The Duolingo English Test - Definition, Structure and Preparation


Duolingo English Test - Definition, Structure and Preparation


What is the Duolingo English Test?

The Duolingo English Test (DET) is an online one-hour language proficiency assessment that you take on your PC or laptop anywhere and anytime. The Duolingo test evaluates your English ability in terms of reading, speaking, listening and writing.


The Duolingo English test acceptance is increasing day by day. The test is accepted by many universities and other institutions in countries like Canada, USA, China, Japan, Germany, Australia, etc.


Once the exam is over, the candidate receives a score from 10-160. Usually, top programs ask for a score of more than 120. You will get the scores within 48 hours of completing the test.



Main Features of the Duolingo Test

Unlike other English proficiency tests, the Duolingo English Test is faster and more convenient. The test is designed to show your real proficiency level in English - no need to study on topics that used difficult scientific terminology and are probably outside your academic field such as astronomy, psychology, meteorology, etc.


Since the the Duolingo company is not paying for test centers or computers, the test is more affordable than other exams; it only ends up costing you $49. In addition, Duolingo doesn’t charge for additional score reports. You can send your score report for free to as many of them as you want. While, TOEFL allows you to send your score report for free to four universities only, whereas IELTS allows you to send your results to five. After that , there is a $20 fee per report for the TOEFL and a similar fee for IELTS. Generally speaking, it is actually cheaper to take the Duolingo test.


It is worth mentioning that the test is "adaptive". This means that the difficulty of the test questions changes based on your performance. In other words, when you answer a question properly and show a good level of proficiency, the next question or task gets harder. Also, when you answer it wrong or show a poor level of proficiency, the next one gets easier. This means that, with relatively few questions, the exam is structured to evaluate your English proficiency level quickly - that’s why it only takes about an hour to complete.


The Duolingo English Test accepts both American and British spelling. The only exception is the Read and Complete question, which uses American spelling only.


The test also integrates a video interview and writing sample, which are sent to an institution along with your proficiency score when you send your results.



The Duolingo Test Structure

The Duolingo test measures your English skills through a series of different question types. Each question of the Duolingo test assesses two of the following subscores (Figure 1):

  • 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.


Duolingo test subscores
Figure 1: Duolingo test subscores


The questions are administered randomly and their difficulty changes based on your performance. The different types of questions you will see on the Duolingo English Test can be classified as follows:

  1. Adaptive Questions.

  2. Interactive Reading Questions.

  3. Speaking and Writing Samples.


Adaptive Questions

1. Read and Complete

Read and Complete asks you to type the missing letters to complete the text. For this question type, you need to fill in the blanks of unfinished words in a passage, as shown in Figure 2.


Remember to use American spelling only when Read and Complete questions. You have 3 minutes to finish answering.


Duolingo - Read and Complete question
Figure 2: Duolingo question sample - Read and Complete.


2. Read and Select

Read and Select asks you to select the real English words shown in a list (Figure 3). You need to read each word and select the actual word in English. You can Click the word again to deselect it if you change your mind.


You need to read each word carefully because some words look real, but have small differences from real English words. There could be any number of real words in the list and you have 1 minute to finish answering.


Duolingo - Read and Select question
Figure 3: Duolingo question sample - Read and Select


3. Listen and Select

Similar to Read and Select, you need to select the real English word. but in this question, you will listen to the words to identify them instead of reading (Figure 4).


You can click the word again to deselect it if you change your mind and you can play each word as many times as you want. You have 1.5 minutes to finish answering the question.


Duolingo - listen and select question
Figure 4: Duolingo question sample - Listen and Select


4. Listen and Type

Listen and Type asks you to type the statement that you hear. In this task, you will listen to a person speaking a short statement and then you should write what you hear in the box, as shown in Figure 5.


By clicking on the orange speaker icon, you can replay the statement up to two times (a total of three times). You have 1 minute to finish answering.



Duolingo - listen and type question
Figure 5: Duolingo question sample - Listen and Type.


5. Read Aloud

Read Aloud asks you to record yourself saying a short statement (Figure 6). In this question type, you will read a written statement, and then speak it out loud into the microphone.


