IELTS vs Duolingo

8 minute read
IELTS vs Duolingo

Many major universities and colleges around the world require students to submit the scores of English proficiency tests, especially non-native speakers who want to study or work in countries where English is the main language of communication. These English proficiency tests are often a mandatory part of the admission process of such universities. Some of the most popular English proficiency tests include IELTS and Duolingo. This blog provides a deep insight into the differences between IELTS and Duolingo

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The Duolingo English Test is a computer-based online exam that candidates can take. Candidates who need to demonstrate English language proficiency can take the Duolingo English Test, which is available online at any time and from any location. In this time of crisis, when students and aspirants are unable to travel to test centres and take the English Language Proficiency test, Duolingo has provided an alternative, as it can be taken online at any time and from any location.

Several educational institutions now accept Duolingo English Test scores. As a result, candidates should be aware of where they stand and how they relate to other prominent English Language Proficiency Tests such as IELTS and TOEFL. In this essay, we will compare the scores from the Duolingo English test to the IELTS scores.

IELTS vs Duolingo: An Overview

Conducting BodyBritish Council and IDP IELTS. Duolingo 
Mode of ExaminationBoth Online and OfflineOnline
Exam Fees ( USD)Ranges between $245 – USD 255 (INR 18186- INR 18928)$49 (INR 3600)
Duration of Exam165 mins60 mins
SectionsReading, Writing, Listening and Speaking
AdaptiveSection (Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking) and Video Interview
Results Declaration3-5 days (Online Mode) and 13 days (Offline Mode)48 hours
Scoring RangeBands (0-9)Score (10-160)

IELTS vs Duolingo: Format of the Exam

The first point of difference between the IELTS VS Duolingo exams is their formats. There are two types of IELTS namely: Academic Training and General Training. Under IELTS, while the listening and reading sections remain the same for all candidates, the reading and writing sections vary for different candidates. The Listening, Reading, and Writing tests have to be completed on the same day with no breaks in between the tests. However, when it comes to the Speaking test, the candidate can finish it either one week before or one week after the completion of the other tests. The total test duration of the IELTS is 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

The Duolingo English Test is an adaptive test which means that the exam is designed to check the accurate level of your language proficiency. This means that with each correct answer, the difficulty level will increase and vice versa if the question is answered wrongly. This kind of method of changing the difficulty level automatically is called an adaptive exam and it remains a vital component of the Duolingo English Test. The Duolingo English test can be completed within 1 hour. Let’s have a look at the exam format of IELTS and Duolingo. 

Format of IELTS

SectionsNo. of QuestionsDuration
Listening 4030 minutes
Reading4060 minutes
Writing260 minutes
Speaking3 (divided into 3 parts)11-14 minutes

Format of Duolingo

SectionSkills TestedDuration
Adaptive Test (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking)It is a graded section that evaluates your reading,  listening, writing, and speaking skills45 minutes
Video Interview It is an ungraded section that records your answers to open-ended questions.10 minutes

IELTS vs Duolingo: Listening Section

The second point of difference that we have discovered for IELTS vs Duolingo is in their listening section. In IELTS, the candidate will be required to listen to four recordings based on which they will have a series of questions. These recordings may either be a monologue or a conversation. The types of tasks that come under this section may include matching, MCQs, and sentence completion. 

On the contrary, in Duolingo, the candidates will be required to listen to a list of spoken words which will contain both real and pseudo-English words and they must identify the right English words. They will also be given audio recordings which have to be transcribed properly. 

IELTS vs Duolingo: Writing Section

The third point of difference that we have discovered for our blog on IELTS vs Duolingo is in their writing section. Under IELTS, the writing section comprises two tasks. For the first task, the candidates will be required to either summarise a graph, diagram, or table or explain in their words. They may also be required to describe and explain the data, describe the stages of a process or describe a person or an object. The section task involves writing an essay in response to an argument, view of a point, or problem. The responses need to be compulsorily formal. 

On the contrary, in Duolingo English Test, the candidate will be required to select the real English words amongst the pseudowords, fill out the missing text from a given sentence, write a minimum of 500 words response to a given question, and type the statement after hearing the audio recording. 

IELTS vs Duolingo: Reading Section

Moving ahead with our blog on IELTS vs Duolingo, let’s now examine what the reading section looks like for these two exams. In IELTS, the reading section tests a variety of skills such as reading for the main idea, reading for the gist, and understanding logical arguments and viewpoints. In Academic Reading, the candidate must read three long texts which are taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, and complete the tasks accordingly. These texts range from descriptive and factual to discursive and analytical. In the General Training Reading, the texts are also taken from advertisements, notices, company handbooks, and guidelines. 

On the other hand, in the Duolingo English Test, the candidates will be required to read the sentences properly and fill in the missing letters and words to make the sentence sensible. 

IELTS vs Duolingo: Speaking Section

The next point of difference for IELTS vs Duolingo is in their speaking section. In IELTS, the speaking section is divided into three tasks. In the very first task, candidates are expected to answer general questions about themselves such as their family life and interests. In the second task, the candidate is given a card with a topic and they need to talk about the topic. Based on the responses, the examiner will ask the candidates questions. The third task is a discussion round wherein the examiner and the candidate discuss the topic in-depth and focus on the ability of critical thinking and analysis. 

On the contrary, in the Duolingo English Test, the candidates will be presented with an image and they will have to describe it. They will also be required to read out the sentences that will be given, aloud. They also need to answer any questions which come under this section verbally. Furthermore, the video interview section of the Duolingo English Test includes speaking about a given topic and submitting writing sample prompts. The candidates will be given a choice between two topics and they need to speak for at least 1-3 minutes.

When is the Test Conducted?

When talking about IELTS vs Duolingo, one tends to overlook the timeline of when these tests are conducted. The IELTS is conducted only on Saturdays and Thursdays. The British Council schedules the test for 48 days a year in case of a paper-based exam. In the case of a computer-based exam, it is conducted 5 days a week. 

For Duolingo, the candidates are not required to confirm an appointment. The test can be given from anywhere, even from the comfort of your home, at any time, after registration and the payment of the fees. 

Score Comparison

All IELTS scores are between 0 and 9. You may also get .5 scores as well (for example, 6.5 or 7.5). For the IELTS exam, the candidates can expect band scores for each section of Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking as well as average scores of all the sections, which will then constitute their total IELTS band score. 

Duolingo checks the proficiency of candidates as a holistic score on a scale of 10-160 with 5-point increments. The results of the Duolingo English Test consist of the total score that is obtained from the various sections of Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking and also the subscores obtained from Literacy, Comprehension, Production, and Conversation. Let’s have a look at the score comparison of each of these tests to anticipate the difference in scores for IELTS vs Duolingo:


Proficiency Level

Both IELTS and Duolingo are designed to test the ability and the level of skills and understanding among the students of the English language. The following table states the proficiency level for IELTS vs Duolingo tests along with the scores. 

Proficiency LevelIELTSDuolingo
Very Good8.5145-150
Very Good8135-140
Good 7.5125-130
Extremely Limited 455-60


For the Listening, Reading, and Writing portions, IELTS provides both paper-based and computer-based choices, while the Speaking examination is given in person with an examiner. This means that candidates may be required to travel to a test centre and take the test at a specific time and location.

The Duolingo English Test can be completed online at a time and location that is convenient for the candidate. For some candidates who prefer to take the test in a familiar setting, the flexibility in test location and schedule may be useful.

IELTS and the Duolingo English Test are both popular methods for determining English competence. While IELTS has a longer history, broader recognition, and a more traditional test structure, Duolingo English Test provides the convenience of an online test, a reduced cost, and access to applicants in remote places. The decision between IELTS and Duolingo English Test is based on your personal demands, preferences, and the test’s acceptance by your intended institutions or employers.

Is duolingo better than IELTS?

Yes, as it is easier than IELTS.

Which is better IELTS, TOEFL or Duolingo?

TOEFL is accepted in US universities; IELTS and PTE in the UK, Canada and Australia; Duolingo is accepted primarily in the US.

Is the Duolingo certificate useful and accepted?

Yes, the Duolingo English test certificate is accepted by over 1,000 universities worldwide.

So, there we have it! The main differences between IELTS and Duolingo. Although IELTS is much more popular than Duolingo, having said that, in light of Covid-19, the Duolingo English Test is also being accepted by more and more universities abroad. If you are planning to study abroad, then our experts at Leverage Edu can certainly help you to make your dream come true!

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  1. is duolingo proficiency test still applicable for 2023? are all universities accepting duolingo test?

  1. is duolingo proficiency test still applicable for 2023? are all universities accepting duolingo test?