Is the Duolingo English Test hard?

The Duolingo English Test (DET) is not graded more easily than other English proficiency tests. However, other aspects of the DET are easier like: the questions are simpler, the test is shorter, and you take it from home so it is more convenient.

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How do Duolingo English Test scores compare to TOEFL and IELTS scores?

Duolingo has compared Duolingo English Test scores to the 2 other major English proficiency tests, TOEFL and IELTS. They found there is a close correlation:

Line graph showing that there is a correlation of 0.78 between DET scores and IELTS scores.
There is a correlation of 0.78 between DET scores and IELTS scores.
Line graph showing that there is a correlation of 0.77 between DET scores and TOEFL iBT scores.
There is a correlation of 0.77 between DET scores and TOEFL iBT scores.

What this means is that if you took all 3 English proficiency tests, your scores would likely be similar. However, your scores on one test could be higher or lower than the others. Unfortunately, it's not known why some people do better on one test than the other ones.

One reason is simply random variation. Your scores on one kind of test can change if you take it multiple times. For example, we have had students at Arno who took the DET, got a low score, and took it again after just a few days and saw their score rise by 20 points! This is because your score depends upon the specific questions you are given. You may have better vocabulary for some topics than others, so you will find it easier to write or speak about those topics.

These strong correlations between DET scores and the scores on other tests means that Duolingo can publish reliable score comparison charts.

Table showing Duolingo English Test scores and the equivalent TOEFL iBT scores
How Duolingo English Scores correspond to TOEFL iBT scores
Table showing Duolingo English Test scores and the equivalent IELTS scores
How Duolingo English Test Scores correspond to IELTS scores

How do Duolingo English Test questions compare to other tests?

One of the unique aspects of the DET is that the questions are very short. The longest writing question is just 5 minutes! On other tests, you have 20 minutes or more to write an essay.

Many students find the short length of questions on the DET to be a challenge. In 5 minutes, they need to write a mini-essay, coming with ideas, planning their response, finding the right words, and making sure that they avoid grammatical mistakes. That's a lot to do in just 5 minutes! This is why I joke that the Duolingo English Test isn't just a test of your English; it's also a test of your typing skills. Students who can type quickly do better on the DET.

If you are not a fast typer, thankfully, it is something that you can improve quickly with free sites like Plus, typing is a useful skill that will serve you well when you are in an English-speaking university as well as if you work in an English speaking country.

Although questions on the DET are short, which can make them challenging, many students find the content of the questions easier. For example, the writing prompts on the DET are more general. They often ask about your past experiences or favorite foods or hobbies. On other English proficiency tests, you are more often asked about specific topics – for example, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the economy – which requires specialized vocabulary. On the DET, the chances that you get a question that requires specialized vocabulary like this is lower.

Finally, other English proficiency tests, especially TOEFL, require specific structures in order to get a high score. You have to memorize these structures and learn how to use them in precise ways. But the DET isn't like that. As long as your writing is generally good – meaning that it is free from grammatical mistakes, is well organized, and your ideas are easy to follow – you can get a very high score. You don't need to study a bunch of DET-specific stuff.

For more information about how to structure your answers to get a high score on the DET, check out our video:

How the Duolingo English Test is easier than other tests

Many students consider the DET easier than other tests because it is more convenient. First, you can take the DET anytime, anywhere. All you need is a stable internet connection and a silent room where you can be alone for the duration of the test. This means that you don't have to book a date and time and travel to the test center. You can take the DET whenever is best for you, right from the comfort of your home.

The DET is also just 1 hour. It is a very short test. Other English proficiency tests last multiple hours. Taking TOEFL or IELTS can take up your entire day, while the DET will take up just 1 hour of your time. You can do it after work or even during your lunch break!

If you want to see what the Duolingo English Test questions are like, you should check out Arno. We give you unlimited practice questions for every question type for free. Every new user also gets a full, free mock test with scores and detailed feedback on all of your writing and speaking questions. Just click below to get started!

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