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Duolingo English Test Issues

  • 1.  Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 16-11-2020 09:13 AM
    I know this has been asked about before with limited response, but acceptance of the Duolingo English Test (DET) has become a whole lot more widespread in the past 6 months or so.

    Are folks in IEPs or university admissions getting some really irregular results from the DET? We are seeing students who struggled in the intermediate levels of our IEP suddenly popping up with a DET score that allows them to matriculate directly.

    Are others seeing this? Any insights you are able to share about your experience with this test, policies around it, would really be appreciated!

    Rob Sheppard
    Assistant Director for Curriculum and Instruction
    Temple Center for American Language and Culture (TCALC)

  • 2.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 17-11-2020 09:18 AM
    Thank you for this insight and I will be happy to learn about other instances if there are any.

    Jennifer Brondell
    English Language Programs
    Clemson University

  • 3.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 18-11-2020 07:04 AM
    This was a problem in our IEP program a couple of years ago. After some discussion with those who set the standard for admissible scores, the minimum threshold was raised at our institution. I do not know the details of which scores are now considered acceptable, but it seems to have helped somewhat. I have been told that one limitation of Duolingo is that it is more focused on speaking and isn't great at assessing writing ability, but I am not an expert on this test.

    Lisa Yabuki
    Dallas Baptist University

  • 4.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 18-11-2020 07:05 PM
    Yes, we've had student in level 2 of our IEP (Advanced beginner) suddenly get score to matriculate directly.  I've raised the issue to admissions, and I'm trying to get them to substantially raise the score required. It would be helpful if I know that others are having the same experience. 

    Dr. Amy S. Thompson

    Professor of Applied Linguistics and Chair

    Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics

    West Virginia University  

    Chitwood Hall, 205



  • 5.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 20-11-2020 11:20 AM
    Hi, all,

    Thanks for raising this issue. We are just starting this discussion at my university. What is the Duolingo score that your institutions are requiring for undergraduate/graduate admissions? We are using the following (image below) and talking about requiring 100 for undergraduates and 110 for graduates. Very interested to hear the scores from others.


    Heather Linville
    Associate Professor
    Univ of Wisconsin La Crosse

  • 6.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 20-11-2020 12:04 PM
    Clemson is using 105 for Undergrads and 110 for Graduate students.

    Jennifer Brondell
    English Language Programs
    Clemson University

  • 7.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 23-11-2020 02:57 PM
    Our institution, the University of Saskatchewan, accepts 110 for undergraduate admissions. This is only a trial basis. We will accept scores of 100 and 105 into the upper levels of our EAP program.

    Sanae Ko, Assistant Director
    University of Saskatchewan Language Centre
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

  • 8.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 24-11-2020 10:10 AM
    There have been numerous concerns raised about the accuracy of the DET scores at the University of Manitoba over the past 8 months.  The university will no longer accept the DET for admissions to degree programs after the Winter 2021 semester.

    The UofM accepted DET 115 for admission to degree programs, with several departments requiring 120 or higher.  However, as others have cited, there have been too many students who have entered into their degree programs who clearly don't possess the academic English skills necessary to succeed.  In the 5 level IAEP program in which I work, we have seen numerous instances of students jumping from our Level 3 to University acceptance after retaking the DET.  The most egregious instance was a student jumping from a DET of about 80 to 130 in the course of 1 month.

    For you reference, here is the link to the UofM's English Language Proficiency Requirements page:

    Matt Hildebrand
    Curriculum Support Instructor
    University of Manitoba, English Language Centre

  • 9.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 21-11-2020 12:07 PM
      |   view attached
    Hi all,

    I posted this a while back when our Department of Linguistics was asked by the Graduate School at CU Boulder to set our score. I received a few private responses and after hearing from folks and doing some research, it was clear that the scores should be higher than what Duolingo reports to align with TOEFL iBT and IELTS. The University of Colorado Boulder set the admission scores at 100 for both undergraduates and for graduates (on the 160 point scale), **but** our department has the following policy for incoming graduate students - requiring 120 on Duolingo:

    Applicants whose language of post-secondary education was not English must in addition show evidence of English proficiency by earning a score of 90 or higher on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). If the IELTS is used in place of the TOEFL, the minimum required score is 7. At this time, the Department is also accepting the Duolingo English Test (DET) as evidence of English proficiency. The required score on the DET is 120.

    According to one of Duolingo's concordance tables, it would appear that we're asking for a very high score. But the issue with Duolingo is that the task types are limited in scope and it is doesn't currently target academic English -- you might simplify to a BICS/CALP comparison, where Duolingo is a test of BICS. When I posted here last Spring, a colleague at Fordham University sent along the attached 2015 article about the Duolingo English Test. It was helpful when deciding to set our bar a little higher.

    Prior to this year, CU Boulder had limited English language support for matriculated students and most students were not willing to pay extra to take courses through our IEP. It seems to me to be a matter of justice for incoming students: if they are admitted with low scores and there are no credit-bearing academic English language courses they can count toward graduation, are we not setting them up for potential failure or at least a difficult time? I know I'm preaching to the choir here. Fortunately, we just had some credit-bearing academic English language courses approved, so we'll be able to offer support where needed.


    Raichle Farrelly, PhD
    Past-Chair, RCIS
    Director, TESOL Programs
    University of Colorado Boulder
    Boulder, CO, USA

  • 10.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 24-11-2020 10:46 AM
    Thanks so much for all these helpful responses!

    Temple's requirement for undergrad admission is 110. I think graduate admission reqs vary a bit from school to school.

    It seems, though, since we're seeing such wildly varying scores in such a short time, that it's less a matter of setting the right cut point than identifying the source of that variation. If a student who, by several other accounts (previous TOEFL and IELTS scores, performance in the program) suddenly gets a 125 on DET, we have to wonder whether that score is valid at all, right?

    Is anyone tracking performance of DET-admitted students over time?
    When we see such a jump, do we think it's the result of cheating? Or just that the test is far less reliable than Duolingo's research claims?

    By the way, following up on the great article that @Raichle Farrelly​ shared, Dr. Wagner has updated his review to reflect the 2019 updates to the DET:

    Rob Sheppard
    TESOL AEIS Past Co-Chair
    Ginseng English

  • 11.  RE: Duolingo English Test Issues

    Posted 25-11-2020 03:46 PM
    Hello, all,

    Thank you for sharing your concerns about the Duolingo Test of English.  They echo my hesitations to allow it as an acceptable test at Michigan Technological University's Graduate School.

    I understand that one reason the DTE has become so popular (other than it being an "easy" test) is that it can be completed at home when testing centers are closed.  IELTS and TOEFL have caught up with the issue of testing centers being closed.  TOEFL now offers the TOEFL iBT Home Edition and the TOEFL ITP Plus for China Solution; IELTS offers the IELTS Indicator.  I'm not very familiar with these assessments, but I believe that their results may be more reliable than the Duolingo test.  Have any of you used these tests before?

    I look forward to hearing your feedback.


    Sarah A. Isaacson
    Graduate Language Assessment and Support (GLAS) Program Director
    Write-D Coordinator
    NSF GRFP Support Coordinator 
    Michigan Technological University
    1400 Townsend Dr. Houghton, MI 49931
    (906) 487-1492
    Pronouns: she/her/hers/they/them/theirs

    Sarah Isaacson
    English Language Support Program Coordinator
    Michigan Technological University
    United States