Duolingo vs. TOEFL: How to Decide (2024)

Duolingo vs. TOEFL: How to Decide (2024)
Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Rhiannon Elliott / Unsplash

If you are asking yourself, “Should I take the Duolingo English Test or TOEFL?” the short answer is: You should only take TOEFL if you’re applying to a school that doesn’t accept the DET.

To understand better the advantages and disadvantages of each test and make a more informed decision, read on.

Table of Contents

The 4 Versions of the TOEFL Test

Before we jump in, it’s important to clarify that there are actually 4 TOEFL tests.

  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test): This is the most popular TOEFL test.
  • TOEFL iBT Home Edition: This is the TOEFL iBT, but you can take it at home.
  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test): This test is only offered in some countries and just one or two times per month. It isn’t a strong option.
  • TOEFL Essentials. This is the newest TOEFL test. It’s only accepted by 622 schools as of August 2023, so it’s not a realistic option yet.

If you take TOEFL, it will almost certainly be either TOEFL iBT or TOEFL iBT Home Edition.

Strengths of the Duolingo English Test

Shorter

The DET takes just an hour. The TOEFL iBT used to take around 3 hours. Since July 2023, it takes just 2 hours. But, this is still twice as long as the DET.

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.

Cheaper

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 the TOEFL iBT, but they are generally between $150 USD and $300 USD, depending on the country.

The DET does not have additional fees, like late registration fees or rescheduling fees. In addition, you can send your DET results to as many schools as you would like for free. With TOEFL, you can send your results to 4 schools for free. After that, it’s $20 USD per school.

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, TOEFL takes 4 to 8 days.

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 have to go to a testing center to take the TOEFL iBT.

You can take the DET anytime. In contrast, there’s only 50 TOEFL iBT test dates. Moreover, these test dates easily fill up. The ETS recommends you pick a test date 2 to 3 months before your earliest admissions deadline.

The TOEFL iBT Home Edition is a little more convenient, but still you can take it only 4 days a week and you still have to pick the specific time.

With the DET, you don’t have to plan ahead at all. You can purchase and take the test whenever you would like.

Scores are valid for just as long as TOEFL

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

Shorter questions

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. On TOEFL, the listening section is so long that you have to take notes. This is not the case with the DET. In fact, on the DET you’re not allowed to take notes!

Has an excellent practice tool

Although there are lots of practice materials for TOEFL, none are as good as Arno for the Duolingo English Test. We provide you with unlimited practice questions for every question type and instant scoring and feedback. 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 😁

"Try Now" call to action for Arno

Strengths of TOEFL

More widely accepted

TOEFL iBT is accepted at 11,000 schools while as of August 2023, the DET is accepted at 4,603. However, the number of schools that accept the DET is growing rapidly; it has grown 50% in just the last two years.

The DET is already accepted by almost every US university. Duolingo is actively hiring people to convince more universities to accept it outside the US.

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

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

Allows you to combine your best section scores from different tests

If you do poorly in one section, you can take the test again and focus on doing well just on that section. (Source)

Is the DET or TOEFL easier?

This is the question almost everyone asks. Unfortunately, there is not a definitive answer. Test takers say that TOEFL uses a lot more high-level, academic vocabulary which makes it more difficult.

What is clear is that some people do better on the DET while other people do better on TOEFL.

Duolingo collected TOEFL scores from people who also took the DET. They found a correlation of 0.82 for the TOEFL iBT and 0.62 Home Edition.

Chart that shows correlation between Duolingo English Test scores and TOEFL scores

Here’s how to interpret those correlations: Your scores on the TOEFL and DET will be close. However, your TOEFL iBT and DET scores are likely closer than your TOEFL iBT Home Edition and your DET scores. Unfortunately, Duolingo does not provide enough data to determine why some people do better on TOEFL than the DET and vice-versa.

TOEFL and the DET report scores differently. TOEFL uses the 4 skills of Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Duolingo combines 2 of these skills to make 4 new subscores. It’s simple:

  1. Literacy = Reading and Writing
  2. Comprehension = Reading and Listening
  3. Conversation = Speaking and Listening
  4. Production = Writing and Speaking

Both TOEFL and Duolingo anchor their scoring to the CEFR scale. This makes it possible to translate your score on one test to your expected score on the other test.

Official score comparison chart from Duolingo
Official score comparison chart from Duolingo (Source)

Which one should you take?

Only take TOEFL if you have to.

The DET is significantly cheaper and more convenient. The only reason to take TOEFL is if you’re applying to a school that doesn’t accept the DET.

Conclusion

Advantages of the DET

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

Advantages of TOEFL

  • Accepted by every institution

If this article has led you to decide to take the Duolingo English Test, you should definitely check out Arno. It has everything you need to get fully ready for the DET and get the highest score!

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