Duolingo Will Offer Cheap Language Proficiency Tests You Can Take On Your Smartphone

Existing certification programs, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, can cost hundreds of dollars. Duolingo’s will cost $20.

Duolingo, the startup that aims to translate the web, said it will offer an English language-proficiency test starting May 13 that will be administered over Android smartphones for $20. To help the test gain broad acceptance, the translation startup said it will partner with Google at launch to recognize the certification. Duolingo plans to offer certificates in other languages later this summer and to release an iOS app in the second half of the year, a representative told Fast Company.


When Duolingo raised $20 million in February, the Pittsburgh-based company talked openly about creating an online certification program. Duolingo cofounder Luis Von Ahn described some of the challenges with existing certification programs, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the country and requires test-takers to travel long distances to specified test centers.

Duolingo’s test, on the other hand, can be taken by anybody, anywhere. The $20 fee will cover the cost of a proctor, who will use the smartphone’s camera to make sure users aren’t cheating (an obvious sign: someone looking away from the screen frequently). The company said the University of Pittsburgh is conducting a study to see if there is a correlation between Duolingo’s test scores and that of other widely recognized language exams. One of the main challenges the startup will face is having organizations recognize its certificate. Getting Google on board is a first step, but the company aims to add more partners down the line.

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.