Many students and institutions have questions about the differences between Duolingo English Test (DET) and IELTS Academic for academic study. Research carried out by experts at Georgia State University shows that there are big differences between the two tests in terms of their suitability for recruiting students for higher education courses.
Here is a quick recap of the findings, which will help you discover how the two tests compare and what it means for you.
IELTS Academic focuses on authentic academic content and interactions, ensuring every test is fit for purpose and relevant for what a test taker needs once they get to university.
The test materials in DET are written in a more familiar way and do not focus on academic language, which means DET may have limitations for higher education institutions in terms of predicting academic success.
The Common European Framework for Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard for describing language ability. Different exams report results in relation to the CEFR but there are big differences in the way they do this.
IELTS scores are linked to the levels of the CEFR by research and validation studies carried out over many years, and this information is available on the IELTS website and in academic publications.
The researchers were unable to find any publicly available information about how DET maps its scores onto the CEFR and recommend that the CEFR levels provided by Duolingo are interpreted with caution.
The key conclusion for you to take away is that DET test tasks are less academically oriented and heavily weighted towards vocabulary and grammar. A test that focuses on these skills can be useful for making rough distinctions between learners, but universities are recommended to be aware of the limitations of DET in terms of predicting academic success and to compare DET test scores with caution.
IELTS Academic covers vocabulary and grammar, but it also includes in depth assessment of communication skills and the ability to understand and use language in academic contexts. The face-to-face speaking test and the extensive writing paper mean that IELTS test scores reflect the ability to use the language required in the real world.