duolingo vs Ielts

The Duolingo English Test or the IELTS Exam? Which English Exam should you take?

Duolingo IELTS




(online 149)

Duration of exam

1 hour

2 hours 45 minutes

Validity(Universities that accept the exam)



Online or In-person


In person (New online test)


No, take anytime

Yes (Once a week online)

Preparation Materials

Not many


2 tests per month

Every week online

Valid for 

2 years

2 years

Result available

2 days

13 days

With English now the de facto international language across the globe, more and more non-native English speakers are finding themselves with a need or desire to take an English knowledge exam. This can be due to job requirements, for a visa application, to ensure acceptance to a university, or for a variety of other reasons.

While the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, Exam has long been used as a standard English proficiency test throughout the world, the recent Covid-19 pandemic has made on-site testing either extremely difficult or impossible in many place.

In response to this situation, the renowned language learning app Duolingo has put out its own test, which can be taken right from the comfort of your own home. Considering the disruption caused by the pandemic, many universities are now accepting the Duolingo test in lieu of the IELTS Exam.

However, before you decide which one is right for you, it is worth your while to compare how these tests differ. With this in mind, the following article is designed to provide an overview of the key differences between the Duolingo English Test and the IELTS Exam.

We’ll have a look at the relative difficulty of each test, differences in their content and style, the difference in cost in taking each exam, and also where each exam is accepted. Let’s jump right in!

Is Duolingo easier than IELTS?

The IELTS Exam

The IELTS Exam a traditional on-site standardized test designed to assess the English proficiency levels of non-native speakers. Though traditionally a pencil and paper affair, the exam is now also available in a computer-delivered version at select testing sites. The IELTS Indicator was also recently launched as an at-home version of the traditional IELTS.

It is typically used in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, to screen visa applicants, as well as by thousands of academic institutions worldwide to test applying students for whom English is not a native language.

The IELTS Exam comes in two formats: an Academic Version for those wishing to pursue higher education in English or as a professional credential, and the General Training Version, designated for those wishing to work, train, or attend secondary school in English-speaking countries.

The IELTS Exam assesses test takers’ ability to read, write, speak, and listen to a variety of dialects and accents of the English language. Therefore, it includes both productive and receptive components, meaning test takers must be able to comprehend and produce English.

Among the difficulties that test-takers note as particularly challenging is the fact that they will need to be able to understand not just the accents or dialects relevant to the country they wish to reside in, but essentially the full range of English accents and dialects.

An additional challenge is the Speaking segment of the exam, which assesses test takers’ ability to speak about themselves, to discuss and analyze assigned topics, and to engage in a discussion with the examiner. This can obviously be quite stressful for non-native speakers who have not have much practice actually speaking English for any length of time.

The Duolingo English Test

In comparison, the Duolingo English Test, sometimes referred to as the DET, is a computer-based exam that is unique for its adaptive nature. This means the exam adjusts itself in real-time based on a test taker’s answers to previous questions.

This means that the more questions you answer correctly, the more difficult the subsequent questions will be. When you answer a question incorrectly, on the other hand, the test will scale back the level of difficulty for the following question. The test is marketed as being more precise a measure of a test taker’s English abilities due to this adaptive feature.

In contrast to the IELTS Exam, where passages and questions can be rather lengthy and include a lot of academic and professional content and contexts, the DET features short questions that generally pertain to general knowledge of English and everyday life situations.

The total exam time for the DET is only 45 minutes, a full two hours less than the IELTS. This also translates into a shorter time spent on each question. Even the writing sample is only a five-minute ordeal, versus an hour in the IELTS.

Even though the IELTS, then, is a more comprehensive exam, it is worth noting that many test takers feel it is easier to prepare for the IELTS, as it is more structured, aside from the fact that, as it is a long-established exam, much more study material is available for it.

The DET, conversely, is harder to prepare specifically in that it is adaptive, more general in scope, and has also been around for much less time, meaning fewer study resources are available for would-be test takers.

Duolingo vs IELTS score comparison

Duolingo IELTS



















What is the price difference between the IELTS Exam and the Duolingo English Test?

The most affordable English proficiency test currently available, the Duolingo English Test costs $49 USD, which covers the price of taking the exam from home any time that is convenient for you. You can also have your scores sent to hundreds of colleges and universities across the globe for no extra cost.

In the US, the IELTS exam costs more than double the DET, $215 to $250 USD depending on where you sit for it. In the UK, it runs between £170 to £195, again depending on where you take it. The test can be cheaper – in India, for example, it costs around $180 USD or £140 – or more expensive – in Switzerland, it can run as high as $375 or £290.The online IELTS indicator test costs $149

You may also incur additional fees for having your score results sent out to colleges, universities, employers, etc.

What does the Duolingo English Test consist of?

The DET is broken into three parts: a Quick Setup (10 minutes) that includes an introduction to the test, including its rules and requirements; an Adaptive Questions section – the main portion of the exam – which tests listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills through self-adjusting questions (25 minutes); and finally, a Video Interview and Writing Sample (10 minutes), where test takers respond to open-ended prompts both speaking and in writing.

Look at the sample question from the Duolingo English test below.

Duolingo English test

What does the IELTS Exam consist of?

The test consists of four sections, corresponding to listening (30 minutes), reading (1 hour), writing (1 hour), and speaking (approximately 15 minutes), for a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Listening and Speaking sections are identical for the Academic and General Training versions, with only the Reading and Writing sections varying from one version to the other.


Is the Duolingo English Test accepted for a UK visa?

Some academic institutions in the UK are now accepting DET scores as part of their admissions requirements. While UK Visas and Immigration have yet to release clear information on their stance, it appears that as long as the university a test taker is applying to will accept the DET for admissions, the British government will likewise accept the results for visa applications.

Is the Duolingo English Test accepted for a Canadian visa?

The situation in Canada is distinct. Visas that are part of the regular stream do not involve requirements for a specific language test.Duolingo test accepted in university The Student Direct Stream for visas, on the other hand, does require submission of an approved language exam, and the Duolingo English test is not currently listed as an acceptable option. The online IELTS indicator test is also not accepted for a Canadian or Australian visa.

Make sure to check which option is best for you before you commit to either the IELTS Exam or the Duolingo English Test

In conclusion, both the IELTS Exam and the DET can be excellent options for an English proficiency test. The most important thing is first to make sure which test your application (college, visa, etc.) accepts.

You also want to think about which test you think you’re better positioned to pass with good results, keeping in mind the structure, length, and style of each test. Also, don’t forget to consider how easy or hard you think it will be for you to prepare. And lastly, don’t forget to factor in the cost of each option.