Duolingo English Test Pattern 2023 - Marking Scheme, Duration, Section-wise Test Pattern

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Aarushi Jain
Updated on Mar 24, 2023 9:17 PM IST

The Duolingo English Test is a one-hour online test, designed to analyse the English language proficiency of a candidate in all aspects i.e. Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing. The questions are designed in such a way that they assess a person's critical thinking and adaptation proficiency. 

Unlike other English Proficiency Tests, the Duolingo exam is conducted in one sitting. The 60-minute test is divided into two sections: adaptive testing and video interviews.

Because the Duolingo English Test is taken at home, innovative technology such as Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics is used to verify the test's dependability. This page has a detailed section-by-section Duolingo English Test exam pattern that will help aspirants ace their DET exam! 

Duolingo Exam Pattern: An Overview

The Duolingo exam pattern consists of four fundamental abilities that measure an individual's competency level in the English language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The concept is based on computer-adaptive technology, which means that the test difficulty is determined by the participant's performance. The difficulty level rises with each right answer and vice versa. For your convenience, below is a breakdown of the Duolingo test pattern:


Duration (In minutes)

Brief Description

Introduction and Onboarding


  • The section is meant to ensure that the device's microphone, camera, and speakers are working properly.
  • You must provide proof of identification (driver's licence, passport, or government ID).
  • You would also go through the test's standards and restrictions.

Adaptive Test


  • A graded section that uses objective and descriptive questions to assess the participant's knowledge.
  • Multiple choice questions, fill in the gaps, match the following, and so on are examples of questions.
  • There is no precise model because the difficulty level varies according to performance.

Writing and Speaking Sample


  • An ungraded video interview to assess your English writing and speaking skills.

Duolingo English Test - Adaptive Test

The Adaptive Test section of the Duolingo English Test is the graded section. While other English proficiency tests use different sections to evaluate the test-taker's skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking fluency, this section of Duolingo is designed to single-handedly evaluate the reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills of the test-takers. 

The test-takers are allowed a duration of 45 minutes to complete the Adaptive Test section of the Duolingo exam. All the questions in this section are objective type, though different marking schemes may be followed, depending on the number of questions based on any given text. Moreover, separate scores have been allocated for each section of the Duolingo exam, including the Adaptive Section. 

Test-takers are advised to ensure their device's speaker and microphone are working properly before they start attempting the section. The input and output features and add-ons of the device must be tested before attempting the Adaptive Test section to avoid mishandling the section and poor performance in the overall test. Additionally, all the rules, and regulations of the Duolingo English Test must be followed to the word, or else test-takers might get disqualified from the test.

Highlights of Duolingo English Test - Adaptive Test

  • Adaptable Difficulty Level - The questions in the Duolingo English Test’s adaptive section adapt to the answers that have been entered by the candidate. The AI learns about the level of competency from the pattern and manner of the answers punched in. The subsequent questions' difficulty level is also set to change dynamically throughout the test on this basis.

  • Large Pool of Questions - Questions are automatically generated by the grading system implemented by Duolingo, and so the system chooses questions for a test-taker from a large pool of questions. This minimises the chances of a question being repeated. Duolingo claims that due to their AI and machine learning technology, a question gets repeated only once out of a thousand tests, thus ensuring that each candidate attempting the test has a unique experience.

  • Adaptive Section Length - While the test lasts for an hour, the number of questions is not limited or defined. The Grading engine will end the test when it is confident in the score secured by the candidate. As each question’s difficulty level gets adjusted and when the test-taker is able to sustain their own level of proficiency for subsequent questions, the grading engine will stop giving more questions. If the pace of the test-taker is mostly stable, then the section tests them variably through different questions to get assurance on their fluency and scores.

  • Single Test Section - Duolingo is currently the only test that holds one section with varying questions that are graded. In other words, different questions will be asked one after the other irrespective of their type or the section it belongs to. All these questions are designed to test the reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills of the test-taker. It is the most comprehensive test format that test-takers could ever experience. The bonus for the test-takers lies in the fact that despite being a comprehensive section, it is simplified enough to be understood and tackled comfortably. 

Prepare for Duolingo Under Experts' Guidance! 