When you are ready to record, click RECORD NOW and start speaking. When you are finished recording, click NEXT. You only have 20 seconds to complete, and you only have one chance to record the statement.


It is recommended to practice speaking the statement once out loud before recording if you have time.



Duolingo - Read aloud question
Figure 6: Duolingo question sample


6. Write about the Photo

For this question type, you will see an image on the screen and you will write a description of the image (Figure 7). You need to write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have 1 minute to complete.


Try to go beyond simple labeling and try to describe the image in detail. You will be able to see the image as you write your response.



Duolingo question - write about a photo
Figure 7: Duolingo question sample


7. Speak about the Photo

In this task, you need to talk about an image that appears on the screen (Figure 8). Try to describe the image as if explaining it to someone who can’t see it.


You will have 20 seconds to look at the picture before the recording begins automatically, then, you will be given another 0.5 - 1.5 minutes to speak about the photo. Do not worry, the picture will be shown while you speaking. But keep in mind that you have only one opportunity to record your answer.


Duolingo question - Speak about a Photo
Figure 8: Duolingo question sample


8. Read, Then Write

For this task, you will read a written prompt (a question). Then, you will respond in writing with at least 50 words. Your word count will appear below the text box, and you will not be able to click NEXT until you have written at least 50 words (Figure 9).


You have a plenty of time for you to complete your answer (5 minutes), therefore write as much as you can, as long as you are using English effectively and it is relevant to the

topic, and do not click NEXT until you have checked your response and are ready to submit.



Duolingo question - read then write
Figure 9: Duolingo question sample


9. Read, Then Speak

For this question type, you will see a written question. You need to speak about the question for a minimum of 0.5 and a maximum of 1.5 minutes (Figure 10).


You have 20 seconds to read the question carefully and start thinking about your response before the test advances to the recording screen. You will still be able to see the question as you speak your response. It is recommended to speak naturally and clearly, and use varied words and structures.



Duolingo question - read then speak
Figure 10: Duolingo question sample


10. Listen, Then Speak

For this question type, Speak the answer to the question you hear. You need to speak about the question for a minimum of 0.5 and a maximum of 1.5 minutes (Figure 11).


Note that the directions will appear for 20 seconds before the recording begins. You can replay the prompt up to two times (three plays total). It is recommended to speak naturally and clearly, and use varied words and structures.



Duolingo question - listen then speak
Figure 11: Duolingo question sample


Interactive Reading Questions

Interactive Reading questions are included to measure the reading and comprehension skills that are used at a university. There are two Interactive reading passages on the test, with 6 questions each. One passage will be narrative (like a story) and one will expository (informative or educational).


The time limit to complete all the Interactive Reading tasks is either 7 minutes or 8 minutes. As you move through the questions, more of the passage will be revealed.


1. Complete the Sentences

In this task, you will see a passage with several blank spaces, and need to select best word that complete the sentence.


It is recommended to read the entire sentence and use context clues to help you determine the best word choice.



Duolingo question - complete the sentences
Figure 12: Duolingo question sample


2. Complete the Passage

In this task, you will see two paragraphs of a passage with a missing sentence in the middle and you should select the best sentence to fill in the blank (Figure 13).


Make sure to read each paragraph thoroughly and pay special attention to the sentences before and after the blank. You can hover over each option to see it in context in the passage.



Duolingo question - complete the blank in the passage
Figure 13: Duolingo question sample


3. Highlight the Answer

In this task of the Interactive Reading section, you will be given a question on the right of the screen and you need to highlight the answer within the passage (Figure 14). There will be two Highlight the Answer questions for each Interactive Reading passage.


make sure to highlight only the answer to the question asked. You don’t want to highlight too much or too little. Once you highlight the text, it will appear in the box below the answer so you can read it in context.



Duolingo question - highlight the answer
Figure 14: Duolingo question sample


4. Identify the Idea

In this task, you need to select an idea that best represents what you read in the passage (Figure 15).


Read and consider all of the options carefully. Some of the options may be somewhat relevant, but make sure to choose the one that best describes the text.



