IELTS vs Duolingo

IELTS vs Duolingo: Which is Better for Language Learning?

IELTS is a language proficiency test developed collaboratively by the British Council, IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English.

Introduced in 1989, it enjoys recognition from over 10,000 global organizations, including universities and educational institutions.

The primary aim of IELTS is to evaluate the English language skills of individuals from non-English-speaking backgrounds, particularly those aspiring to study or work in English-dominant countries.

In contrast, Duolingo, established in 2011 as an online language-learning platform, boasts a user base exceeding 300 million worldwide. The platform provides diverse language courses, including English.

In 2014, Duolingo expanded its offerings with the Duolingo English Test (DET), an online assessment tool tailored for measuring the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. DET is a contemporary alternative to conventional language proficiency exams such as IELTS.

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Recognition and Acceptance

10,000+ global organizations, including universities and educational institutions, acknowledge IELTS as a widely accepted benchmark for English proficiency.

Governments, employers, and professional bodies also recognize it as proof of language skills. IELTS scores remain valid for two years and are universally accepted by universities and colleges in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

In comparison, the Duolingo English Test (DET) is a newer language proficiency exam recognized by over 2,000 universities and institutions worldwide, such as Harvard, Columbia, and UCLA.

Although not as universally accepted as IELTS, DET scores are valid for two years and are accepted by select universities and colleges in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Exam Format and Sections

IELTS Format

The IELTS exam comprises four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Listening, Reading, and Writing are conducted on the same day while Speaking can be scheduled within seven days before or after the other sections. The entire test duration is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

In the Listening section, candidates respond to four recordings of native English speakers, answering 40 questions in 30 minutes. The Reading section involves three passages with diverse question types, requiring test-takers to answer 40 questions in 60 minutes.

For the Writing section, two tasks must be completed. Task 1 necessitates a minimum of 150 words, while Task 2 requires at least 250 words, both to be accomplished within 60 minutes.

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The Speaking section involves an 11 to 14-minute face-to-face interview with a certified examiner.

Duolingo Format

The Duolingo English Test (DET) is an adaptive assessment that tailors question difficulty to the test-takers responses. It includes multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions, lasts about one hour, and is conducted on a computer. A video interview component is also part of the test.

The test consists of four sections—reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing—and assesses various language skills. The Reading section presents multiple-choice questions about brief passages, with 45 seconds allotted per question.

The Listening section features multiple-choice questions based on short audio clips, with a 30-second time limit for each response. The Speaking section involves a video interview with an AI-powered system, requiring test-takers to answer six questions within a 3-minute timeframe.

The Writing section comprises two short-answer questions and one essay question, with time allocations of 10 minutes, 10 minutes, and 20 minutes, respectively, for completion.

Test Delivery and Convenience

IELTS Test Delivery

The IELTS test is available in two formats: paper-based and computer-delivered. The paper-based test is typically offered on specific dates, while the computer-delivered test is available more frequently.

The computer-delivered test is more convenient for many test-takers, allowing them to choose their test date and time. Test-takers can also receive results faster, typically within five to seven days.

Duolingo Test Delivery

The Duolingo English Test is an online, computer-based test that can be taken from the convenience of the test-taker’s home.

The test is available 24/7, and test-takers can schedule their test for the most convenient time. The test is delivered through a web browser, and test-takers must have a reliable internet connection.

Scoring and Proficiency Levels

IELTS Scoring and Band Levels

The IELTS exam uses a band scale from 0 to 9 for scoring. A score of 0 means the test was not attempted, while a score of 9 reflects an expert level of English proficiency.

The test comprises four sections: listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each section receives an individual band score; the overall band score is the average of these four scores.

The bands correspond to different levels of proficiency: Bands 1-4 signify basic proficiency, 5-6 indicate functional proficiency, 7-8 represent a proficient level, and Band 9 signifies an expert level of English proficiency.

Duolingo Scoring and Proficiency Levels

The Duolingo English Test is scored on a scale of 10-160, with 10 indicating a beginner’s level of English proficiency and 160 indicating an expert level.

The test is divided into two sections: a 60-minute adaptive test that measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, and a 10-15 minute video interview that measures speaking and comprehension skills.

The Duolingo English Test does not have specific band levels like the IELTS exam. Instead, the test taker’s overall score is used to determine their English proficiency level, with scores of 10-55 indicating a beginner level of English proficiency, scores of 56-85 indicating an intermediate level of English proficiency, scores of 86-115 indicating an advanced level of English proficiency, and scores of 116-160 indicating an expert level of English proficiency.

Score Comparison

While the IELTS and Duolingo English Test use different scoring systems, there are ways to compare the scores. According to Duolingo, a score of 120 on the Duolingo English Test is equivalent to a band score of 7 on the IELTS exam, while a score of 160 on the Duolingo English Test is equivalent to a band score of 9 on the IELTS exam.

