should write at least a sentence describing the photo. Try to write more that the required minimum.

You will have one minute to explain what could be happening in the image.

Question Type 7: Speak About The Photo

You will need to speak for a minimum of 30 seconds describing an image. Try to tell a story instead of simply stating the obvious.

You will have 20 seconds to look at the image and plan your answer.

Question Type 8: Read, Then Write

You will see a statement and a question that you need to answer in  at least 50 words. There will be a word count to indicate how much you’ve written.

You will have five minutes to complete the task.

Question Type 9: Read, Then Speak

You will need to answer to several questions you will see on the screen. They are the Wh-questions.

You will have 20 seconds to prepare for the task and 30-90 seconds to complete it.

Question Type 10: Listen, Then Speak

You will hear a question you will need to answer in 90 seconds or less. Speak clearly and use varied sentence structures to show the language proficiency.


Speaking Section

Speaking section of the test

For this section, you will need to speak on a topic for one to three minutes. You will be given a choice between two written prompts. They will look something like that:

“Talk about a plant or animal that you have learned about. Describe some of the dangers the organism faces and explain how it has adapted for survival.”


Writing Section

The writing section asks you to write for three to five minutes about the topic you will see on the screen.

Questions here most closely resemble argumentative-style essays. Make sure to explain your opinion and provide examples to back up your position.

Here is an example of a prompt: “Do you think parents should be held responsible if their child causes trouble at school or in public? Why or why not?”

To brush up on grammar and vocabulary, you may want to refer to almighty English in Use by Raymond Murphy or  practice grammar rules online.

In comparison with IELTS and TOEFL, Duolingo Test seems to be more down to earth with its general knowledge tasks.

The question types that assess two skills at the time seem appropriate to what will be expected of a student in an academic setting.

Photos: Shutterstock

The Duolingo Test isn’t the only test to take. Here’s how you can ace the IELTS exam:

How To Pass IELTS With These Seven Principles

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