Duolingo English Test - Video Interview

The Duolingo English test has two sections, namely a graded adaptive test, and an ungraded video interview. The video interview is the second section of the Duolingo English Test even in the test’s chronology, i.e. it is conducted after the adaptive test section is over.

The video interview lasts for 10 minutes, during which the test taker has to record their answers to open-ended questions. This section tests two main skills, namely writing and speaking.

Test takers have to face two questions from which they get options to choose. For each question, they get a window of 30 seconds to make their choice of topic. Once the choosing window is closed, they have to either speak or write about the chosen topics for up to three to five minutes. 

The common questions asked in the video interview in this section are: 

  • Describe an image,

  • Speak on a given situation, OR;

  • Choose a statement topic to speak about for a few minutes.

Here are some pointers that test takers need to consider while recording their answers:

  • They must be visible in the centre of the camera frame.

  • They must be audible.

  • The recordings are sent to the selection panel of test-takers’ chosen institutions. Hence, they are advised to be confident and clear while attempting the video interview section.

How the Duolingo English Test is Set Up?

On starting the test, the test taker shall be introduced to the test and the applicable guidelines before the beginning of the actual test attempt. The whole 60-minute setup of the Duolingo English test is identifiable in three parts, i.e. the Introduction and Onboarding, Graded Computer Adaptive Test, and the Ungraded Video and Writing Sample. 

A detailed outline of the Duolingo setup is given below:

1. Introduction and Onboarding

Duolingo exam pattern starts with five minutes for the test taker to set their device and log in their personal details. This includes:

  • Checking and ensuring that the test-relevant devices and functions are working properly, such as Laptop/Computer, camera, speakers, and microphone.

  • Test takers are then asked to display or provide their Government-issued ID card, either by holding the card in front of the camera or by filling out the details.

  • Finally, candidates are asked to go through the guidelines and regulations applicable during the Duolingo English Test.

2. Graded Adaptive Test

On clearing the onboarding section of the Duolingo test pattern, candidates are guided to the Adaptive test section. As previously mentioned, it is the graded test section that lasts for 45 minutes. Candidates have to attempt the questions displayed on the screen during this time. The Duolingo test pattern of graded computer adaptive tests is  designed to:

  • Analyse the proficiency of the test taker in the English skills possessed by them.

  • True to the name, the adaptive test section asks the questions in random order while adjusting the difficulty level.

  • The difficulty level of the questions is changed on the basis of test-taker's performance in the preceding questions.

3. Ungraded Video and Writing Sample

The final 10 minutes of the Duolingo test pattern are designed for the video interview. Candidates are asked to choose one of the two available choices to speak or write about. These choices, similar to adaptive test questions, are selected randomly from a pool of hundreds of different questions.

  • Test takers are allowed 30 seconds to make their choice.

  • They are then given one to three minutes to attempt the video-speaking sample, and three to five minutes to attempt the video-writing sample.

  • The whole session, of both speaking and writing samples, is recorded in a video format. For the writing sample, there is a video recording as well as a written transcript of the answer saved by Duolingo.

  • Test takers can review their video-interview samples of both speaking and writing answers before submitting the same to the institutions.

Duolingo English Test Graded Section - Types of Questions

The types of questions asked in the Duolingo English Test’s graded section are summarised below, along with their time limit, and sub-score labelling:

Question Type


Time Limit (minutes/seconds)

Read & Complete

Literacy, Comprehension

3 min

Read & Select

Literacy, Comprehension

1 min

Listen & Select

Comprehension, Conversation

1.5 min

Listen & Type

Comprehension, Conversation

1 min

Read Aloud

Comprehension, Conversation

20 sec

Writing About the Photo

Production, Literacy

1 min

Speak About the Photo

Production, Conversation

0.5-1.5 min

Read & Write

Production, Literacy

5 min

Read & Speak

Conversation, Production

0.5-1.5 min

Listen & Speak

Conversation, Production

0.5-1.5 min

  • Read and Complete: The candidate is asked to complete the words with the missing letters. They will be given a passage, wherein, some words will be missing a few letters, and they have to fill in the same. They need to use the context of the given passage. The timer for the question will appear on the same screen as the question.

  • Read and Select: The candidates will be asked to read the words and select the ones which according to them are the actual English words.

