Breaking Down the Duolingo English Test Sections: What to Expect?

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Breaking Down the Sections in Duolingo English Test

The Duolingo English Test (DET) is an affordable and convenient digital-first, high-stakes English proficiency assessment accepted by more than 5000 universities and millions of students globally. This online exam assesses candidates’ English language proficiency, offering the flexibility of remote testing from any location worldwide, provided the test taker meets the necessary technical requirements.


Operating as a computer adaptive test, the DET adjusts the difficulty of questions based on each test taker’s performance. The dynamic nature of the test ensures a unique experience for each user, with question types appearing in a non-sequential order. While the test duration is a concise one hour, its ability to adapt question difficulty provides a robust evaluation of the test taker’s proficiency.

Introduction to Duolingo English Test Sections

The Duolingo English Test is divided into three distinct sections.

Section 1 – Introduction and Onboarding

The first section, which is of five minutes, is the introduction and onboarding process. Here, candidates are prompted to ensure the smooth functioning of their computer’s camera, speakers, and microphone, submit a government-issued photo ID for identification, and familiarize themselves with the essential test rules and requirements.

Section 2- Adaptive Test

Following the onboarding, comes the next important section – the adaptive test, which spans approximately 45 minutes. This section dynamically measures English skills through a series of different question types which are administered randomly. What sets this test apart is its adaptive nature, where the difficulty of questions evolves based on the candidate’s real-time performance. 

Section 3 – Writing Sample and Speaking Sample

The next section involves a Writing Sample and a Speaking Sample, demanding around 10 minutes of the candidate’s time. During this segment, individuals respond at length to a provided prompt, demonstrating both writing and speaking abilities. The Speaking Sample allows for a 1–3 minute response, while the Writing Sample permits a 3–5 minute response. Notably, candidates have the opportunity to review their responses after the test, and institutions receiving results also access these samples. It’s important to note that the Speaking Sample is considered an unscored question.

Interactive Listening Questions

The DET also introduced an innovative development in English testing known as Interactive Listening, wherein test-takers participate in AI-simulated conversations. This unique question format aims to evaluate essential proficiency skills applicable to university environments by replicating both student-to-student and student-and-professor interactions, thereby preparing individuals for success in academic pursuits. 

Interactive Listening is a multi-step question type contributing to the overall score, including all four subscores. The Duolingo English Test incorporates two Interactive Listening scenarios, each comprising two parts. Please find below information about the question types expected in Interactive Listening for effectively navigating this section.

Interactive Listening Question Types
Listen and RespondAsks to read a “scene-setting scenario and participate in an interaction.”
Candidates will need to “select the best response” to continue the conversation.
Consists of 5-6 “Listen and Respond” questions per Interactive listening scenarios with a time limit of 4 minutes for completion.
Follow these simple directions for a smooth experience: Read about the situation.
Pick the best option to start the conversation.
Select the best response each time it’s your turn.
Summarize the ConversationAsks to write a summary of the “Listen and Respond conversation”.Allotted 75 seconds.Only 1 question per Interactive listening scenario.

In navigating through these sections, candidates undergo a comprehensive evaluation of their English proficiency, making the Duolingo English Test a nuanced and reflective measure of language skills. One of the best ways to learn about the structure of the test is to watch the video walkthrough given below.

The Duolingo English Test Question Types

The Duolingo English Test does not have a set number of questions. The test ends when the grading engine is confident in a test taker’s score. The table below provides an overview of the question types, allotted time, and resources accessed during the Duolingo English Test, for students who aspire to study abroad: 

Question TypeTime What it MeasuresQuestion type explained
Read and Complete3 minsLiteracy, ComprehensionFill in the blank, complete the passage
Read and Select1 minLiteracy, ComprehensionIdentify real words (audio), yes/no vocabulary (audio)
Listen and Select1.5 minConversation, ComprehensionIdentify real words (audio), yes/no vocabulary (audio)
Listen and Type1 minConversation, ComprehensionWrite the statement you just heard
Read Aloud20 secsConversation, ComprehensionSpeak the written statement
Write About the Photo1 minLiteracy, ProductionDescribe the image (written)
Speak About the Photo1.5 minsConversation, ProductionDescribe the image (aural)
Read, Then Write5 minsLiteracy, ProductionOpen-response writing
Read, Then Speak1.5 minsConversation, ProductionOpen-response speaking
Video Sample3 minsReading, SpeakingExtended speaking, video interview
Listen, Then Speak1.5 minsConversation, ProductionOpen-response speaking
Complete the Sentences7-8 minsLiteracy, ComprehensionIdentify the correct word in the sentence passage
Complete the Passage7-8 minsLiteracy, ComprehensionIdentify the correct sentence to complete the passage
Highlight the Answer7-8 minsLiteracy, ComprehensionHighlight the relevant text
Identify the Idea7-8 minsLiteracy, ComprehensionFind a main idea in the passage
Title the Passage7-8 minsLiteracy, ComprehensionSelect the best passage title
Writing Sample7-8 minsLiteracy, ProductionExtended writing

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What is a Good Duolingo Score?List of Universities that Accept Duolingo Test
Duolingo Score Chart: Interpreting the Duolingo Score ScaleBest Books to Prepare for Duolingo English Test


Can I review and modify my responses in the Writing and Speaking Sample section?

Yes, candidates have the opportunity to review their responses after completing the test. The Duolingo English Test allows you to go back and make any necessary adjustments to your Writing and Speaking Samples before finalizing and submitting your test.

Is the Speaking Sample scored, or is it considered an unscored question?

The Speaking Sample is considered an unscored question. While it is an essential part of the assessment, the results obtained from this section do not contribute to the overall score. However, institutions receiving the test results will have access to both the Writing and Speaking Samples for a comprehensive evaluation.

How does the adaptive test section work, and how is it different from traditional testing formats?

The adaptive test section of the Duolingo English Test spans approximately 45 minutes, dynamically measuring English skills through a series of different question types. Unlike traditional tests with a fixed difficulty level, the DET adapts the difficulty of questions based on the candidate’s real-time performance. This adaptive nature ensures a tailored and challenging experience for each test taker, offering a more precise evaluation of their proficiency.

In conclusion, the Duolingo English Test offers a unique and dynamic assessment of English proficiency, comprising an adaptive test, a Writing Sample, a Speaking Sample, and innovative Interactive Listening questions. The test’s adaptive nature ensures a personalized evaluation, while the Writing and Speaking Samples provide a comprehensive showcase of language skills. With the addition of Interactive Listening, the DET remains at the forefront of English proficiency testing, preparing candidates for success in academic pursuits. Aspiring test-takers are encouraged to explore the diverse question types and prepare thoroughly for a nuanced examination experience.

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