Duolingo vs. IELTS: How to Decide (2024)

Duolingo vs. IELTS: How to Decide (2024)
San Francisco, CA.Photo by Leo Korman / Unsplash

IELTS or the Duolingo English Test?

If you’re asking yourself this question, this article has the answers 😁

The short answer is: Only take IELTS if you have to.

To understand why the DET is better, read on.

👉 Considering TOEFL as well? Check out our article: Duolingo vs. TOEFL: How to Decide (2024)

Table of Contents

How Each Test is Structured

IELTS has 4 papers (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) and 2 modules (Academic and General Training). The Speaking and Listening papers are the same. Only Reading and Writing are different.

The DET has 3 sections, but they're all part of one session. The questions that test the different skills are mixed together.

Strengths of the Duolingo English Test


The DET takes just an hour. IELTS takes between 2.5 and 3 hours 😬

The DET is shorter because it is an “adaptive test.” This means it adjusts the difficulty of questions to match your level: If you get a question correct, the next question will be harder. You won’t waste time answering questions that are too easy or too difficult for you.


The DET costs just $65 USD in every country. You can also buy a package of 2 tests for $98 USD, which comes out to $55 USD per test. Prices range for IELTS, but they are generally between $150 USD and $325 USD, depending on the country.

In addition, you can send your DET results to as many schools as you would like for free. With IELTS, you can send your results to 5 schools for free. After that, it’s $3.75 USD plus $19 USD to send your results to a school outside of the country where you took the test.

Faster to get results

You will get your DET results within 48 hours. If you need them faster, you can pay $40 more to get them within 12 hours.

Meanwhile, you have to wait 13 days to view your IELTS results online. It takes 23 days for your official Test Report Form (TRF) to be sent in the mail, and some schools only accept photocopies of the TRF.

More convenient

You can take the DET from home. All you need is a stable internet connection and a quiet room where you can be alone for the duration of the test. You can take the IELTS Academic Test online and at home, but only if you live in certain countries and if you have a passport. Otherwise, you have take your IELTS test at a testing center.

You can take the DET anytime. In contrast, IELTS is only offered up to 4 times per month and only on Thursdays and Saturdays. Moreover, these test dates easily fill up. IELTS recommends you register as soon as possible because spots could fill up and you won’t be able to take the test in time. With the DET, you don’t have to plan ahead at all. You can purchase and take the test whenever you would like.

To verify your identify for the DET, you just use the webcam on your computer or laptop to take a photo of your identification at the start of the test itself. IELTS requires that you submit a color photocopy of your identification. If you don’t have a scanner, this can be a time-consuming step.

IELTS tries to schedule your Speaking section on the same day as the rest of your test. However, this often isn’t possible. IELTS promises to schedule the Speaking section within 7 days before or after you take the rest of the test. This means when you sign up for an IELTS test, you need to make sure you can be around for 2 entire weeks.

Has an excellent practice tool

Although there are lots of practice materials for IELTS, none are as good as Arno for the Duolingo English Test. We provide you with unlimited practice questions for every question type for free. You can also get instant scoring and feedback on writing and speaking questions. There is no faster way to raise your score.

Just click the link below to get started practicing in less than 30 seconds. It’s completely free 😁

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More precise scores

DET scores range from 10 to 160 and go in 5 point increments (90, 95, 100, etc.). IELTS scores range from 0 to 9 and go in 0.5 point increments (5, 5.5. 6, etc.).

This means that if you don’t get the scores you need, with the DET you can more precisely know how much you need to improve.

Score report always accessible

With the DET, everything is online, including your score report. You’ll always have access to it. In contrast, IELTS provides scores on a paper Test Report Form. You only get one each time you take the test, and IELTS cannot issue replacements. So, if you lose it, you have to retake the test!

Scores are valid for just as long as IELTS

Scores on both the DET and IELTS are valid for 2 years.

Simpler test

The DET has shorter questions, which makes for a faster-paced, more engaging testing experience. There is less writing on the DET, and no long reading sections.

IELTS has strict instructions around aspects like the length of your responses. If you don’t follow the instructions, you will get 0 points for your answer.

Additionally, IELTS requires that put all your answers on a final answer sheet. At the end of the Listening section, they give you 10 minutes to simply copy answers over from your question booklet into the answer sheet. But for the Reading section, you don’t get any time. On the DET, there is none of this confusing complexity.

Accepted at virtually every US university

Duolingo is an American company, so it is no surprise that the DET is now accepted by almost every US university. In contrast, IETLS is accepted by many — but not all — US universities.

Strengths of IELTS

Accepted in more places

IELTS is especially common in Commonwealth countries, which are countries that used to be British colonies. Australia and Canada are the 2 largest countries in this group. In total, IELTS is accepted by over 11,000 schools, while the DET is accepted at 4,603 as of August 2023. However, the number of schools that accept the DET is growing rapidly, especially internationally. Within the next few years, it will be accepted by just as many schools.

Doesn’t require a computer/laptop or a stable internet connection

Because you can take the IELTS test at a testing center, you don’t need your own computer/laptop nor a stable internet connection.

Is the DET or IELTS easier?

This is what everyone wants to know. Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer 🙁

However, what is clear is that some people do better on IELTS while other people do better on the DET.

Duolingo asked people who took the DET to submit their IELTS scores if they had also taken it. The correlation between DET and IELTS scores was 0.65, which is not as strong as you may expect.

Graph showing the correlation between scores on the Duolingo English Test and IELTS

Unfortunately, Duolingo didn’t share enough of their data and results to determine why some people did better on one test versus the other.

Below is the relationship between scores on the DET and IELTS. (As we just said, these score comparison aren't perfect.)

Official score comparison chart between the Duolingo English Test and IELTS
Official score comparison between the Duolingo English Test and IELTS (Source)

Which one should you take?

You should take the Duolingo English Test unless you’re applying to a school that doesn’t accept it. In that case, you will have to take IELTS (or another test), at least for that school.


Advantages of DET

  • Cheaper
  • Faster
  • Can take it anywhere, anytime
  • Faster to get results

Advantages of IELTS

  • Accepted by more institutions

If this article has helped you decide that the DET is the right test for you, consider checking out Arno. It is the best way to prepare for the DET and get the highest score. Just click the link below to get started!

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