The Duolingo English Test Writing Section

The Duolingo English Test® Writing Section?

All right, all right, you caught me.

There is no “writing section” for the Duolingo English Test like there is for the TOEFL iBT or the IELTS.

However, there are two writing question types on the Duolingo English Test that require you to write for an extended period of time.

  1. Write About the Photo
  2. Read, Then Write

Even though you are not required to write a full essay for the Duolingo English Test, you still have to showcase your writing.

And even worse, if you follow the directions on the test, you will struggle to score higher than 120 in your production score. Yikes!

But don’t worry…

You will know exactly how to earn a high production score on test day by the end of this brief article.

How?

We are going to take a look at 12 high-scoring sample responses for both Write About the Photo and Read, Then Write questions. On top of that, you are going to see an expert teacher’s feedback on every, single response.

Let’s do it!

A Brief Look at the Duolingo English Test Writing Questions

Before we dive into the sample answers, let’s take a quick step back and make sure we know what the writing questions will look like on test day.

The Write About the Photo question will present an image and provide you with 60 seconds to write about it. You will have three of these questions on the exam. The directions are always the same, “Write one or more sentences that describe the image.Aim to write more. Here is an example image of this particular question type courtesy of Duolingo.

IMAGE SOURCE: Duolingo English Test Readiness, 2021

Read, Then Write questions require a longer response. You can think of this question as a mini-essay. You will have five minutes to write at least 50 words. Even though you only need to write 50 words, aim to have a response of at least 100 words. When you write more, you showcase a broader range of vocabulary and grammar, which will have a positive impact on your score.

Read, Then Write questions ask for your opinion on a subject or a description of a topic. The question may also ask you to share a past experience. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Opinion (general topic) – “Many parents will take away a child’s phone as punishment for bad behavior. Do you support or oppose this idea? Explain why.
  • Describe (general topic) – “Describe current technology used in schools. Which technology is most important in the classroom? Explain with details and examples.
  • Describe (personal experience) – “Think about someone who has encouraged you in life. How have they encouraged you? Give specific examples.

Don’t worry about the topic. While you may have more to say about some questions than others, the question is usually about something you can relate to and have an opinion on. Here is a list of a few of the most common topics:

  • Health and wellness
  • Educational styles
  • Parenting styles
  • Technology and the future
  • Using technology
  • Traveling
  • Influential people

And in case you are wondering, here is how the question will look on the exam.

IMAGE SOURCE: Duolingo English Test Readiness, 2021

To help make your life easier (or more difficult, I’m not sure which one), I have laid out the various question types along with some sample questions, typical wording, and popular topics in this one table.

Read, Then Write Question Types

Question Types Typical Wording Typical Topics Question Examples
OPINION
general topic
  • Do you support or oppose…
  • Do you agree or disagree…
  • (What) do you think…
  • How do you feel...
  • Business world
  • Arts and culture
  • Government policy
  • Health and wellness
  • Educational styles
  • Parenting styles
  • Technology and the future
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Parents should read their children’s text messages. Provide specific reasons for your opinion.

Many parents will take away a child’s phone as punishment for bad behavior. Do you support or oppose this idea? Explain why.
DESCRIBE
general topic
  • Describe…
  • Explain…
  • Discuss…
  • Think/Talk about…
  • Business world
  • Arts and culture
  • Government policy
  • Health and wellness
  • Educational styles
  • Parenting styles
  • Technology and the future
Describe current technology used in schools. What technology is most important in the classroom? Explain with details and examples.

Many people now prefer to get their news on the Internet. Talk about some of the ways this has changed people’s lives.
DESCRIBE
personal experience
  • Describe…
  • Explain…
  • Discuss…
  • Think/Talk about…
  • What…
  • Education experience
  • Using technology
  • Traveling
  • Health and wellness
  • Parenting styles
  • Influential people
Describe your favorite teacher. What qualities did you respect most?

Think about someone who has encouraged you in life. How have they encouraged you? Give specific examples.

Write About the Photo: 8 Sample Questions and Answers

I know, I know, you came here for sample answers and I haven’t delivered yet!

All right, here they are. Let’s start with eight sample questions for Write About the Photo. You might also want to set a timer for 60 seconds and try to write a response for each yourself before looking at the samples.

Ready?

Here we go:

Example #1:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

I see an enormous yellow and brown fish being held by a man in a red shirt. The man is looking at the fish with pride. I think he has just returned from a fishing trip and wanted to take a picture with the fish he caught.

Teacher Feedback: The length of the response is good and there are no grammatical errors or typos. Some of the vocabulary is repeated, like the word “fish” and various colors. This response would be stronger with a wider vocabulary.

Example #2:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

In this picture, I see a woman wearing black clothing sitting on a blanket with what appears to be bags that she made herself. I think she is trying to sell some of her bags to the man sitting in front of her.

Teacher Feedback: Good use of making an inference here with the phrase “I think”. Also, I like that the writer began with the phrase “in this picture” since it sounds natural and also provides the opportunity to include a comma.

Example #3:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

There is a large group of people walking on a sidewalk in a city. In the front of the group is a mom in a green shirt, and she is walking beside her little boy. There is a teenager listening to music beside her son and a man in a green shirt beside her.

Teacher Feedback: This is a very long response, so I am impressed by the length and the lack of grammatical errors or typos. My biggest critique is that the sentences all follow the same grammatical structure “is a…”. Try to vary your grammar a bit more.

Example #4:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

The men on the ice are in the middle of an exciting hockey game. The man crouched lowest to the ground is attempting to get the small puck into the goal to score a point for his team. The man with the huge white knee pads is trying to block his shot.

Teacher Feedback: This response has a lot of good vocabulary like “crouched”, “puck” and “pads”. This type of topic-specific vocabulary shows the rater that you know a wide range of words. All of the sentences here begin the same way “the man/men…”. Try to vary your grammatical structures next time.

Example #5:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

The young couple is sitting on a park bench drinking wine. The young woman in a red scarf has a huge smile on her face because she is in love with the man with brown hair. After they drink wine, they will stroll around the park hand in hand.

Teacher Feedback: The length is excellent. Clearly, this student is a fast typer. I noticed a tiny typo, a missing comma after the phrase “After they drink wine…”, but besides that, this is a strong response.

Example #6:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

The man has on a white shirt, a backward hat, and sunglasses. I think he is the clown of the group because he has a funny grin on his face while he is trying to take a group picture. I think those are his friends and he is very well-liked.

Teacher Feedback: I really like the way the writer started this response, with a descriptive list. It afforded the opportunity to use commas and show a range of grammatical capabilities. The second sentence as well includes two clauses, showing the rater that the student can craft more complicated sentences. Well done.

Example #7:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

The man in the dark blue shorts is running beside a woman dressed in black on a city street. I see that there are palm trees, so they must be in a place where it is hot, like Florida or California. They will take showers and rest after their workout.

Teacher Feedback: I love the second sentence of this response, which includes a comma and two clauses. It sounds natural and contains no grammatical errors or typos. Excellent example.

Example #8:

Write one or more sentences that describe the image. You have one minute

Answer:

In this picture, I see two people running on an empty street. They are training for a race, and I think they are enjoying the scenery while they are running. Behind them, there is a beautiful mountain range and a lovely lake.

Teacher Feedback: The response is strong overall. The writer used good descriptive phrases like “beautiful mountain range” and “lovely lake”, which is much better than just stating, “Behind them, there is a mountain and a lake”.

One extra note before I move on to the next question type:

All of these answers are long.

Do not worry if you can not write this much in 60 seconds. These are examples of the ideal amount to write. Rest assured, you can still score well while writing less.

Read, Then Write: 4 Sample Questions and Answers

Are you tired of writing yet? Or are you hungry for more?

More? Really?

You got it.

A few examples of high-scoring sample answers for the Read, Then Write questions on the Duolingo English Test are coming right up.

Question:

Respond to the question in at least 50 words.

“Choose one of the following inventions: the car, the telephone, or the microwave. Explain some of the ways it has changed people’s lives.”

Answer:

Nowadays, most people agree that the telephone has had a tremendous impact on our lives. First of all, phones have evolved over time, and now almost every person on Earth carries one wherever they go. I still remember when I worked in an office in Osaka and they gave me a company phone. I had to be available all day, everyday. One day I went to the movie theater with my girlfriend at the time and the phone rang right in the middle of the film. I did not want to get fired, so I had to take the call and ruin the movie for everyone in the theater. I felt like a dog on a leash, so I quit. Unfortunately, I have had other jobs where I also had to carry a phone with me at all times. While the car and microwave have impacted our world today, no other invention can quite match the massive effect the telephone has had on our lives. (165 words)

Teacher Feedback: This response is excellent. Even though the directions ask for at least 50 words, this test taker wrote much more. One of the ways he was able to do that was through a personal example. The story about working in Osaka fit perfectly for this particular question.

Question:

Respond to the question in at least 50 words.

“Describe your favorite teacher. What qualities did you respect most?”

