english proficiency
Many universities around the world are allowing international students to certify their English proficiency with Duolingo English Test (DET). Source: Vlada Karpovich/Pexels

Duolingo English Test (DET) is quickly growing into an accepted substitute for English proficiency assessment at many universities around the world. 

Its rise follows the disruption to many testing centres of English proficiency assessment — IELTS and TOEFL being the most prominent — due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Currently, over 2,000 institutions around the world accept it.

Duolingo English Test: What is it?

Duolingo is a popular language-learning app with over 300 million users worldwide. According to The PIE News, the company launched DET in 2014.

Students can take the DET online at home, so long as they have a reliable internet connection, a computer, a front-facing camera, a microphone, speaker and a supported browser

Their website notes that candidates do not need to make an appointment or travel to a test centre to take the test

“The test is administered using computer adaptive technology, meaning that the question difficulty adapts to each test taker. The test also integrates a video interview and writing sample, which are sent to an institution when you send your results along with your proficiency score,” said DET.

The test contains a series of speaking, reading, writing and listening exercises.

The entire test experience takes under an hour to complete, while test results are certified within 48 hours and can be shared with an unlimited number of institutions.

At US$49, this English proficiency test is considerably cheaper than TOEFL or IELTS, which costs above US$100.

Currently accepted by many top universities

International students looking to prove their English proficiency can find some comfort in knowing that many of the world’s top universities currently accept DET. This includes Deakin College, Berkeley City College, University of Southern California, McGill University, New York University, to name a few.

Despite this, many universities have mixed policies regarding DET.

Australian National University notes on its website that the university is accepting the DET for entry to their coursework degrees in Semester 2 intake this year.

Arizona State University, however, said on its website that it is only temporarily approving the use of DET for students affected by English testing centre closures.

Duolingo notes that its test scores have a “strongly positive statistical relationship” with scores on the TOEFL internet-based test (ibT) and IELTS.

Inside Higher Ed reported that DET is an attractive option for many students.

In its first year of accepting DET scores on the same basis it accepts TOEFL or IELTS scores, Northeastern University saw significant growth in DET submissions. 

Senior associate director for international recruitment at Northeastern’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions Beau C. Benson said that among freshman international applicants for this fall, Northeastern received 8,279 TOEFL results, 1,109 IELTS results and 684 Duolingo results. 

The number of transfer students submitting DET scores was 272, close to those who submitted TOEFL (314).

Benson, who has an unpaid position sitting on the DET advisory board, told Inside Higher Ed that Northeastern had accepted DET as supplemental to other English proficiency tests before this admission cycle. 

They began to accept the test outright when students who had previously submitted scores of 75 or above on an earlier version of the test (it was graded on a 100-point scale prior to the 2019 revision) earned on average a 3.36 grade point average in Northeastern’s first-year writing course.

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