  • Listen and Select: The candidates need to choose among the given options the words that they think are actually English words, however, instead of reading the words, they will be listening to the audio pronunciation of each word to determine the right answer. They can activate the audio by clicking or hovering on the respective word tabs.

  • Listen and Type: The candidates will be required to listen to audio that contains a sentence spoken in English. They will have to type out the sentence as they have heard it through the audio.

  • Read Aloud: The candidates have to read aloud the sentence displayed on the screen. Their answer will get recorded through their microphone input.

  • Writing About the Photo: The test takers need to describe the picture that has been given in the question, in one or more sentences.

  • Speak About the Photo: The test takers need to speak about the image given in the question. Here, the question and image will be displayed for 20 seconds before moving on to the recording screen. Though the candidates also have the opportunity to advance manually and skip to the recording screen to input their answers through their microphones.

  • Read and Write: The candidates need to write their answers on basis of the given prompt. They will have to answer in 50 words or more. No choices are available in terms of the prompt received by the test takers.

  • Read and Speak: The candidates will read a written prompt and input their spoken answers through a microphone for at least 30 seconds. The directions for the question will appear 20 seconds before the timer starts.

  • Listen and Speak: The candidates will have to listen to the spoken prompt and speak out their answers to the prompt. Candidates will be given 20 seconds to listen and replay the question before they are automatically transferred to the recording screen.

Duolingo English Test Ungraded Section - Types of Questions

The ungraded section of the Duolingo English Test consists of two video interview tasks, namely a speaking sample and a writing sample. As is clear from the term itself, both speaking and writing tasks shall be recorded as a video sample.

Here is a table summarising the highlights of each video interview task under the Duolingo ungraded section:

Ungraded Samples

Time Limit (minutes/seconds)

Speaking Sample

1-3 minutes + 30 sec

Writing Sample

3-5 minutes + 30 sec

Quick Tip: Looking directly in the camera is not necessary, but it makes you appear confident and is highly recommended. This is only applicable to the Duolingo Speaking sample.

Speaking Sample

The Duolingo English Test speaking sample of the ungraded section requires candidates to have selected one of the two given prompts, that have been displayed on the screen. The directions to attempt the task are followed by the prompts on the screen, which continue appearing for 30 seconds, during which the candidate can decide on a topic and select it, or it will be assumed that they have chosen the first prompt. Therefore, candidates are advised to read, consider and select one of the two choices given.

Upon completion of the choosing window, the recording starts, wherein the candidate has to speak out their opinions on the chosen topic for up to one to three minutes. The whole session is recorded as a video sample. 

Writing Sample

For the purposes of the Duolingo English Test’s writing sample, candidates will be given three to five minutes to write about any one of the two given prompts. 

In the exactly same manner as the speaking sample, candidates will get directions for attempting the sample, followed by two available topics for choice, with a choosing window of 30 seconds. In this case as well, if the candidate fails to select their topic within 30 seconds, the test will automatically select the first topic as their chosen prompt, and the recording shall begin.

Test takers have to write down their opinions about the chosen topic for up to three to five minutes, and the whole session will be recorded as a video sample. Since the answer is typed in for this ungraded task, the written transcript is also included as a part of the video sample. This means that when the video samples are sent to any of the test taker’s chosen institutions, the writing video sample is supported by a written transcript of the candidate’s answer.

Related Articles:

Duolingo English Test: Speaking Interview Questions

Duolingo Practice Test - Benefits, How to Attempt

Benefits of Taking the Duolingo English Test

Universities Accepting Duolingo Scores for Fall 2023 Intake

Duolingo Exam Pattern Score

Duolingo English Test scores are available via the certificate, which is available on the Duolingo English Test website. Applicants can access their Duolingo English Test results within 48 hours of finishing the exam. It assesses the following aspects:

  • Your grammar's correctness (grammatical accuracy).

  • The diversity and quality of your grammar (grammatical complexity).

  • The degree of vocabulary employed (lexical sophistication).

  • The variety of word choices (lexical diversity).

  • How effectively did you respond to the question (task relevance)?

  • How much you can speak or write in a small amount of time (fluency)?

  • Your speech's pronunciation and tempo (acoustic features; this one is for speaking questions only).

