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Comparing Language Proficiency Tests: IELTS vs. TOEFL vs. Duolingo English Test


Starting on the journey toward an international education frequently requires demonstrating one's English language competency, which is a critical requirement for enrollment at prestigious universities. There are several exams that assess language proficiency such as the IELTS, the TOEFL, and the Duolingo English Test, and the differences between them can have a significant impact on the admissions process. Understanding these differences becomes crucial for individuals managing the complexities of global education, especially when specific institutions prioritize a particular examination over another. By dispelling the myths surrounding IELTS, TOEFL, and the Duolingo English Test, this blog aims to help prospective students make decisions that are specific to their academic goals.

Comparing Language Proficiency Tests: IELTS vs. TOEFL vs. Duolingo English Test
Source: Yocket

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for the "International English Language Testing System." It is one of the most widely recognized and accepted English language proficiency tests for non-native English speakers. The purpose of IELTS is to assess an individual's ability to communicate effectively in English, particularly in academic and professional contexts.

Purpose: IELTS is widely used for academic and immigration purposes.

Developers: IELTS is jointly managed by three organizations: the British Council, IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English.

Test Modules:

  • Academic Module: Intended for individuals applying for higher education or professional registration in an English-speaking environment.

  • General Training Module: Designed for those planning to undertake non-academic training or work experience, or for immigration purposes.

Acceptance: IELTS scores are widely accepted by universities, employers, and immigration authorities in English-speaking countries and globally.

What is TOEFL?

TOEFL stands for the "Test of English as a Foreign Language." It is an English language proficiency test that evaluates the ability of non-native English speakers to use and understand English in academic settings. The TOEFL test is commonly required by universities in English-speaking countries for international student admissions.

Purpose: TOEFL is specifically designed for individuals planning to pursue higher education in an English-speaking academic environment.

Developer: TOEFL is developed and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Test Formats:

  • The most common format is the Internet-based Test (iBT), which is widely accepted.

  • There is also a paper-based version, but it is less commonly used.


TOEFL scores are widely accepted by universities, colleges, and institutions in the United States and other English-speaking countries for admissions and English language proficiency requirements.

What is the Duolingo English Test?

The Duolingo English Test is an English language proficiency test developed by Duolingo, the language learning platform. It is designed to assess a person's ability to use and understand English in various contexts, including academic and professional settings. The test is taken online and is known for its adaptability and convenience.

Developer: Duolingo, a popular language learning platform.

Test Format:

  • The Duolingo English Test is a single test format that evaluates integrated language skills, including Reading, Listening, and Speaking.

  • It is a fully digital test administered online.

Acceptance: The Duolingo English Test is accepted by a growing number of universities, colleges, and institutions for admissions and English language proficiency requirements.

It is also accepted by some employers for language proficiency assessment.

The key differences between the three tests are as follows:




Duolingo English Test


British Council, IDP, Cambridge Assessment

Educational Testing Service (ETS)


Test Sections

​Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking

​Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing

​Integrated Skills Assessment

Test Format

​Paper and Computer-Based

​Internet-based (iBT) or paper-based (available in limited centers)

​Single test format (only Internet-based)

Scoring Range

​Bands (0-9)

​Score (0-120)

​Score (10-160)

Test Duration

​2 hours 45 minutes (approx)

​Around 4 hours (iBT)

Around 2 hours (PBT)

​Approximately 45 minutes

Adaptive Format



​Yes (adaptive based on performance)


Global acceptance for academic and immigration purposes.

​Primarily accepted by US academic institutions.

​Accepted by a growing number of institutions and organizations.

Exam Fees

​Rs. 15,500 (Subject to change)

​Rs. 16,900(approx.)

​Rs. 4000(approx.)

Which test to choose?

Check Institution Requirements:

Identify the specific language proficiency requirements of the universities or programs you are interested in. Some institutions may have a preference for one test over the others.

Purpose of the Test:

Consider the purpose for which you are taking the test. If you are applying for academic programs, both IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted. The Duolingo English Test is also gaining recognition but may not be accepted by all institutions.

Recognition by Institutions:

Investigate the recognition of each test by the institutions you are interested in. While IELTS and TOEFL have established reputations, the Duolingo English Test is gaining acceptance but may not be universally recognized.


In essence, while IELTS and TOEFL have been established for a longer period and are widely recognized, the Duolingo English Test provides a more modern, digital, and flexible alternative, often at a more cost-effective price point. The choice between these tests depends on individual preferences, the requirements of the institution or organization, and other specific needs of the test-taker.

We know and understand that the application process can be overwhelming, so we are here for you. The study abroad experts at Hello Study Global are there for you every step of the way. From preparing for entrance exams to college applications, we will guide you to success.

Feel free to reach out to us at Hello Study Global.

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