Duolingo English Test vs CEFR: What Are The Differences?

This article will compare the Duolingo English Test scoring and its interpretations of scores versus the CEFR scale. We all know that CEFR is also one of the language benchmark scales widely used by most language proficiency exams in the market. 

In addition, the Common European Framework of References for Languages is the standardized reference for language proficiency levels

We will also examine the differences between the Duolingo English Test and the CEFR levels. Do they have any similarities in terms of interpreting the language proficiency levels? Is the Duolingo scoring and interpretation as reliable and accurate as of the CEFR? 

Read on to learn more about the differences between the Duolingo English Test and the CEFR language framework. 

What is the Duolingo English Test?

The Duolingo English Test is an English language proficiency exam that assesses the primary English language skills, including writing, listening, reading, and speaking. 

In addition, Duolingo uses a computer-adaptive test (CAT) approach in its test format. It means that the difficulty level of the language exam solely depends on the individual’s performance. 

Consequently, the exam difficulty increases if you perform well in the early parts of the test, and it increases as you progress. 

One of the key features of the Duolingo English Test is that it is a highly accessible, comprehensive, and inexpensive type of exam. In addition, one can take the Duolingo online examination in the comfort of your home, and it will only last for 45 to 60 minutes maximum. 

This proficiency exam is a modern online language proficiency exam developed by Duolingo. And also, it is a comprehensive type of exam and on-demand for both native and non-native English speakers.

What is CEFR?

CEFR language proficiency framework is the commonly used and highly acknowledged language proficiency reference by most language exams. It was developed by the British Council to provide and deliver a standardized language reference framework used by universities, colleges, and other organizations. 

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is accepted and recognized globally for its accuracy and reliability in assessing an individual’s English language skills such as speaking, writing, reading, and listening. 

The CEFR is also preferred by most language proficiency exams, such as the Duolingo English Test, because of its characteristics in delivering clear, concise, and understandable descriptors for each proficiency level. 

Moreover, this language proficiency framework is preferred by language exams because it provides clear, concise, and understandable descriptions of each of the six CEFR language proficiency levels. It is also widely accepted and recognized by multiple universities and colleges worldwide. 

What are the CEFR Levels of Proficiency?

The CEFR scale has organized six language proficiency levels to describe the different language abilities of a non-native English speaker. 

It includes the proficiency levels of C2 as the highest proficiency level to A1 proficiency level, which is the elementary or basic level. In connection, these proficiency levels have different descriptors, which presents different language abilities of an individual. Below are the six CEFR levels: 

CEFR 6 Proficiency Levels:

  • English Basic User (A1, A2)
    • A1 (Beginner)
    • A2 (Elementary English)
  • English Independent User (B1, B2)
    • B1 (Intermediate English)
    • B2 (Upper-Intermediate English)
  • Proficient English User (C1, C2)
    • C1 (Advanced English)
    • C2 (Proficiency English)

The CEFR language proficiency scale presents a series of can-do statements that describes an individual’s English language abilities for easy interpretation of proficiency levels.  

Moreover, these CEFR proficiency levels are categorized into three sub-levels: basic user, independent user, and proficient user. And these CEFR sub-levels contain the different proficiency levels, including the C2, C1, B1, B2, A2, and A1

Consequently, these CEFR proficiency levels are highly recognized and trusted by various educational institutions and multinational organizations for their accuracy in determining the English proficiency levels of a non-native English speaker. 

Here are the English language level descriptions of the CEFR Levels.

Language Proficiency
Level Description
English Basic User 
  • A1
  • A2
  • Beginner Proficiency  Level
  • Elementary English Proficiency Level 
English Independent User
  • B1
  • B2

  • Intermediate English Proficiency Level
  • Upper-Intermediate English Proficiency Level
Proficient English User
  • C1
  • C2

  • Advanced English Proficiency Level
  • Proficient English User Level

Duolingo Score Interpretation

The Duolingo English Test measures the four primary English language skills: writing, reading, listening, and speaking of an individual.

