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Testing: Duolingo English Test adds subscores

Duolingo English Test has introduced subscores in response to institutions wanting to “better understand” international applicants’ English ability.

Duolingo co-founders, Severin Hacker and Luis von Ahn. Photo: Duolingo

Since the outbreak, DET has seen its test volume increase 700% globally and 1000% in China

The addition of subscores provides deeper insight about applicants, measuring Literacy, Conversation, Comprehension and Production, the company revealed.

They can provide more nuanced information about test taker’s language abilities, without requiring them to take another test, DET explained, while test-takers will benefit from “more granular feedback” to help them understand where they need to improve.

“In an effort to reflect natural language use, the subscores on the Duolingo English Test represent integrated modalities”

“On a traditional English exam, subscores include reading, writing, speaking and listening. But in practice, language skills are often integrated which means people use multiple skills simultaneously to communicate,” said DET head of Strategic Engagement, Jennifer Dewar.

While understanding lecture requires listening and reading comprehension skills, participating in study groups will require additional skills, she explained.

“In an effort to reflect natural language use, the subscores on the Duolingo English Test represent integrated modalities.”

DET hopes institutions will use the subscores to make “more informed decisions” about applicants. For example, they can set minimum admissions scores depending on which skills the students will require during their learning, Dewar suggested.

The subscores will also help test takers identify their strengths and weaknesses to allow them to focus their language studies, according to the company.

Subscores follows a range of solutions other providers have introduced to help get a better picture of their students’ abilities.

In 2019, ETS launched its MyBest Scores, while beyond language testing, Cambridge Assessment introduced “Thinking Skills” software to help recruiters at universities select people with the “very highest potential” earlier in 2020.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a range of providers have launched at-home solutions, however, DET wants to ensure students continue to have “easier, more convenient and more affordable” ways to certify their English ability.

“Even if test centres are eventually able to safely reopen, the larger issue around access to testing is that many students do not have access to a testing centre where they live, or even if they do, they can’t afford the travel, time and testing fees associated with them,” Dewar suggested.

“As more and more schools have decided to accept the Duolingo English Test, students will enjoy having the option to take our test on-demand, from home.”

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, DET has seen its test volume increase 700% globally and 1000% in China.

While the company’s main focus has been growth in the US, it is now expanding internationally due to increase demand in the UK and Canada, where more than 70 and 100 universities accept the test, respectively.

Still, around 80% of the 2,000+ institutions that accept our test are based in the US, Dewar highlighted.

“As a digital-first test, the Duolingo English Test is inherently nimble and we’re able to evolve the test based on academic research, data we collect, and feedback from test takers and receiving institutions,” she said.

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