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10 MUSTS to prepare properly for the Duolingo English Test

Sean Campbell
Last Updated: 19 October 2021 • 6 min read

As the number of top universities that accept the Duolingo English test grows, more and more international students are opting for this exam over the likes of TOEFL, IELTS, PTE and others.

Why? Well, it’s a much shorter test for starters, at just one hour long. As well as this, the fact that you sit the Duolingo English test at home rather than at a testing centre makes it an appealing option.

In a previous article, we covered what you can expect in the Duolingo test and went into some detail on the Duolingo test pattern and question types.

If you’re unfamiliar with the pattern of the Duolingo test, and with the concept of answer-adaptive questions, check that article out before beginning your test preparation!

Now to the point at hand - what’s the best way to do the Duolingo English test? What are the best Duolingo preparation tips? We’ve got you covered here— so read on, find out, and stop stressing about that test!

10 Top Duolingo English Test preparation tips 

  1. Take a Duolingo test walkthrough
  2. Take a Duolingo sample test
  3. Become familiar with Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT)
  4. Get to know the Duolingo question types
  5. Duolingo speaking exercises 
  6. Download the Duolingo test official guide
  7. Practice test, practice test, practice test!
  8. Don’t leave it until the last minute! 
  9. Real world English is key!
  10. Get familiar with the test day rules

1. Take a Duolingo Test walkthrough

The perfect starting point for finding your bearings. Before you even start studying, start to become familiar with the exam itself by watching a quick video walkthrough on Duolingo test website.

In this three-minute video, you’ll quickly pick up some key information on how the test works, what some of the questions look like, as well as how you can register and set up for the exam itself. 

2. Take a Duolingo sample test

On the website you’ll find a free Duolingo sample test which takes just 8 minutes to complete. This is the best way to get familiar with the test through some sample questions and answers, as well as an approximate result for your performance! 

You see, because no two Duolingo tests are exactly the same (more on this below), it’s actually quite difficult to prepare directly for the questions without working through the sample exam. 

3. Become familiar with Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT)

In a nutshell, here’s how Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) works:

When you answer a question correctly on the Duolingo test, the next question automatically becomes a little bit more challenging.

On the other hand, if you answer a question incorrectly, the next will be a little easier. The Duolingo test functions in this way to get a more clear understanding of your true level as an English speaker.

So, if you find a question really difficult, try not to worry — it could be a sign that you’ve done really well up to that point!

4. Get to know the Duolingo question types

Again, you’ll find a good deal of insight on the types of questions on the Duolingo test on the exam website, but here’s a quick taster for you to become familiar:

  • Type the missing letters to complete words in a text
  • Choose between real English words and “fake” English words (text and/or audio)
  • Listen to a sentence and type it out correctly.
  • Record yourself reading sentences aloud.
  • Describe an image in detail (writing and/or speaking).
  • Write short texts (approx 50 words) based on a prompt.
  • Speak for 30 seconds based on a prompt (text and/or audio prompt).
  • Speak for 1-3 minutes openly about a given topic.
  • Write for 3-5 minutes about a given topic.

5. Duolingo speaking exercises

As we showed above, you’ll be expected to speak for 1-3 minutes about a given topic in the Duolingo Test. This isn’t an easy task for plenty of native English speakers, never mind international students! 

But don’t worry, it’s all about becoming comfortable with hearing your own voice, and knowing how to quickly prepare what you’re going to say. So how can you prepare for this?

Take any topic, literally anything! It could be a political situation, your favourite TV show, a food you love, an environmental issue or anything else you come across.

Have a quick think about what you could say about it, what challenges it might face, then simply try recording yourself speaking out loud all about it. 

It might seem clunky and awkward at first, but try enough times and you’ll get much more comfortable and the words will come much more quickly!

6. Download the Duolingo test official guide

We always recommend getting your hands on an official guide to any test! After all, the makers of the test are the best people to point you in the right direction with helpful tips and strategy notes for success. 

So where can you get the official Duolingo English Test guide? It’s easy, just head over the website to download it once you’ve made an account!

7. Practice test, practice test, practice test!

We’ve mentioned the Duolingo sample test already, but it’s worth mentioning again and again. Every few days or weeks, try out a free sample test and see how you’re improving. 

8. Don’t leave it until the last minute! 

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for test day. We’d recommend making a start at least one month before your potential exam date, or even six weeks just to be sure.

This way, you don’t have to stress too much or work under too much pressure, and your brain will have time to actually digest any new information. If you don’t feel ready yet, don’t worry — you can simply do the test whenever you feel ready since there’s no need to book in advance!

9. Real world English is key!

Of all the English tests for studying abroad (and there are a lot of them, check out our ultimate list here), Duolingo is arguably the best at testing your everyday, real world English fluency.

This is because of the fact that the questions are quite non-academic, answer-adaptive, and can’t be perfectly rehearsed for. 

To that end, the very best thing you can do to prepare for the Duolingo English Test is apply the question styles to your real life. Here are some tips for how to do just that:

  • See a picture on Instagram or Facebook? Take a moment to describe it in detail, both aloud and in written form! 
  • Read article excerpts out loud to practice your reading and pronunciation. (Even try reading this article aloud!)
  • Listen to podcasts, songs, YouTube videos and try writing down and repeating what you hear out loud. 
  • Look up speaking and writing test prompts online and practice on your own. 

10. Get familiar with the test day rules

Since you take the Duolingo English Test at home on your computer, there are some specialised rules and regulations to follow. We’ve covered these rules already in our guide to what to expect in the Duolingo English Test, but here’s a recap. 

First off, you have to prepare your test environment. Here’s what you need ahead of your test:

  • A photo ID issued by the government (passport, driver’s license or government ID)
  • A quiet area with good lighting.
  • An uninterrupted period of more than one hour.
  • A computer with a built-in front-facing webcam, speakers, and microphone (no earphones are allowed to prevent cheating).
  • A strong internet connection and a browser that works with the test.

And here are the Duolingo English Test rules:

  • You must be alone in the room (which must be well lit).
  • Your ears must be visible and uncovered.
  • Your face must be visible and unobscured.
  • No headphones or earphones.
  • No outside materials, including mobile devices, notes, or textbooks.
  • No communication with anyone else is permitted.
  • No writing utensils or paper are permitted.
  • You must not look away from the screen for any significant period.
  • You aren’t permitted to leave the test window on your web browser for any reason. 

So there you have it — the best tips to prepare for the Duolingo English Test! Now you’re all set, perhaps you should start planning where you’ll study abroad? That’s what we do here at Edvoy!

Check out our range of fantastic courses at amazing universities and begin your study abroad adventure! Click here to get started with Edvoy or follow the button below!

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Sean Campbell
Written By
Sean Campbell

Sean is a writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.

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