Duolingo vs IELTS

When it comes to the differences between Duolingo and IELTS, there’s always a main question: is the Duolingo test accepted as a proficiency test just like the IELTS?. The short and sweet answer is YES!.

There are a ton of forums discussing it, people that recommend Duolingo over IELTS, and others that bash the Duolingo test and its process almost as if it were a scam.

The purpose of this article is just to clear your doubts and understand what the differences between them are so you can take an informed decision. If you would like to know more about the Duolingo exam check our Complete Guide.

Duolingo vs IELTS Price

One of the first differences to address is the price. The Duolingo test is today the most price-effective English proficiency test, it’s ahead when compared to the competition.
You will only pay once $49 which will give you access to the full test, and after you will be able to send it to all the universities or institutions that you would like to for no extra cost.

When compared to the IELTS, which costs around $250, there’s a clear gap in terms of price. By just taking 1 IELTS exam, you can take around 5 Duolingo tests for the same price.

And that’s not all! Once you get your desired IELTS result, you can only send it to up to 4 institutions. After that, you will have to pay an extra $20 to send your results to any other schools.

Then, you will also have to commute to take the IELTS, since it’s an in-person type of test, meaning that you will also have to pay for transportation adding an extra cost to your total amount.

Duolingo vs IELTS Test Length

Another big difference between the Duolingo English test and the IELTS is the time that will take you to complete the evaluation.

The Duolingo is a 2 part test where you will have an Adaptive Test (Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking) that will take you around 45 minutes, and then you will have a Video Interview that will take you an extra 10 minutes. So the whole test will take around 1 hour to finish.

The IELTS, on the other hand, is divided into different sections, where the reading and writing sections will take 1 hour each to be completed, the listening section will take another 30 minutes, and finally, the speaking section is divided into 3 parts that will take an extra 12 minutes. So, in the end, it will take you almost 3 hours to complete the test.

Duolingo vs IELTS Results Time

This is another advantage that the Duolingo English test has over the IELTS. After you finish your test, you need to wait for the results.

This is a tedious wait since you have a lot of expectations to be accepted by the institutions of your choice, either a university or an embassy in case you want to have a residency in another country.

So the time frame to get your results needs to be as short as possible.

The Duolingo folks will have your result ready in up to 48 hours, but in some cases, after only 24 hours you will have your score already.

Meanwhile, the IELTS will take 3 to 5 days if you choose the computer-based mode, and for those that will take the paper-based mode the waiting period will be up to 2 weeks.

Duolingo vs IELTS Format of the Exams


When it comes to the format of each exam, the Duolingo and IELTS tests are totally different. The Duolingo test is designed to check the exact level of your language proficiency via an adaptive test. After each response you give, the AI behind the test will grade your level and give you the following questions based on that.

The IELTS, on the other hand, has 2 types: Academic and General. The listening and speaking sections will be the same for all students, but the reading and writing sections will be slightly more difficult for those taking the Academic IELTS.

Another point to have in mind is that in the IELTS test the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections will have to be completed on the same day with no breaks in between the tests. However, when it comes to the Speaking part, you can take it the previous day or in the morning. For instance, if you take the test on a Saturday afternoon, the speaking part will be either in the morning or the day before (Friday).

The Duolingo Test will take 1 hour to be completed and the IELTS will take around 3 hours to be done.

Have in mind that before you purchase the IELTS test you have to choose either to take the computer-based test or the paper-based one.

Duolingo Format 


Adaptive Test

This is a graded section that evaluates your reading, listening, writing, and speaking skills in under 45 minutes.

Video Interview

Since 2022 this part is also a graded section ( it used to be ungraded ) that records your answers to open-ended questions. And it will take around 10 minutes to be finished.

IELTS Format 


The IELTS is divided into 4 sections:

The listening section takes 30 minutes to complete and consists of 40 questions in total.

The reading section takes 60 minutes and also contains 40 questions.

The writing section also takes 60 minutes but instead of 40 questions, it has only 2 tasks.

Finally, the speaking section consists of 3 parts and takes between 11 to 14 minutes to be completed.

Duolingo vs IELTS Test Differences

Listening Section

Once the tests are conducted you will have different approaches for each test.

When it comes to the Listening section, the IELTS test will require you to listen to four recordings which 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 headings or paragraphs, MCQs, and sentence completion.

The Duolingo test, on the other hand, will test your listening skills by giving you a list of spoken words to listen to that will contain both real and pseudo-English words so you can identify which ones are true English words. After that, you will also be given audio recordings that you have to transcribe properly.

Writing Section

When it comes to the writing section the IELTS is divided into two tasks. For the first task in the Academic IELTS, you will be required to summarize the information presented in the form of a graph, a diagram, or a table. You might also be required to describe and explain the data, describe the stages of a process or describe a person or an object. In the General IELTS, you will have to write a letter that can be formal (i.e. letter of application, complaint, or request of information), informal (i.e. letter to a friend or family member), or semi-formal (i.e. letter to your boss or a professor).

For the second task, you will need to write an essay in response to an argument, point of view, or problem. The responses need to be compulsorily formal.

For the Duolingo exam, you will need to select the real English words amongst the pseudowords, fill out the missing text from a given sentence, write a minimum of 500 words in response to a given question, and type the statement after hearing the audio recording.

Reading Section

When it comes to the reading section, the IELTS test will examine a variety of skills such as reading for the main idea, reading for the gist, and understanding logical arguments and viewpoints.

In Academic Reading, you will have to read 3 long texts that are taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, and complete the tasks accordingly. These texts range from being descriptive and factual to discursive and analytical.

In the General Reading, the texts are also taken from advertisements, notices, company handbooks, and guidelines.

For the Duolingo reading section, you will be required to read the sentences properly and fill in the missing letters and words to make the sentence sensible.

Speaking Section

Last, but not least, we have the speaking section. For the IELTS, the speaking section is divided into 3 different tasks. For the first task, you will need to answer general questions about yourself, such as your hobbies, your interests, and your family life.

Right after, for the second task, you will be given a card with a topic that you will need to elaborate on. Then. for the third task, you will have a discussion round, where you will discuss a topic in-depth with the examiner that will test your abilities in both critical thinking and analysis.

For the Speaking section on the Duolingo English Test, you will be presented with an image that you will have to describe. Then, you will need to read aloud a few sentences and answer some questions. Furthermore, during the video interview, you will have a speaking section where you will need to talk about a given topic and submit writing sample prompts. They will give you 2 topics to choose from and you will need to talk about one of them for at least 1-3 minutes.

Duolingo English Test Preparation

If you would like to get ready to take the Duolingo English Test, I have prepared some free exercises to improve your overall skills. All the exercises are similar to those in the DET, they have not been taken from the real Duolingo exam.

You can also check my Youtube Channel where you can find Full Doulingo exams to practice and also video exercises.

I also offer paid courses that go from as little as $9 where you can improve your writing skills and your overall performance on the exam and get the score that you need.