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Just how secure is the Duolingo English Test?

Duolingo launched its online Duolingo English Test five years ago to be an alternative to the traditional test centre model.

The education company’s stat­ ed aim is to ‘develop both the best education in the world and make it universally available, using technology to reduce barriers and increase access to education’. Further, the company believes that test centres exist because, in the old model, security was more important than convenience.

Using a combination of techno­ logy and education experts, Duo­ lingo believes it can leverage language assessment, psychometrics, statistics and applied linguistics to create and monitor a secure test.

“Humans are in charge of the design and the evaluation,” says Dr Alina von Davier, chief of assessment at Duolingo. “We use machines and humans in places they both perform best – that’s essential to what we do.”

“The testing community has always seen humans as the gold standard”

The Duolingo English Test is what’s known as a digital first test. This starts with the content of the test itself, which must meet stringent online delivery security proto­ cols. To this end, to minimise the exposure of what might be in the test, each exam uses questions from a database of hundreds of thou­ sands of items, so that no two test takers receive the same exam.

Once a test is uploaded, a team of proctors use a combination of statistics, computer vision, bio­ metrics and natural language pro­ cessing algorithms to evaluate test­ taker behaviour and certify scores.

“The testing community has always seen humans as the gold standard, but once you start looking carefully at how humans per­ form, you’ll see there’s a variance there, too,” says Dr von Davier. “By leveraging AI alongside hu­ man expertise, we are able to cre­ ate, administer and review a valid, high-quality assessment.”

The edtech company is confident it’s providing a secure, reliable English language test that is available on demand any time, anywhere in the world – all you need is an hour, a quiet room and an internet connection.

The test costs US$49 and certified results are available within 48 hours. The scores are accept­ ed by over 3,000 institutions worldwide, but will immigration authorities still need convincing it’s secure?

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