Duolingo question - identify the idea
Figure 15: Duolingo question sample


5. Title the Passage

In this task, you will be given a list of suggested titles and you need to select the most suitable title of the passage, as shown in Figure 16.


Read and consider all of the options carefully. Some of the options may be somewhat relevant, but make sure to choose the one that is the best title for the whole text.



Duolingo question - title the passage
Figure 16: Duolingo question sample


Writing and Speaking samples

The Writing and Speaking samples are two additional question you need to answer which are the Writing Sample and the Speaking Sample.


The Reading and the Speaking Sample are ungraded and will not contribute in your total score. Both samples are included in the test to be sent along with your score report to the recipient institutions to enable them to read your extended Writing Sample and watch your video Speaking Sample.


Institutions will use these responses as a way to get to know you better and learn more information about your English ability. Therefore, make sure to do your very best on these parts of your test to help you stand out as an applicant.


1. Writing Sample

The Writing Sample asks you need to write for 3 to 5 minutes about a topic (Figure 17). You will have 30 seconds to read the written prompt (question) and prepare to respond, before the timer begins. Do not worry, you will be able to see the prompt as you write your response.



Duolingo question - Writing sample
Figure 17: Duolingo question sample


2. Speaking Sample

The Speaking Sample asks you to speak for 1 to 3 minutes about a topic. For this question, you will read a written prompt. then, you need to speak at length about the topic shown (Figure 18).


It is recommended to keep talking at least until the NEXT button turns orange, and speak even longer if you can. Try to not watch the timer, as it may distract you from thinking and speaking clearly. Then, try to finish with a appropriate conclusion before clicking NEXT to finish and submit the recording.



Duolingo question - Speaking sample
Figure 18: Duolingo question sample



How to prepare for the Duolingo Test?

Remember that the Duolingo English Test is used as proof of English proficiency. To have the required English level of proficiency and to get the score you need in this test, you should immerse yourself in English language as much as you can by focusing on improving Grammar, Writing, Reading, Listening, and Speaking skills. Here are important tips for practicing those skills.


Read 2 to 3 articles written in English every day. It is recommended to listen to the article first by copying and pasting the text to one of the online Text-to-Speech software.


Practice daily English Listening to podcasts, news and current events.


Make a list of new English vocabulary, phrasal verbs, and expressions and practice it regularly. You can use Quizlet for this purpose.


Understand grammar rules and apply them while writing or speaking. There are dozens of resources which can help you in that such as books and online lessons.


Practice good writing habits: vary your sentence structure and word choice, and express a variety of thoughts with logical transitions.


Retrieving words from memory while speaking is the major challenge that almost each English learner faces, therefore practice speaking English as much as you can. You can do that through making friendships with English speakers on social media. You can also do that by taking advantage of your time alone or at home to talk to yourself in English. Narrate what you are doing, think out loud about plans, or challenge yourself to describe favorite traditions or childhood memories.


Get familiar with the test questions and practice them by taking the free Duolingo English Practice Test as many times as you can. There are other websites that also allow you to practice Duolingo test with paid subscriptions.


Practice speaking about a topic in English for 1-3 minutes before taking the test so you become familiar with the length of the the Speaking Sample task.


Common topics you can practice for the Duolingo speaking question types include:

  • Tourism and travel

  • Education

  • Transport

  • Environment

  • Family life

  • Sport and recreation

  • Crime and punishment

  • Technologies and the internet

  • Advertising and retail


Prepare yourself for questions that requires you to describe a person or a family member inspired you, your country or city, a place you have visited before, or maybe an animal that you admire due to their characteristics and adaptability to environmental challenges or risks.


You need also to practice describing photos. Pick up 2 to 3 different photos everyday and try to describe each one of them in 2 to 3 sentences.



Requirements of test Duolingo

You are eligible to take the Duolingo test if the following things are available:

  • Your passport, driver's license or government ID

  • A reliable internet connection

  • 60 minutes of free time

  • A quiet, well-lit room

  • A computer

  • A supported browser

  • A front-facing camera

  • A microphone

  • Speakers (Headphones are not allowed)


It is critically important to read the following before taking the test: