Your Beginner’s Guide to the Duolingo English Test®

In case you haven’t heard, there is a new English test available for students worldwide: The Duolingo English Test. According to this article published by Top Universities in September 2020, there were 1415 schools in North America accepting the Duolingo English Test.

As of October 1st, 2021 that number now stands at over 2000 institutions in multiple countries around the globe.

But you have to be careful.

Many researchers, educators, and students still have questions about the Duolingo English Test and whether or not it is a good fit for their situation.

We will go over some of the most popular questions Duolingo English Test newcomers have about this up-and-coming English proficiency test, what it looks like, who accepts it, how it’s scored, and whether or not it is the right test for you.

Let’s jump right in.

What is the Duolingo English Test?

The Duolingo English Test is an English proficiency test designed to measure the English abilities of students and language learners around the globe. In the words of Duolingo:

The Duolingo English Test is a modern language proficiency tool designed for today’s international students and institutions. It offers an English proficiency score, video interview, and writing sample in an accessible, efficient, and secure testing experience.

How much does the Duolingo English Test cost?

As of October 1st, 2021, The Duolingo English Test costs $49.

How long will the Duolingo English Test take to complete?

The number of questions changes for each Duolingo English Test, however, you can expect between 40-45 questions and it will take about an hour to complete.

Where can I take a Duolingo English Test?

Unlike the TOEFL iBT or IELTS exams, there are no Duolingo English Test centers. The Duolingo English Test is an online exam. All you need is a computer with a working camera, microphone, and Internet connection.

Who is allowed to take the Duolingo English Test?

Children under the age of 13 who wish to take the test must consult with a parent or guardian and communicate with the Duolingo English Test support team here: [email protected]

Most other restrictions are based on technical requirements and where you take the test:

  • Your computer must have a camera, microphone, speakers, and Internet connection
  • You must have a valid passport, driver’s license, or government ID
  • You must be in a quiet and well-lit room

Will my school or institution accept the Duolingo English Test?

Thousands of universities and institutions now accept the Duolingo English Test. Enter the name of your institution here to confirm whether or not your school is one of them.

Can I use the Duolingo English Test for immigration?

In terms of Canadian immigration, students who would like to be part of the Student Direct Stream program are only permitted to take the IELTS or the French Test d’Evaluation de Français. Other types of study permits in Canada accept the Duolingo English Test for immigration purposes as long as your institution considers it a valid proficiency exam.

The same goes for universities in the USA, please check with them first. If they accept the Duolingo English Test then you can use it to obtain a student visa.

How good does my English have to be to pass
the Duolingo English Test?

Like all proficiency exams, there is no passing grade. The score you wish to achieve will depend on the requirements of the school or institution you are applying to. Most schools seem to set a benchmark score of approximately 120 for the Duolingo English Test, however, check with your institution first to confirm their score requirements.

Here is a handy chart comparing Common European Framework (CEFR) levels with Duolingo English Test scores.

Score Conversion Table

Duolingo English Test TOEFL IELTS CEFR
160 120 9 C2
150-155 117-119 8.5
145 113-116 8 C1
135-140 103-112 7.5
125-130 92-102 7
115-120 80-91 6.5 B2
105-110 68-79 6
95-100 56-67 5.5
85-90 44-55 5 B1
75-80 32-43 4.5
65-70 20-31 4 A1-A2
55-60 9-19 3.5
10-50 1-8 3

What type of questions are included in the Duolingo English Test?

The Duolingo English Test looks much different from the TOEFL or IELTS. The reading and listening passages are short and there is no long-form written essay. Below you will find a short description and image of each question type. If you would like to know more, I encourage you to take a free practice test at Duolingo English Test’s official site.

a. Read and Complete

This question will provide a short passage between 40-100 words long. Your job is to fill in the missing letters. The directions are always the same: “Type the missing letters to complete the text below.” You have three minutes to complete the passage. Note that you will have anywhere between 7 to 18 words to fill in. Also, the missing letters will always be at the end of the word.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

b. Read and Select

The Read and Select question will provide a series of 18 words, both real and fake. Your job is to select the words that are real. You will have one minute to complete this task. The number of real and fake words changes for each question, so trust your knowledge and select only the words you know to be true.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

c. Listen and Select

When you have a Listen and Select question, you will be given nine words. Your job is the same as the Read and Select question, to identify the real and fake words. You may listen to each word as many times as you’d like, but you only have 90 seconds to complete the task.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

d. Listen and Type

The title of this question type pretty much sums it up: Listen and Type. You will listen to a sentence and type out what you hear. You are allowed to replay the passage twice and have one minute to complete this task.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

e. Read Aloud

The Read Aloud question will present a statement that you must repeat. Like most other Duolingo English Test questions, the timer will begin to count down as soon as the prompt appears. You have 20 seconds to prepare and only one chance to record your response. The statement is usually about 5 to 25 words long.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

f. Write About the Photo

The Write About the Photo question type will present an image and you have one minute to describe the image. The directions state, “Write one or more sentences that describe the image,” but try to write more. Use the entire minute to describe the foreground, background, and any other details you notice.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

