How to Improve Your English for the Duolingo English Test

Shana Goodwin, October 24, 2022

An increasing number of international ESL learners are taking the Duolingo English Test (DET) in preparation for studying in universities in North America, Europe, or Australia. As we help our students prepare for the DET, we have realized that although learning how to take the test itself is important, it is much more crucial to improve students’ overall English level, as the test is an English proficiency exam.

Below we have outlined the most important language skills to master before you take the Duolingo English Test, as well as where to find resources so you can improve those skills.

Expand Your Vocabulary

The test has reading and listening sections that test your vocabulary. For example, you will see or listen to a group of real (squabble, distress, flighty) and fake (bludder, folgy, instrinct) words and have to decide whether or not they are real English words. Doing well on this part of the DET depends entirely on the size of your vocabulary. Either you are familiar with the words, or you are not. One great (free!) resource for English vocabulary expansion are the Wordly Wise books 5–10, which are available here online with loads of practice questions and additional activities and games. These Wordly Wise books will teach you higher level vocabulary words that are quite likely to appear on academic English tests such as the DET, SAT, or TOEFL.

Practice Cloze Activities

The DET contains a type of question that has you fill in the blanks (missing words or parts of words) in a paragraph. Cloze activities are very similar to these questions, so practicing them will help you excel in this part of the exam. Find several Cloze activities to practice for the DET here.

Brush Up Your Grammar

Here’s where Primavera English can really help you! As native speakers, we can help you master the complex rules of English grammar. In class, we help students review any English grammar they already know, and then move on to teach them any additional grammar they need to know. Our in-class grammar units will help you improve your understanding of the tenses, English sentence structure, and much more.

Improve Your Writing Skills

Our students are treated to an intensive writing course to help bring their writing up to speed before the DET. Starting from the basics, we will study writing from the word and sentence level on up to the various types of paragraphs required on the DET: descriptive, argumentative, narrative, etc. Spelling and punctuation will be looked at as well.

Practice Listening

On the DET, it is important to be well practiced with listening to native English speakers so you can recognize words (as described in the “Expand Your Vocabulary” section above. Listening to podcasts and watching movies are both excellent ways to expose your ears to the sounds of English. The British Council also has excellent free English listening resources.

Strategize for the DET

When studying for the DET, it is a great idea to familiarize yourself with the various question types and with strategies for how to answer each (although you should consider this the least important part of your test preparation). Here at Primavera English, we are well equipped to provide you with information about and tactics to help you with each type of question on the DET. Another good resource for this is the Duolingo English Test Official Guide for Test Takers, available for free on their website.