The only question on the Duolingo English Test that is not scored is the Speaking Sample. The replies are recorded, and the exam is assessed by computer algorithms as well as various human proctors. This sample may be used by certain organisations/universities to learn more about your speaking skills.

Duolingo English Test - Adaptive Section Scoring System

In the Duolingo English Test, the Adaptive Test is the only graded section, where the answers entered by the applicant will be evaluated and scored. The different Question Types will be evaluated differently and scores will be allocated as per the answers given. Here is what you need to know about the Adaptive Section Scoring System.

  • For question types such as Read and Complete, Read and Select, Listen and Select, Listen and type and Read Aloud, the answers will be graded automatically using special systems/procedures developed particularly for the question types. As per Duolingo, the systems/procedures will compare the test-taker's responses with the correct responses and evaluate the differences and similarities.

1. Additionally, students will not be penalized for entering an incorrect answer or an answer that is not entirely correct either. Candidates may even receive partial credit for the partially correct answer.

2. However, candidates who miss out on answering a question may lose out on a score more than when they incorrectly answer a question. Therefore, candidates should answer a question.

  • For questions such as Write About the Photo, Speak About the Photo, Read and Write, Read and Speak and Listen and Speak, are open-response questions, which will be evaluated by a grading system. The grading engine is trained to understand and evaluate a candidate’s English Proficiency like expert human raters. Some of the parameters that will be evaluated by the engine include:

1. Grammatical Accuracy

2. Grammatical Complexity

3. Lexical Sophistication or the level of vocabulary used by a candidate

4. Lexical Diversity or the variety of the word choice selected by the candidate

5. Candidate’s ability to answer a question properly

6. Their ability to write and speak fluently in English when answering a question.

7. The pace and pronunciation of the candidate.

Note: Candidates must understand that the questions are evaluated and scored by computer algorithms, meanwhile, human proctors will evaluate the video recordings that they have submitted.

Duolingo Desktop Application

The Duolingo Desktop app is the app through which the Duolingo English test is administered. Candidates also have to attempt the test through this application and therefore they must download it before starting the examination. The app makes it easier to register for the exam as well as give the test. The app does not overburden the system as it only occupies 241 MB of space on MAC and 49 MB on Windows.

The steps included in the installation process of the Duolingo app are:

  • Step 1: Search the Duolingo app on your browser.

  • Step 2: Follow the link given on the official Duolingo site.

  • Step 3: Click on “Download for MAC/Windows” as per your requirement.

  • Step 4: Select the box containing the privacy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Step 5: The file will get downloaded after this. You can search for the files in the “Downloads” section.

  • Step 6: Click on install.

  • Step 7: In the configuration box, provide information and permissions and click on Finish.

  • Step 8: Run the app after it gets installed.

Frequency of Questions Asked in the Duolingo English Test

Duolingo English Test questions are not pre-set. The test chooses the questions from a large pool on the basis of the candidate’s ongoing performance in the test. In this task, the test depends on its AI-powered machine learning technology, which detects which questions are appropriate for the candidate.

The whole process of Duolingo’s exam pattern in selecting the questions for the candidate can be summarised as follows:

Step 1: The test asks a random question, and on basis of the candidate’s performance, including the time taken to solve, it detects the proficiency level of the candidate.

Step 2: If the answer is correct but the test is not sure about proficiency, it will choose a higher-difficulty question,


if the answer is incorrect, the test will give either the same level question or a lower-difficulty question.

Step 3: In the case of both decisions, the pool of questions that matches the test’s decision is approached. The question choice may be dynamic or carefully selected by the test on the basis of available data about the candidate’s proficiency.

Although there is no specified or defined set of questions, it is possible to derive the possible number of questions, per question type, that may be asked by the system to evaluate the student completely. 

Here is the plausible frequency of questions that have been observed to have been asked in the Duolingo English Test:

Type of Questions


Read and Select


Read and Complete

Listen and Type

Listen and Select

Read Aloud

Speak About the Photo


Write About the Photo


Read and Write


Read and Speak


Listen and Speak


Speaking Sample


Writing Sample


Note: Since the Duolingo exam pattern is overall dynamic, the above table is only for guidance purposes and does not guarantee the same statistics.

Top Tips to Ace Duolingo English Test

Several DET preparation strategies and practices are applicable to all question types on the DET exam syllabus. Duolingo exam pattern preparation covers test-taking tactics, writing recommendations, and speaking tips.