However, unlike the other language proficiency exams, Duolingo does not contain long passages for the test-takers to read in its written test sections. Instead, it uses a shorter and dynamic test format that still measures the same language abilities. 

The Duolingo scoring of its test sections uses a scoring scale of 160 to 10 points. In addition, the scores have an increment of .5 points which means that one can get a score of 15, 35, 55, and so on. 

Moreover, the Duolingo English Test uses the CEFR, the international standard for language proficiency levels, as the benchmark for its score interpretation. Note that the Duolingo interpretation of each score level shares the same description with the CEFR scale. 

Here is a table showing the Duolingo scores and the corresponding language ability descriptions for each. 

Duolingo English Test ScoresLanguage Proficiency
10 to 55
  • The individual at this level has the ability to understand only basic English language terms and phrases. 
  • And also, the individual can understand specific everyday topics and conversations. One also can express themselves using very familiar and simple terms. 
60 to 85
  • The individual can understand the main subject of a concrete speech or written information about topics mostly encountered in a workplace environment, school, and community. 
  • Also, the individual has the ability to describe personal experiences, share opinions and plans. However, there is still a little confusion and awkwardness in conveying the message. 
90 to 115
  • The individual can establish good English communication and even tackle unfamiliar topics. 
  • Also, the individual can also understand and identify the main ideas of any concrete and abstract written topics.
  • And also, one can interact and communicate without any difficulty with proficient English speakers. 
120 to 160 
  • The individual has the ability to understand quite challenging contexts, either written or spoken format.
  • The individual can understand and identify important details in various specialized subjects. 
  • Also, the individual can quickly grasp and comprehend pragmatic, implicit, figurative, and idiomatic expressions. The ability to use the English language effectively shows flexibility and conciseness, whether informal or formal.
  • And also, one can communicate in different settings, such as on social, academic, and professional levels. 

Duolingo Score to CEFR Level Equivalent 

Duolingo uses a score range between 160 to 20 points. Note that the Duolingo scores are aligned and can be interpreted using the CEFR language proficiency scale. 

The highest possible score for the Duolingo English Test is between 160 to 145 points, and it falls under the CEFR C2 proficiency level.

In addition, the Duolingo score of 120 to 140 is equivalent to the CEFR C1 level, which is interpreted as an advanced proficient level in using the English language. 

And the scores between 20 to 10 points belong to the CEFR A1 proficiency level, which indicates a beginner level of using the language. Meanwhile, the scores between 25 to 55 points fall under the CEFR A2 proficiency level, which signifies an elementary level of proficiency. 

In addition, the Duolingo score between 85 to 60 points is equivalent to  CEFR B1 level, wherein it describes the individual’s language ability as an intermediate level or user of the language. 

And as for the scores of 115 to 90 points, it shows an upper-intermediate level or is equivalent to CEFR B2 proficiency level. 

Here is a table showing the Duolingo Score with its respective CEFR level of proficiency equivalents. 

Duolingo English Test
Language Proficiency
10 – 20A1Beginner Level/User of the Language 
25 – 55A2Elementary Level/User of the Language
60 – 85B1Intermediate Level/User of the Language
90 – 115B2Upper-Intermediate Level/User of the Language
120 – 140 C1Advanced Proficient Level/User of the Language
145 – 160C2Proficient Level/User of the Langauge

Comparison Relevance of CEFR Level with Duolingo Score 

We have previously presented the Duolingo English Test scoring descriptions with their corresponding CEFR proficiency levels. And it is evident that the Duolingo proficiency levels use the CEFR language proficiency scale as a basis for their scoring interpretations. 

Here is a comprehensive table showing the comparison of the CEFR Level vs. the Duolingo Scoring. 

