Living and studying abroad is one of the best ways to learn a new language and immerse yourself in a new culture. If your students consider studying abroad, they might ask you what test they should take to prove their English level to a prospective university.
The Duolingo English Test is a solid alternative to many of the more traditional tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. In this article, we will walk you through what the Duolingo English Test is (and isn’t) and how to prepare your students for it effectively.
What is the Duolingo English Test?
Compared to more established English tests, the Duolingo English Test (DET) has been around for a relatively short time. In 2016 the people behind the popular language learning app Duolingo created the test for students who need to prove their English level for academic purposes.
The DET is an online test, meaning participants can take it anywhere and anytime as long as they have a good internet connection.
With a price of $49 USD, the DET is much cheaper compared to more traditional testing options. You can also send your scores to up to 40 institutions at no extra cost whereas tests like TOEFL charge for each additional score report.
What Kind of Questions Can Your Students Expect?
The DET assesses your students’ ability to read, speak, write, and listen. The test takes about an hour to complete. It is divided into three stages:
- adaptive exam
- video interview
The adaptive exam features tasks such as:
- fill in the missing word or letter
- listen to different words and select which belongs to the English language
- type out what you hear
- record yourself speaking about a preselected topic
- reading comprehension
- describe an image
As you can see, DET uses standard tasks and prompts to assess English levels. It’s an adaptive test, meaning the questions get progressively more difficult or easier depending on your students’ performance and skills.
Limitations of the Duolingo English Test
Currently, only around 2,000 academic institutions accept the DET, fewer compared to more established tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. You can find a list of the institutions that work with Duolingo here.
Moreover, immigration offices don’t accept the test as proof of English skills for visa applications. Since the DET has not been established as long as IELTS or TOEFL, some prospective employers might not have heard about it and might also be hesitant to accept it.
DET, IELTS, TOEFL – Which Test is Right for Your Students?
TOEFL, IELTS, DET, Cambridge English, iTEP – if your students are planning to take an English test to apply to an academic institution abroad, they have many options.
We compared the two most popular tests – IELTS and TOEFL – to the newcomer DET so that you can confidently answer if your students ask you about testing options.
What is the IELTS?
If you have ever studied abroad in an English-speaking country or immigrated to Canada, the US, or Australia, chances are you had to take an IELTS exam.
The International English Language Test (IELTS) has been around since the 1980s and is accepted by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies globally. The British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English jointly own IELTS.
IELTS tests are either done on location in one of their testing centers or online. Prices vary according to test type and location but are typically in the range of $150 to $300 USD.
What is TOEFL?
Similarly to the IELTS, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is designed to assess the English levels of non-native speakers who wish to study in or migrate to an Anglophone country. Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private non-profit organization, designs and administers the test.
Learners can take the test either in a test center or, if they fulfil certain requirements, at home.
Fees depend on your testing location and range from $180 to $325 USD.
Accepted by academic institutions
Accepted by immigration authorities
online or in test centers around the world
varies, typically between 150 to 300 USD
within 3 to 13 days, valid for two years
online or in test centers around the world
varies, typically between 180 to 320 USD
within 4 to 13 days, valid for two years
within 48 hours, valid for two years
yes, but not all
As you can see, the DET provides a cheaper, quicker, and more convenient testing experience. If your students plan to apply to a university that accepts the DET, the Duolingo test is a great alternative to the more established tests.
If your students decide on taking the TOEFL test and you want to support them, check out our TOEFL speaking preparation course that will help your students to pass the speaking and vocabulary portion of the exam with ease.
How Can You Prepare Your Students for the Duolingo English Test?
Duolingo provides free practice tests and test guides on its website. By taking one of these exams, your students will find out what type of questions they will face on test day, where their strengths lie, and which skills they will need to polish to pass.
Remind your students that it is not possible to cram for a language exam. Proficiency in a language takes time and practice. If they want to make sure that their score is high enough to be accepted to a university or obtain a visa, they generally need to invest around three months to prepare.
We have created a list of resources for you to help students improve their English levels in the four key areas:
Improve Speaking Skills
Speaking can be one of the hardest skills to learn. Students often feel embarrassed about their accents or are scared to make mistakes.
If your students are still too shy to speak to others, encourage them to have little conversations with themselves. Have them narrate out loud what they are doing at home or encourage them to create mini-conversations between two fictional characters to practice.
YouTube is another place where your students can practice their speaking by following along on a video on British Accents or joining an English lesson for children.
If you already use Moodle to teach your class, consider letting your students take our Poodll Speaking Challenge. The challenge consists of a range of activities around common conversation topics. The 14-day time frame gives your students an achievable goal.
Improve Listening Skills
So many dialects – so little time. Because English is a global language, the different dialects might be confusing for your students.
Podcasts are a great way to listen to native speakers from different parts of the world, learn about culture, and incorporate English into their day-to-day life.
For bite-sized chunks of British English, we recommend 6 Minute English by the BBC, short insights into specific words or cultural topics. More advanced learners with an interest in the United States might enjoy listening to This American Life, a longer podcast that features a different topic each week. If your students’ goal is to hang out with kangaroos, point them to Australians Teach English, a podcast focused on Australian English.
If you want to add fun, real-life videos to your Moodle course to improve your students’ listening skills, check out Poodll’s English-central plugin. Your students will watch authentic videos, learn vocabulary in context, and get feedback on their spoken English – all within your Moodle course.
Improve Writing Skills
It doesn’t always have to be a business email or a full-fledged essay. Your students can start writing in English by taking small steps. Encourage them to switch their social media profile to English for a day a week or chat with native speakers on social media.
Follow these principles when teaching writing:
Start small and build from there
Use different topics and genres in exercises
Have students analyze real-life writing and let them imitate it
Practice makes perfect: assign journals so that your students write every day
Your students have to write texts that are up to 200 words long to pass the IELTS, TOEFL or DET test. If you want to coach them towards achieving this goal, give them writing prompts. Need inspiration? Use a writing prompt generator.
Improve Reading Skills
In many ways, reading is a skill that is more easily acquired. Learners have time to look up words, read passages multiple times, and can choose to read about any topic they like.
The British Council has plenty of reading exercises from deciphering a menu for beginners to Business English for more advanced learners.
Advanced learners will enjoy reading novels to deep-dive into English culture and language. You can provide them with a list of novels to explore and even encourage them to form book clubs and join online discussions on sites such as Goodreads.
Make sure you don’t overwhelm your students with too many new words. Before they can read novels and short texts, your students should have a good vocabulary foundation. Poodll Word Cards introduce students to new words and reinforces them through fun and engaging activities.
With these exercises, you can prepare your students for their English tests, and they can get excited for their next adventure abroad!
Until a few years ago, almost all students who wanted to go abroad would have to take the IELTS or TOEFL test. Duolingo’s DET provides a solid, more accessible, and cheaper alternative to these more established tests. However, not all academic institutions accept it.
Regardless of which test your students choose, you can support them with different exercises and resources that bring real-life English into your courses.
If you teach in Moodle, Poodll provides you with English-teaching plugins and resources that seamlessly integrate into your courses. Whether it is providing real-life speaking and listening examples, auto-grading with AI, or building your students’ confidence through speaking exercises, Poodll helps you to coach your students towards acing their tests and becoming fluent speakers.