g. Read, Then Write

This task asks you to write at least 50 words about a random question. Be sure to write more than 50 words. A good rule to keep in mind is to write as much as possible. Pay careful attention to your grammar, punctuation, and spelling as well. Think of this question as a mini-essay. Be sure to include an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

h. Speak About the Photo

You will be presented with a photo and asked to describe it aloud. For this particular question, you have 20 seconds to prepare your response, but you can not take notes. You will be expected to speak between 30 – 90 seconds. Use the entire 20 seconds to think about what you will say. When it is time to speak, you will still be able to see the picture.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

i. Read, Then Speak

Once the question is presented, you will have 20 seconds to prepare your response. Like the rest of the Duolingo English Test, you are not allowed to take notes. Use the time to think about your answer to the prompt. Try to answer all of the questions in the order they are provided. When you speak, you will still be able to see the question. You must respond for at least 30 seconds, but try to extend your answer. You will not be allowed to speak for more than 90 seconds.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

j. Listen, Then Speak

This is one of the most challenging question types in the Duolingo English Test. You will listen to a question and have 20 seconds to prepare. You can replay the question up to two times. During your preparation time, think carefully about the question and how you intend to respond. When it is time to speak, you can speak for between 30 – 90 seconds.

Image source: Test Readiness PDF

k. Speaking and Writing Samples

At the very end of the test, you will have two ungraded questions: the speaking sample and the writing sample. Your answers to these questions will not count toward your final grade. The Speaking sample is similar in format to the Read, Then Speak question type, and the Writing Sample is similar to the Read, Then Write question type.

What is the Duolingo English test format?

The ten question types included in the Duolingo English Test are spread throughout the exam. Some questions appear multiple times while others show up just once. Expect most of the reading and listening question types to appear within the first 30 questions, and the final 10 questions to consist of speaking and writing questions, however, this is not always the case. Check out TST Prep’s complete practice test on YouTube to get a better idea of how the questions flow throughout the exam.

How is the Duolingo English Test scored?

The way the Duolingo English Test is scored is a bit different from traditional language exams. The best score you can earn on the test is 160. When you receive your Duolingo English Test score report you will have an overall score, and four subscores: literacy, comprehension, conversation, and production.

Source: Duolingo

Why don’t they include separate scores for reading, listening, speaking, and writing?

In short, the folks over at Duolingo believe that these skills are integrated and it is more accurate to use this sub-scoring system to reflect this idea.

  • Literacy subscore: Ability to read and write
  • Comprehension subscore: Ability to listen and read
  • Conversation subscore: Ability to speak and listen
  • Production subscore: Ability to write and speak

What is considered a “good score” on the Duolingo English Test?

As mentioned in a previous question, this is an English proficiency exam, so what each individual student considers a good score will be subjective. However, most universities require a Duolingo English Test score of at least 120 for admission.

Can I trust the Duolingo English Test score?

In short, yes. Thousands of schools and universities across the world would not have accepted the Duolingo English Test as a valid measure of English proficiency if they could not trust the outcome. The makers of this test take great strides to ensure test security and carry out extensive research studies on the validity of the exam, which you can read more about here.

How do Duolingo English Test scores compare to the TOEFL or IELTS?

Many students believe that the Duolingo English Test is easier than the TOEFL or IELTS, however, this is a subjective opinion. Research from Duolingo suggests that you can expect to prove a similar proficiency level whether you take the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test. In other words, according to the chart below, if you scored around 100 on the TOEFL, you can expect to earn approximately 120 on the Duolingo English Test.

Check the chart for additional information on how scores compare across tests.

Score Conversion Table

Duolingo English Test TOEFL IELTS CEFR
155-160 120 9 C2
145-150 117-119 8.5
135-140 113-116 8 C1
125-130 103-112 7.5
115-120 92-102 7
105-110 80-91 6.5 B2
95-100 68-79 6
85-90 56-67 5.5
75-80 44-55 5 B1
65-70 32-43 4.5
55-60 20-31 4 A1-A2
45-50 9-19 3.5
30-40 1-8 3

Where can I take a practice test for the Duolingo English Test?

For official practice, check out Duolingo’s website. However, the amount of practice included is limited.

Looking for more information?

If you are looking for a more extensive practice experience, create a free account at TST Prep and gain access to over 400 free practice questions.

Do you have any other questions? Is there something we missed? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

And which test would you prefer to take: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo?

Thanks for reading and see you next time.


  1. Abert KAPUKA

    I do really love taking this test because it is very important both for me and my professional life. By the way! What kind of document will I be given at the end of this test?

    • Josh

      Hi there and thank you for your question. You will receive a score report that includes an overall score. You will have the option to send the score report to your institution. Be sure that your school or institution accepts the Duolingo English Test first before you take it and ask them any other questions you might have as to how to send the report to them. Good luck!

      • Deepika

        Hi …I am new in Canada as a permanent resident. I want to do further studies.. so I have to do Duolingo test for my admission…I am new …how can I give this test …and where can I give a demo practice test for free?

        • Josh

          Hi Deepika and good luck with your studies. The best place to start would be the Duolingo English Test official website. They have some practice tests you can take. I’ll put a link below. I hope that helps –


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