DET Scoring
Overall Scoring
CEFR Levels of Proficiency
  • The individual at this level can use the English language under limited circumstances. And also, one can understand only those basic English language terms and phrases encountered daily. Such as greeting and introducing oneself. Can establish a very simple conversation using only familiar English terms. 
  • The individual has difficulty continuing a conversation without the help of the other speaker.
  • However, the individual can understand that the speaker speaks slowly and is willing to assist the non-native English speaker throughout the conversation. 
10 to 20A1 – Beginner Level
  • At this level, one can understand simple English terms mainly used and encountered daily, such as school, the workplace, and the community.
  • Moreover, the individual can also communicate using the language but only uses very simple terms and expressions. 
  • And also, the individual can answer very simple types of questions but those only about familiar topics, such as weather, directions, and the likes. 
25 to 55A2 – Elementary Level
  • The individual can efficiently deliver and express ideas, personal experiences, opinions, ambitions, and plans. 
  • And also, the individual can establish good communication and understand contexts about familiar topics that are usually about career, school, community, and everyday happenings. 
  • However, the individual at this level also shows awkwardness and noticeable errors in using English. Moreover, one is also able to deliver simple ideas about very familiar topics;   
60 to 85B1 – Intermediate Level
  • At this proficiency level, the individual is able to comprehend information presented in an abstract and concrete format. 
  • The individual also shows fluency in communicating with a native English speaker without noticeable grammatical errors. 
  • And also, the individual has the ability to point out any technicalities in a given subject and deliver detailed information either from a written or spoken source. 
90 to 115B2 – Upper-Intermediate Level
  • The individual has the ability to use the English language with flexibility and effectiveness in any given situation. 
  • And also, the individual can communicate using the English language with ease, fluency and can also express and deliver concise ideas. 
  • The individual is also able to understand complex contexts and identify main parts without any distinct errors.
  • In addition, the individual can express ideas and can establish a good level of communication even with unfamiliar subjects. 
120 to 140 C1 – Advanced Level
  • The individual at this level has the ability to comprehend any written information and can process heard information without difficulty.
  • In addition, the individual is able to handle challenging contexts that may contain complex English terms.  
  • And also, the individual shows precision, conciseness, spontaneity, fluency, and accuracy in using the English language. 
  • Can also use various terms with ease and understand idiomatic expressions in any social, academic, and professional setting.  
145 to 160C2 – Proficiency Level

A simple table shows the equivalent of the Duolingo English Test scores with their respective CEFR proficiency level. 

10 to 20A1
25 to 55A2
60 to 85B1
90 to 115B2
120 to 140 C1
145 to 160C2

Additional FAQs : Duolingo English Test vs. CEFR

What is a Good Score on the Duolingo English Test?

A good Duolingo English test score is 120 points and above. This score has a CEFR C1 proficiency level equivalent. And it indicates an advanced proficiency level, and most educational institutions also consider it and other multinational organizations in different countries worldwide. 

Moreover, it is also good to know in advance the Duolingo score or proficiency level requirement of your desired university or college. It will help you prepare in advance for the exam and aim for a higher score. 
You should also consider that these different organizations vary in their required level of proficiency or test scores. It also depends on what program or course you are applying for. 

Is 130 a Good Score in the Duolingo English test?

A Duolingo English test score of 130 points is considered a good one. Consequently, the score of 130 points falls on the CEFR scale of C1 to C2, and this means the individual is a proficient user of the English language.  
Suppose you get a score of 130 on the Duolingo English test. In that case, it implies that you can understand various types of contexts, either spoken or written language, without any difficulty. 

And you can also communicate effectively using the English language in different environments such as in an academic setting, social, and even professional level. 

Is the Duolingo English Test Legit?

Yes, the Duolingo English Test is one of the top choices by most individuals, especially non-native English speakers seeking a valid and reliable language proficiency test. It is also highly accepted and trusted by educational institutions in different countries worldwide. 

In addition, the Duolingo English Test is an efficient, accessible, and modern English language proficiency assessment exam available in the market. It provides accurate test results for an individual’s English language skills including, writing, reading, speaking, and listening.