Answer:

Over the years, I have attended many classes and had different types of teachers. One teacher who stands out in my mind as the best teacher I have ever had was my high school history teacher. He was extremely compassionate and would hold study sessions before tests to help students who may have been struggling during a unit. His lectures were engaging, and he kept the students gripped with intrigue as he taught. Furthermore, he always made sure that there were hands-on projects to help us further understand the material. I remember one time we were learning about the House of Representatives and the Senate, so he turned the classroom into Congress to help us understand how it worked. I still think about that project every time I hear about politics in America today. He was so dedicated to making sure his students found success.(145 words)

Teacher Feedback: I really like the first two sentences of this sample response. The introduction begins on a general note and the second sentence narrows the topic down. There are also a few good examples of appropriate colloquial phrases like “stands out in my mind” and “gripped with intrigue”. This student displayed an advanced level of lexical and grammatical knowledge in this short text.

Question:

Respond to the question in at least 50 words.

“Your local government has decided to improve their community. Do you think they should build a public park, a public library, or a public pool? Provide specific reasons for your opinion.”

Answer:

Building a public park, library, or school is an important decision for any local government. I believe it is best for the community to build a public park because it can benefit the most people. I remember when I was a kid I went to the Valley Stream State Park almost every day. It was just a five-minute bike ride from my house and it had basketball nets, handball courts, and a huge open field. We used the entire area and played different games depending on our mood and the number of kids. There were also a bunch of older people who used the exercise equipment or jogged around the track. As you can see, building a public park would be the best way to improve the living standard of any community. (131 words)

Teacher Feedback: This response is a good length and contains no grammatical errors or typos, which is rare in a writing response. The author also included a personal example that was relevant to the topic, expanded on the writer’s opinion, and provided the opportunity to include more context-specific vocabulary like “basketball nets” and “handball courts”.

Question:

Respond to the question in at least 50 words.

“Imagine that your school requires you to join a club. Would you join an athletic club, academic club, or volunteer group? Explain why.”

Answer:

If my school required me to join a club and I had the option to choose between an athletic club, an academic club, or a volunteer group, I would choose to be part of an athletic club. Being part of a team has many different benefits. First, it would give me the opportunity to be part of a group and learn how to collaborate with others. Second, I think that it is important for people to learn to manage their time and become a member of a team. I remember when I was on the soccer team in high school and all of my teammates expected me to be at every practice and every game. There was no way to skip out with a bunch of phony excuses, I had to show up no matter what, which helped me later in life to balance work and play. Another reason why I would opt for an athletic club is because it would allow me to move my body and keep active so I can maintain a healthy lifestyle. While there may be arguments for each of these options, I think that I would benefit the most from being part of an athletic club.(202 words)

Teacher Feedback: The first thing I notice is that this response is over 200 words. Well done! Of course, you do not have to write this much and you should not if it hurts your grammatical accuracy, but the length is a helpful factor in boosting your overall score. For this particular student, there were no typos or grammatical mistakes. The writing is clear, well structured, and stays on topic. Well done!

DET Writing Section Summary

You know by now that the Duolingo English Test does not have a writing section, but it does have a couple of specific questions that require you to write.

  1. Write About the Photo
  2. Read, Then Write

Besides learning about the questions, you have also read a few examples of high-scoring responses so you know exactly what to do on the day of the exam.

Now it is time for you to actually practice writing your own responses. Use the grading rubric tables below to help you start and check your own writing today. Sign up for your free account with more example questions and answers.

Write About the Photo Self-Grading Rubric

Questions Notes
1. Did I write at least 30 words?
2. Did I start by describing the picture in general?
3. Did I provide additional details or inferences to expand on my response?
4. Did I include at least two descriptive adjectives?
5. Did I include at least four words at a B1 CEFR level or higher? (CEFR checker site)
6. Did I have at least 10 seconds to edit my response?
7. Did I have less than two grammar, spelling, or formatting mistakes?
8. Did I include at least one comma?
9. What can I do next time to improve my confidence level score?

Read, Then Write Self-Grading Rubric

Questions Notes
1. Did I write at least 80 words?
2. Did my introduction restate the main idea of the question?
3. Did I expand on my point(s) with additional details or a personal example?
4. Did I have enough time to include a short conclusion?
5. Did I include at least ten words at a B1 CEFR level or higher? (CEFR checker site)
6. Did I have at least 30 seconds to edit my response?
7. Did I have less than three grammar, spelling, or formatting mistakes?
8. Did I include at least one comma?
9. What can I do next time to improve my confidence level score?

Cue the applause.

Seriously, there are a million other things you could be doing besides preparing for the DET, so be proud of yourself and keep it up.

Don’t forget to sign up for your free account today at TST Prep and gain access to over 400 additional free practice questions for the Duolingo English Test.

Thanks again for reading and drop a comment below if you have any follow-up questions.

Keep studying 🙂

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