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Hi friends, I'm Avi and today we're gonna talk about six mistakes a lot of students make when they're taking the Duolingo English test. And I'm going to show you how you can avoid making these mistakes.

Let's start with the first mistake. And it's to do with the describe a photo question type. And the mistake students make is that they just label they don't describe. I have a lot of students that practice writing their sample answers for this describe a photo question type. And a lot of times the students don't actually describe what's in the photo. Rather, they just label it. If you just label you're only using really simple sentence structures and a very limited small vocabulary. So you're not going to get a high score. If you just label instead, you have to describe what you see. For instance, one student wrote this: I can see six men, there is a TV and a computer. Also, I can see a sofa.

Unfortunately, this answer is not good enough. This is not a description, this is just a label. Instead, he wants to try to go beyond labeling the items you can see. And you can describe what could be happening in the image, which can help you to tell a better story. , now let's take a look at a good answer. This student wrote: this is a picture of a man giving a presentation at work. He's holding something in his right hand and talking to the three men who are sitting directly in front of them.

On the Duolingo English test, you only have one minute to answer this writing question. But still, it's really important that you go beyond the labeling, and try to describe what you see.


Mistake number two that a lot of students make is also related to writing and is simply not writing enough. So as you probably already know, there are two different writing questions on this Duolingo English test, we have the describe a photo and the write about a topic. For the describe a photo, you must write one sentence and you will have one minute to do that. And then for the right about a topic, you must write at least 50 words, and you have five minutes to do that.

However, if you actually look on the Duolingo test website, and you go through their criteria for how they mark these writing questions, then you will see that length is a point that they emphasize, which indicates to us that they actually want you to write more than those minimum requirements. So what does that mean? Well, probably for the describe a photo, you want to write anywhere between two and three sentences. And then for the write about a topic, probably around 75 to 100 words. Basically, you should write as much as you can, as long as you're not compromising your grammatical accuracy or your lexical accuracy. But that's easier said than done.

How can you actually write more? Well, I think the best way to prepare and to practice is to learn a good structure, a good structure can help you because regardless of the photo, or the question you get, you know how you're going to answer the question. So you don't waste valuable time thinking like, Oh my god, how do I even answer it, you know exactly what your first sentence will be your second, your third and so on. In sentence one, you want to talk about the main subject. For example, This photo shows two women holding hands in a green field. The main subject in this photo is those two women. Sentence two is about adding more details. And you can add more details by thinking about these two things. One, who is doing what? And two? What is where, in this example I did, who is doing what? And I looked at the lady on the right, I said, the woman on the right is taking a photo with her camera and laughing loudly. Then sentence three is where you can speculate. Now you might not have time to do three sentences, and that's . But if you do, then you can speculate, for example, they must be best friends. That's a speculation. I don't know that I'm just guessing.

And for the right about a topic, question type, a good structure would look like this, we have a topic sentence which outlines your main idea or your main thesis of your paragraph, then you have supporting ideas with examples. I would suggest that you do around two of the supporting ideas. And then you finish off with a concluding sentence.

Let me show you what I mean by giving you an example. My topic sentence is I agree that employers should offer longer holidays to increase productivity. This is a topic sentence, it shows exactly what my whole paragraph is going to be about. And I provided two supporting ideas which backup my topic sentence, and I gave examples as well. And then at the end, I had a simple concluding sentence. The best thing about learning the structure is that you can actually write more, because you know how to answer the questions. So as soon as you see the photo, or as soon as you read the prompt for the writing question, you can start typing right away. And this will save you valuable seconds on this test.


Mistake number three is derailing your entire answer in the speaking task simply because you’ve lost your train of thought. A question I get often is what to do if you get sidetracked or go off topic? Can you resume talking as if nothing happened? Or should he use a phrase? Like, let me rephrase this to get back on topic? And I think that's a really great question. And I think it's really important that you try to stay on topic when you're answering the speaking question, because on the Duolingo, test criteria, task, relevance is a point that they emphasize. So it's quite important not to lose focus and go off topic.

But if you do try to come back on by using special phrases, and there are lots of phrases you can use when you want to get back to topic, you can say. So anyway, getting back to my story, as I was saying, Let me rephrase that, or where was I? These are all different phrases you can use when you find that you go off topic, but want to get back to the main question that's being asked of you.

It's also important to know that on the speaking questions, they do give you points to talk about. And I strongly recommend that you just go through each of the questions one by one, this is helpful because it's basically a guide to help you to answer this question effectively. And again, there are different transition phrases you can use when you want to go from one question to another. So let me show you a few of those here. So we can call them linking phrases, for example, in regards to the first question, or moving on to the next question. Also, you can say, as for the next or final question, or just before you conclude, you can say one more thing I'd like to add is. So using all of those phrases, the phrases to get back to topic, and different sequencing phrases you can use to go from question to question will help you to actually answer the question more fully, and probably help you to speak for longer. Again, even for speaking length is really important.

Moving on to mistake number four, and this is a question I get asked surprisingly often, it is about choosing all of the words on a vocabulary question types, just in case you don't know there are two vocab question types on the Duolingo test. One is reads all of these words and choose the real English ones. And the other is very similar. Instead, you have to listen to a bunch of words and choose the real ones. But some students, they asked me, can I just choose all of the words that way I'm bound to select them all of the real ones? And yeah, that's true. But if you do that, you're also selecting all of the fake words which will cost you points. So there is some sort of negative marking going on.

So the rule is simply only select the words you are sure are real English words. It's actually impossible to guess if you're not sure, because all of the words look like real words, but they're not all real. The best thing you can do to practice your spelling is to read a lot and also practice typing on Quizlet. That way you can figure out the words you don't actually know how to spell.


Mistake number five has to do with using punctuation wrongly. Firstly, you always need to start your sentence with a capital letter and finish with a full stop, even for the dictation question type. And then more advanced grammatical structures might require a comma. To use the comma correctly, follow these two simple rules.

Number one, you should use a comma in a list, especially for nouns and verbs, and sometimes for adjectives as well. For example, everything was ready for my trip. I had my camera, money(,) and airplane ticket. You can either put a comma before the last item in a list or don’t. Both ways are acceptable.

The next rule is you should put a comma in front of the fanboys, which are used to join two independent clauses. fanboys is an acronym that stands for for and nor, but or yet, so. Basically, you should use a fanboy, when you want to connect two independent clauses. And before the fanboy there should be a comma. independent clauses are basically clauses which include their own subject. For example, I could say, jack wanted to go to university, but he didn't get accepted. So that sentence has two subjects, jack in the first clause, and he in the second clause, and I connected those two subjects with the word but which is a fanboy. I used a comma before but next mistake is not knowing the time limits for the different question types.


Mistake number six - not knowing your time limits. So the Duolingo English test has a lot of different question types - 10 in total, which are graded, and then two, which are interview focused, those are ungraded, but they are sent to your university. So because there are so many different question types, you need to know exactly how much time you have for each question type before you take the test. When you take the real test, there is a timer in the top left hand corner. But before you take the test, you should also know exactly how much time you have for each question type. That way, you can prepare really effectively. Note that If you do finish quicker, you can click next, that's totally fine. That won't affect your score anyway, so you won't get a better score for clicking Next, or you won't get a worse score if you just let it run through.

Need help prepping for the Duolingo English Test? Let's talk about it!


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