TOEFL, IELTS, or DuoLingo

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For international students whose first language is not English, demonstrating English language proficiency is a crucial step in the application process for colleges and universities in the United States. (It should be noted that most US universities do not require English language proficiency tests if the student has attended an English-language school for a certain number of years.)

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are two of the most widely accepted English language proficiency tests, although the DuoLingo English Test is rapidly becoming increasingly popular. All three tests examine students’ Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking in a manner designed to reflect how students learn and participate in the classroom. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between the three tests, and provide some guidance to help you decide which test might be the best fit for you.

Understanding TOEFL:

TOEFL is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is popular in the United States and Canada. The test primarily focuses on American English.

Test Format:
TOEFL is usually taken as an internet-based test, known as TOEFL iBT. It comprises four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The total test time is about 3 hours. While usually sat at a test centre, ETS now offers a Home Edition of TOEFL that is accepted by many universities. Students can access the test at home 24hrs after they register.

Each section is scored out of 30, making the highest possible score 120. Competitive applicants will achieve scores strongly above 100.

Cost of the Test:
Registration for a TOEFL test generally costs $100-$120.

Preparation Resources:
ETS offers a variety of official preparation materials, including sample questions, practice tests, and interactive online courses.

Understanding IELTS:

IELTS is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment. It is widely recognized in the UK, Australia, Canada, and European countries and focuses on British English. IELTS offers both General and Academic tests. Students should register purely for the Academic test for university entrance.

Test Format:
IELTS can be taken as a paper-based or computer-based test either at a test centre or at home. Like TOEFL, it has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The total test time is about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

IELTS is scored on a band system from 0 to 9. Applicants should aim to score 7.5 or higher to be competitive for top US universities.
Cost of the Test:
Registration for a IELTS test costs £175-£195.

Preparation Resources:
The British Council offers a range of free and paid resources, including practice tests, sample questions, and online courses.

Understanding DuoLingo English Test

Administered by the DuoLingo language company, the DuoLingo English Test offers the shortest, cheapest and most convenient testing option. However, students should check on each of the websites of the universities to which they wish to apply that the test is accepted as it is the newest English language proficiency test to come on the market. Accommodations, such as extra time or external aids, are considered on a test-by-test basis.

Test Format:
Students sit the DuoLingo English Test at home on their computer. It begins with a series of Adaptive Reading and Listening questions for 45 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of Writing & Speaking.

The Duolingo English Test is scored between 10 and 160. Competitive applicants should aim for scores above 145.

Cost of the Test:
Registration for the DuoLingo English Test costs $49.

Preparation Resources:
DuoLingo offer a free practice test with the ability to take multiple times.

Choosing Between TOEFL, IELTS and DuoLingo English Test:

Here are some factors to consider when deciding between the two tests:

Recognition: Check if your prospective universities prefer one over the others. Most U.S. universities accept IELTS and TOEFL with an increasing number (including Yale and Stanford) accepting DuoLingo English Test, but it’s always good to confirm.

Test Format: If you prefer typing over writing by hand, TOEFL’s and DuoLingo English Test’s internet-based format may suit you better. On the other hand, if you are more comfortable with paper and pen, you might prefer IELTS.

Speaking Section: The speaking section of the TOEFL and DuoLingo English Test involves speaking into a microphone, while the IELTS speaking section is a face-to-face interview with an examiner. Consider which format you are more comfortable with.

Availability and Locations: Check the availability of the tests in your area. Some regions might have more test centers for one over the other. The DuoLingo English Test is taken in the student’s home.

DuoLingo English Test, IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted and reputable English proficiency tests. The choice between them should be based on your personal preferences, comfort level, and the requirements of the institutions you are applying to. It’s advisable to take practice tests for both to see which one aligns better with your skills and preferences. Whichever you choose, remember that preparation is key to success.

About Us

Here at A-List Education, we take immense pride in our established history of guiding students through the intricate maze of this process to fulfil their dreams of gaining admission into Ivy League institutions.

We are overjoyed to share that our accomplishments reached new heights in 2023. This year, A-List Education scholars have secured 288 admission offers from 100 institutions around the world, with a staggering 81 of those in the United States. Our victories include an outstanding 41 acceptances into Ivy League colleges, encompassing all eight illustrious institutions, in addition to coveted spots at MIT and Stanford. This phenomenal achievement reflects not only the tireless dedication of our students but also the exceptional proficiency of our devoted team.

If your sights are set on an Ivy League institution, we have experienced tutors used to empowering students to reach their goals in the DuoLingo English Test, IELTS and TOEFL. Reach out to us today to explore our suite of services and discover how we can be an integral part of your ascent to scholastic excellence. Fill out the enquiry form below, or email