9 Best Tips to Improve Speaking - Duolingo English Test

9 Best Tips to Improve Speaking -  Duolingo English Test
Antibes, France. Photo by V2F / Unsplash

If you are nervous about speaking, you are not alone! For most people, it is the most difficult part of the Duolingo English Test. Another thing that makes speaking difficult is that it is hard to practice and improve.

But, in this blog post you are going to get 9 incredible tips that will help you improve your speaking abilities and get a higher score!

Table of Contents

Speaking Questions on the Duolingo English Test

There are 5 questions that require you to speak on the Duolingo English Test:

  1. Read Aloud
  2. Speak About the Photo
  3. Read, Then Speak
  4. Listen, Then Speak
  5. Speaking Sample

Read Aloud

This question focuses on your pronunciation. It gives you a statement and all you have to do is record yourself saying it.

Screenshot of the "Read Aloud" question type on the Duolingo English test
The "Read Aloud" question type on the Duolingo English test

This question appears 4 to 6 times on the test.

👉 “Read Aloud” - Guide to Duolingo English Test Question

Speak About the Photo

In this question, you are given a photo and asked to speak about it for 90 seconds.

Screenshot of the "Speak About the Photo" question type on the Duolingo English Test
The "Speak About the Photo" question type on the Duolingo English Test

This question appears just one time on the test.

👉 "Speak About the Photo" - Guide to Duolingo English Test Question

An easy way to improve your score on picture description questions is to use more advanced vocab. In the video below, we look at 25 of the best advanced vocab words to use when describing an image!

Read, Then Speak

In this question, you are given a prompt that you have to respond to.

Screenshot of the "Read, Then Speak" question type on the Duolingo English Test
The "Read, Then Speak" question type on the Duolingo English Test

It appears just one time.

👉 "Read, Then Speak" - Guide to Duolingo English Test Question

Listen, Then Speak

This question is almost the same as "Read, Then Speak." The difference is that the prompt is spoken, not written. You can listen to the prompt 3 times.

Screenshot of the "Listen, Then Speak" question type on the Duolingo English Test
The "Listen, Then Speak" question type on the Duolingo English Test

This question appears 2 times.

👉 "Listen, Then Speak" - Guide to Duolingo English Test Question

Speaking Sample

In the Speaking Sample, you have 3 minutes to respond to the prompt. You are also recorded on video and this recording is sent along with your scores.

Screenshot of the "Speaking Sample" on the Duolingo English Test
The "Speaking Sample" on the Duolingo English Test

This question appears 1 time.

👉 Speaking Sample - Duolingo English Test

How Speaking is Scored on the Duolingo English Test

Speaking counts toward 2 of the 4 subscores on the Duolingo English test. In particular, it counts toward your Production and Conversation subscores. Below is the official diagram that explains.

Official diagram explaining subscores on the Duolingo English Test
Official diagram explaining subscores on the Duolingo English Test

Duolingo looks at the following aspects when evaluating your speaking:

  1. Content: Relevance, style, development, and effect on the reader
  2. Discourse coherence: Clarity, cohesion, progression of ideas, and structure
  3. Lexis (vocabulary): Lexical diversity, lexical sophistication, choice of words, formation of words, and spelling
  4. Grammar: Grammatical complexity, grammatical accuracy, and punctuation
  5. Fluency: Speed, natural use of pauses, and reliance on filler words, repetition, and starting/stopping
  6. Pronunciation: Intelligibility, individual sounds, word stress, sentence stress, and intonation

9 Best Tips to Improve Your Speaking

Here is a summary of the best tips. Further on, I elaborate on each one.

  1. Use a good microphone
  2. Take the test in a quiet place
  3. Speak loudly
  4. Slow down and speak carefully
  5. Vary your sentence structure
  6. Use synonyms
  7. If you make a mistake, don’t panic
  8. Avoid words that are hard to pronounce
  9. Speak for the entire time

1) Use a good microphone

If it is difficult to hear your voice in your recordings, you will get a lower score. Be sure to check that there is nothing blocking the microphone on your laptop or computer. If your laptop or computer does not have a good microphone then you should use a different one.

You can use an external microphone, but you cannot use headphones on the test.

2) Take the test in a quiet place

Background noise, especially the voices of other people, will make it harder to hear you, which will hurt your score.

3) Speak loudly

You should pretend like you are talking to someone across the room. This will make it easier for the grader to hear your voice in the recording.

4) Slow down and speak carefully

When we get nervous or excited, we speak more quickly. It is important to remember to slow down during the test so that you can focus on pronouncing words clearly. A good trick is to pretend like you are talking to an old person who can’t hear very well 👵

5) Vary your sentence structure

This will help you score better on the “grammatical complexity” aspect. In Speak About the Photo questions, people tend to start many sentences with “I see” or “There is.” In other speaking questions, people tend to start many sentences with, “I.”

To make your sentences more complex, you should use connecting words to connect and combine sentences. Below is a list of the most useful connecting words:

  • And: I see a boat and a bird.
  • But: I see a bird, but I don’t see a turtle.
  • So: I was hungry, so I cooked dinner.
  • Yet: The food was terrible, yet I still ate it.
  • However: I want to get a high score on the test. However, it is not easy.
  • Which: It is autumn, which is my favorite season.
  • Because: I’m hungry because I didn’t eat breakfast.
  • Therefore: I slept in. Therefore, I was late for school.
  • Moreover: I saw a pretty bike in the store window. Moreover, it was on sale.
  • In fact: He is a good student. In fact, he is the best student in the school.
  • For example: Mango can be prepared many different ways. For example, you can use it in a pie.
  • First, second, third: I have many things to do. First, I need to clean my room. Second, I need to visit my friend. Third, I have to study for my test.
  • In addition to: I’m a student in addition to working at my family’s shop.

6) Use synonyms

You want to avoid repeating the same words. For example, instead of saying, “good” you can use words like: great, incredible, tasty, or pleasant.

A great way to improve your vocabulary is to use Arno’s vocabulary builder feature. You can learn hundreds of useful words that will instantly raise your score on the Duolingo English Test. It’s also free! Just click below to create your account:

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7) If you make a mistake, don’t panic

You can only record yourself 1 time. If you make a mistake, don’t stop. Just stay calm and keep going. You can still get a high score. Even native speakers make mistakes while speaking.

You can only record yourself one time in speaking questions.

8) Avoid words that are hard to pronounce

If there is a word that you struggle to pronounce well, just memorize an alternative and use that instead.

9) Speak for the entire time

You should use the full amount of time Duolingo gives you for speaking questions. If your response is not long enough, it will be impossible to get a good score. Going more quickly on one question does not give you more time for other questions.

How to Practice Speaking

Practice makes perfect! Here are ways you can practice speaking.

Find a speaking partner

Ideally, you can practice with a native English speaker. But, even practicing with a non-native speaker is helpful. There many websites and Facebook groups where you can find speaking partners. This is also a great way to make friends around the world!

Hire an English tutor

If you can afford it, there are many online English tutors. You can pay someone to simply chat with you, and if you’re willing to pay a bit more, they will even create lesson plans to help you learn to speak about different topics and improve your grammar and pronunciation.

Use Arno

We give you unlimited DET practice questions for every question type, including all the speaking questions. We provide feedback on your pronunciation but also your grammar and vocabulary. In addition, we give you an instant estimated score. If you need to improve your speaking in order to raise your score on the Duolingo English Test, Arno is the way to go!

"Try Now" call to action for Arno