It’s important to note that while the scores may be comparable, the tests are different and measure different language skills. The IELTS exam is more focused on academic language skills, while the Duolingo English Test is designed to measure practical language skills.

Cost and Accessibility

One important factor to consider when deciding between IELTS and Duolingo is the cost and accessibility of the exams.

IELTS Fees and Accessibility

The cost of the IELTS exam varies depending on the country and location where it is taken. In general, the exam fees range from $150 to $325.

Additionally, test takers may need to pay additional fees for study materials, transportation, and accommodation if they need to travel to take the exam.

In terms of accessibility, the IELTS exam is widely available in many countries around the world. Test takers can choose from multiple dates throughout the year and take the exam at various test centers.

Duolingo Fees and Accessibility

The Duolingo English Test costs significantly less than the IELTS exam, approximately USD 49, making it a more affordable option for many test takers. However, it is essential to note that not all universities and institutions accept the Duolingo English Test.

Regarding accessibility, the Duolingo English Test can be taken online from anywhere with an internet connection. This makes it a convenient option for test takers who may not have access to a physical test center or prefer to take the exam from their homes.

Preparation and Study Materials

IELTS Preparation

The IELTS is a test that evaluates the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. To prepare for the exam, enhance language skills in listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

There are several ways to prepare for the IELTS exam, including:

  • Official IELTS Preparation Materials: These materials are designed by the IELTS organization and have practice tests, sample questions, and study guides. They are available for purchase on the IELTS website.
  • IELTS Preparation Courses: Many language schools and universities offer IELTS preparation courses that provide students with targeted training and practice for the exam.
  • Self-Study: Many online resources, including practice tests, sample questions, and study guides, are available for self-study. It is important to use reputable sources to ensure the materials are accurate and up-to-date.

Duolingo Preparation

Duolingo is a language learning platform that offers courses in several languages, including English. To prepare for the Duolingo English Test, one needs to focus on developing language skills in four areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

There are several ways to prepare for the Duolingo English Test, including:

  • Duolingo Courses: Duolingo offers English language courses designed to prepare students for the Duolingo English Test. These courses cover all four language skills and provide students with targeted training and practice.
  • Official Duolingo Practice Tests: Duolingo offers practice tests that simulate the test experience. These tests are designed to help students identify areas to improve.
  • Self-Study: Many online resources, including practice tests, sample questions, and study guides, are available for self-study. It is important to use reputable sources to ensure the materials are accurate and up-to-date.

Comparative Analysis

IELTS vs Duolingo: A Detailed Comparison

Two popular options for English language proficiency tests are IELTS and Duolingo English Test (DET). Both tests assess a candidate’s ability to read, write, listen, and speak in English.

However, there are some critical differences between the two tests. This section will provide a detailed comparison of the IELTS and Duolingo English Tests.

Score Comparison

The IELTS and Duolingo English Tests employ distinct scoring systems, but their scores can be correlated. Duolingo states that a score of 120 corresponds to an IELTS band score of 7, and a score of 160 equates to an IELTS band score of 9.

Recognizing that the tests assess diverse language skills despite this comparability is crucial. The IELTS prioritizes academic language proficiency, whereas the Duolingo English Test is tailored to evaluate practical language skills.

Exam Format

IELTS offers two versions: Academic and General Training. The Academic version targets individuals aspiring to pursue higher education, while the General Training version targets those planning to work or relocate to an English-speaking country.

The test comprises four sections: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The listening and reading sections involve multiple-choice questions, the writing section entails essay or report writing, and the speaking section involves a face-to-face interview with an examiner.

On the other hand, the Duolingo English Test is an online assessment that can be taken anywhere with a stable internet connection. It includes multiple-choice questions and tasks to evaluate a candidate’s language proficiency. The test adjusts to the candidate’s skill level and typically takes 30 to 60 minutes.

Test Difficulty

IELTS is considered a more challenging assessment than the Duolingo English Test. IELTS evaluates a candidate’s capacity to grasp intricate texts and employ academic language. It necessitates a profound language comprehension and the skill to craft well-structured essays and reports.

In contrast, the Duolingo English Test concentrates on fundamental language skills like grammar and vocabulary without demanding an in-depth language understanding.

Comparison with Other Tests

IELTS and Duolingo English Test have strengths and weaknesses compared to other English language proficiency tests. The Pearson Test of English (PTE) is another famous test that assesses a candidate’s language skills.

PTE is a computer-based test that uses artificial intelligence to assess a candidate’s language skills. TOEFL is another famous test widely accepted by universities and colleges in the United States. TOEFL assesses a candidate’s ability to comprehend and use academic English.

Regarding score comparison, IELTS and TOEFL have similar scoring systems, while the Duolingo English Test has a different scoring system. However, all three tests use subscores to measure other language skills. When it comes to test difficulty, IELTS and TOEFL are considered to be more difficult than Duolingo English Test and PTE.

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