Test-Taking Tips

  • Utilize all of the time allotted to respond to a question. Quick responses and skipping questions may result in wrong answers.

  • Provide lengthier replies than are necessary. Write more than 50 words or speak for more than 30 seconds, for example.

  • Take your time to select the correct answer. The last choice is to click NEXT to submit the answer and go on to the next item. After clicking NEXT, a candidate cannot return to a question.

  • Try not to peek at the timer too much since it might distract you from replying efficiently.

  • Allow time at the end of each question to double-check your answer.

Writing Tips 

  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization must be utilised correctly. The Duolingo English Exam pattern supports both American and British spelling; however, the Read and Complete question type only accept American spelling.

  • Sentence structure and word choice should be as varied as feasible. A diverse and complex vocabulary and grammar will help you improve your DET score.

Speaking Tips 

  • Talk clearly, loudly, and at a reasonable speed.

  • Test takers will not have the opportunity to re-record their responses. Thus, even if you make a mistake, keep going.

  • Do not submit the tape until you have completed the full response.

  • Variate the phrase structure and word choice as much as possible, just like you would in writing.

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FAQs on Duolingo English Test Exam Pattern

What type of questions are asked in the Duolingo test?

The type of questions asked in the Duolingo test is based on the four general parameters of an English Proficiency Test i.e Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. Multiple choice questions, fill-in-the-blanks, matching, and choosing the correct answers, are asked in the test. Additionally, a video and writing interview is also included.

Is the Duolingo exam timed?

Duolingo exam is timed. Both the sections of a Duolingo have allocated time limits, including a five-minute introduction to the test, introducing the candidate to the test, its regulations, and guidelines, etc. All the questions have a certain allotted time and have to be attempted within it, otherwise are considered unattempted.

What does the session timeout prompt option in the Duolingo exam mean?

The session timeout prompt option in the Duolingo exam shall indicate when the internet connection is slow due to which it takes a longer time to load the questions. In such a case, it is advisable to retake them with a stronger internet connection. The test can be attempted any number of times within 21 days.

What is the duration of the Duolingo test?

The duration of the Duolingo test is one hour. Each question must be answered within the defined time frame. The test is automatically submitted once the duration is over. There is an additional provision of five minutes before the test to get familiar with the guidelines and rules of the test.

What is the level of difficulty of questions asked in the Duolingo exam?

The level of difficulty of questions asked in the Duolingo exam is easy to moderate, with each question becoming relatively difficult as candidates answer them. Different types of questions are asked under each category i.e Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Some questions may be tricky while others may be easy to answer.

How many sections are there in a Duolingo test?

Three sections are there in a Duolingo test. The main section is the Adaptive Test, which is a combined section on all topics of knowledge. The other two sections are video-interview and written interviews, both of which are often counted as the same section, due to similar characteristics.

Are all the questions in a Duolingo English Test multiple choice?

All the questions in a Duolingo English Test are not multiple choice. There are some fill-in-the-blanks, matching the following types of questions. However, there are no descriptive questions asked, and the general format of the whole test is multiple choice based. Some questions also ask to choose multiple correct or wrong answers.

What is the length of a video-interview section in the Duolingo exam?

The length of a video-interview section in the Duolingo exam is approximately one to three minutes. The candidates are given two topics to choose from, for which they have a 30-second window. Once the choice has been made the candidate has to speak on the topic for one to three minutes while looking directly at the camera.

What is the duration of a writing interview section in the Duolingo English Test?

The time duration of the writing interview section in the Duolingo English Test is of three to five minutes. It is a part of the ungraded video interview section, and you have to choose among the two prompts to write for. You will get 30 seconds to make the choice and three to five minutes to write on the chosen topic. The video and the written transcript shall be recorded and saved respectively by the DET testing authority.

Are there any subsections in the main Adaptive section of the Duolingo English Test?

No, there are no subsections to the main Adaptive section of the Duolingo exam. While the main section of the Adaptive test does not have any clear bifurcations, it still has an extensive style of questions. The section is designed to comprehensively test the candidate’s skills in all aspects of the English language, namely reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The section is enabled with AI and machine learning technology to facilitate the designed aims.

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