"Writing Sample" - Guide to Duolingo English Test Question (2024)

"Writing Sample" - Guide to Duolingo English Test Question (2024)
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

Many people consider the “Writing Sample” one of the most challenging questions on the Duolingo English Test. It's also confusing because it's not clear if it's graded or not (It is graded. More on that later.)

By the end of this post, you will see why the "Writing Sample" is easier than you think and you'll learn how to do well on it.

Table of Contents

What is the “Writing Sample” question type?

The “Writing Sample” question looks like this:

Example of the "Writing Sample" from the Duolingo English Test
Example of the "Writing Sample" from the Duolingo English Test

You will have 5 minutes to write about the topic provided. You have to write at least 50 words and for at least 3 minutes.

But, we recommend that you write at least 120 words. The reason is simple: If you don’t write enough, you won’t be able to get a high score. Later in the post we’re going to look at a strategy that will help you generate ideas and write 120 words.

Your response to this question counts toward your Literacy and Production subscores. It appears just one time on the test.

What is special about the "Writing Sample"?

Your response to the "Writing Sample" will be sent along with your test scores. The recipients of your test scores will receive your response to the "Writing Sample" so that they can evaluate your writing themselves.

☝️Note that your "Writing Sample" is still scored and counts toward your subscores and overall score.

Tips to do well on the “Writing Sample" question

Read the question carefully

This sounds obvious, but it is easy to misunderstand the question or miss important details during the test because you may be nervous or stressed. Slow down and read the question multiple times to make sure you understand it.

Plan your response

You will be given 30 seconds to read the prompt and prepare your answer. Use all of that time to plan your response. That way, you know what you are going to say and you can focus on writing.

Keep your response organized

A well-organized response will gain you a significant number of points. Here is a video in which you can learn a useful strategy for the Writing Sample:

Save time to proofread your answer

If your response has typos, missing words, or other easy-to-fix mistakes, it will be impossible to get a high score. That’s why it is crucial that you save time to proofread your response.

For the “Writing Sample”, we recommend that you stop writing when there are 60 seconds left and using the rest of your time to proofread your response.

But if you don't have 120 words when there is a minute left, you should keep writing until you get to 120 words then use your remaining time to proofread and edit.

How to use the I LAST strategy to get a great score

The key to doing well on Production questions like this one is to use a strategy. The right strategy makes it easy to do all the things you need to do to get a high score.

For the “Writing Sample”, we recommend the I LAST strategy:

  1. Identify: Identify the topic
  2. List: List out the tasks Duolingo wants you to perform
  3. Answer: Answer the question or state your viewpoint directly
  4. Support: Support your answer
  5. Three: Provide three examples

Let’s use I LAST in an example. Here is a topic provided by Duolingo:

Describe behaviors that are important for success in school. Why are these behaviors important? How would some of those behaviors help you? Use examples from personal experience and observations to explain your perspective.

  • Identify the topic ⇒ Behaviors that are important for success in school
  • List out the tasks Duolingo wants me to perform ⇒ Duolingo wants me to:
  1. Describe behaviors that are important for success in school
  2. Explain why those behaviors are important and how they help
  3. Use examples and observations from personal experience
  • Answer the question or state your viewpoint directly ⇒ I'm going to start my answer with a sentence like the following that lists out the behaviors that I think are important: "I believe that the three most important behaviors for success in school are..."
  • Support your answer & Provide three examples ⇒ Now, I need to defend my answer. This is best done by providing examples. Three examples is the perfect amount.

Here is my full response:

I believe that the three most important behaviors for success in school are staying disciplined, persevering through setbacks, and being strategic.

First, success in school does not happen overnight. It's like the old adage, "Rome was not built in a day." In order to acquire new knowledge and gain new skills, you have to learn a little bit each day. This consistency requires discipline. In my personal experience, this principle was most important in my study of mathematics. I never had a big breakthrough with math. Rather, I learned it a little bit at a time.

Second, persevering through setbacks is also important. I did not get top marks on every single assignment. In fact, I often did poorly! But I never gave up. This enabled me to go from a bad mark on an assignment to a good mark on the exam, which, in turn, resulted in a high, final mark in the class.

Finally, you need to be strategic. You need to think about how you can get top marks. Which assignments or exams contribute the most to your overall grade? Which ones don't? Being strategic like this means that you can get maximum results for the efforts that you make.

How to practice the “Writing Sample” question

Simply writing answers to practice “Writing Sample” questions won’t help you very much. To improve, you need feedback.

That's exactly what Arno provides 😁 We give you instant scoring and feedback about your grammar and vocabulary. Let's see why it's such a great way to prepare for the DET.

1) Go to duolingo.goarno.io. If you don’t already have one, just create a free account.

2) Click on the “Writing Sample” question type.

3) Go through the steps of I LAST and type in your response.

4) When “1:15” (75 seconds) remains on the timer, review your response. Look for obvious mistakes like typos and missing words first, then make other edits.

Example of a Writing Sample practice question in Arno
Example of a Writing Sample practice question in Arno

5) Once you submit your response, Arno will give you a score. You can also see the different kinds of feedback, like on your grammar.

Feedback that you can get in Arno
Feedback that you can get in Arno

6) To understand why something was incorrect, just click "Explain why".

Arno's explanation of why something was grammatically incorrect
Arno's explanation of why something was grammatically incorrect

7) Look at the other kinds of feedback Arno provides. Make note of any grammar mistakes you made, suggestions for better vocabulary words, and any ideas for how you can write better by emulating the rewritten version.

Vocabulary Tips and the Rewritten Version feedback in Arno
Vocabulary Tips and the Rewritten Version feedback in Arno

7) Click the right arrow at the bottom to proceed to the next question. In Arno, there are unlimited practice questions!

How to move to the next question in Arno
How to move to the next question in Arno

Conclusion

Now you have a complete understanding of the "Writing Sample," and, more importantly, you know how to do well on it. By using Arno to practice with the I LAST strategy, you can get great at this question!

Arno is a great way to practice not just the “Writing Sample” question but all question types on the Duolingo English Test! To get started, just click below.

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