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What to expect in the Duolingo English Test

Sean Campbell
Last Updated: 14 September 2021 • 5 min read

The Duolingo English test is one of the newest English language assessments for international students.  

It makes a good alternative to the likes of TOEFL or IELTS, as its popularity is growing with an increasing number of top universities now accepting Duolingo

As well as this, it’s a great deal less expensive than the traditional exams (TOEFL, IELTS etc), and it can be done from the comfort of your own home, at any time that suits you. 

However, your Duolingo exam preparation may have to change a little from the norm, as the test itself is really quite different from other English language assessments. 

While the core skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking are all tested, the actual exam experience is very different. To address these differences, this article takes us through the key things you can expect in the Duolingo English Test. 

What to expect in the Duolingo English Test

  1. Duolingo is done at home, whenever you want
  2. Duolingo is a short test
  3. Duolingo results are FAST!
  4. The questions are answer adaptive
  5. The Duolingo question types and exam pattern are a little different
  6. Preparation with the Duolingo practice test
  7. Strict rules on test day

1. The Duolingo test takes place at home, whenever you want

The fact that you can do the Duolingo English test from your own bedroom or living room is one of the things that make it so appealing to students.

All IELTS and most TOEFL exams must be done at an official testing centre, and you have to book a test weeks or months in advance. 

That’s a bit of a hassle for some, but Duolingo allows you to make an account on  their website, purchase the test and sit it from your home, anytime you like within the next 90 days!

2. Duolingo is a short test

...and this is a short paragraph! The Duolingo Test only takes one hour to complete. That’s way shorter than most English language assessments which take around 3 hours from start to finish!

3. Duolingo results are FAST!

Just as the test is short, the results come super quickly. About 48 hours after finishing your exam, you’ll get an email with your score out of 160 (120 and above is a great score), and a breakdown of how you’ve done in each skill. 

4. The questions are answer adaptive

So what does this mean? Basically, the questions on the Duolingo test change depending on the strength or accuracy of your last answer. So, if you answer a question incorrectly, the computer will generate an easier question next. Answer a question correctly, and the next one will be a little more difficult. 

Duolingo does this as their research suggests that it’s a better way of gauging an accurate understanding of your ability. 

So… if you come away from the test thinking “Wow those questions were tough!”, perhaps that means you’ve done well!

5. The Duolingo question types and exam pattern are a little different

As we mentioned above, the aim of the Duolingo test is the same as with any English language assessment, but it goes about it in a different way. 

First let’s look at the exam pattern (or format).

Unlike most other exams which have separate sections for reading, writing, listening and speaking, the Duolingo exam tests all of these during the adaptive test. 

Usually, each question tests two skills at once e.g. listening and writing 

After the adaptive test, there’s a 10 minute interview section where you can speak for up to 3 minutes about a topic (you can choose between two prompts). 

Next, let’s talk about the question types in the Duolingo English Test.

The adaptive nature of the exam makes it difficult to predict exactly what type of question you can expect, but these are some question and task styles that we’ve seen time and again on the test:

  • Listening to spoken words & passages to determine true or false answers.
  • Checking over written words and selecting the “real” words.
  • Filling in the missing letters in a text.
  • A verbal description of an image.
  • Self-recorded sentences.
  • Answering questions verbally.
  • Responding to a written question (writing samples have a maximum of 500 words).
  • Writing down what you hear.

6. Preparation with the Duolingo practice test

One of the best Duolingo tips for preparation is to take the official sample test on their website. Because the adaptive questions are very hard to predict, the best way to get comfortable with the exam is simply by practicing it as many times as you need. 

Better yet, the sample test is free! 

7. Strict rules on test day

Since you take the Duolingo test at home and on your own computer, there are some very strict rules you have to be aware of. These help ensure that you do not cheat (not that we think you’d consider doing that!)!

First off, you have to prepare your test environment. Make sure to have these things arranged before starting 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.

Be aware that once you finish your test, an examiner will watch it to make sure that you’ve adhered to all the rules!

It’s imperative that you follow these so that your test doesn’t become invalid: 

  • 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. 

Now that you know about what to expect in the Duolingo test, perhaps it’s time you started planning where you’ll study abroad? That’s what we do here at Edvoy!

Check out our range of fantastic courses at amazing universities throughout the English speaking world 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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