There is a wonderful article on the Duolingo English Test blog about about how they are attempting to improve the test-taker experience (TTX).  It is a very enlightening read, and I encourage all of their competitors to check it out.

Much has been written about how Duolingo’s success is a result of the cost and length of their test.  And while those are certainly the main factors, not much has been written about how the rest of their TTX has attracted students.

I actually spent an hour working on a case study that directly compared aspects of Duolingo’s TTX to the experiences provided by ETS and IDP.  I had screenshots and everything.  But I deleted all of that work, since I don’t want to offend anyone.  Instead, I will offer a few quick suggestions about how any test-maker can easily emulate some of Duolingo’s successes.

So.  Here’s my advice for all of the other companies.  Duolingo does all of these things already.

  • Make all of your information accessible within one or two clicks from the test’s home page.  Not five or six clicks.
  • Don’t use 68 static pages to provide information when 6 will suffice.  Don’t bury important information in a bunch of PDFs.
  • Provide a beautiful FAQ page that quickly answers the questions that are asked every day. This will not only improve the TTX, but will reduce calls to your support number by a huge amount.
  • Make it possible for students to create an account, register and pay for their test in less than five minutes.
  • Provide a free practice test that is different every time the student takes it.  Or, in the case of TOEFL and IELTS, provide at least a few dozen variations.
  • If your test uses automated scoring, implement that in your free practice test.
  • Eliminate all other charges. Don’t charge for score reports to be sent, don’t charge for prep materials, don’t charge for practice tests. There should be one single possible transaction – registration for the test.  Give everything else away for free.  How much money are you making from book sales in 2021 anyways?
  • If your test is taken at home, the price should be the same in every country (except for local sales taxes).  Don’t charge $190 to take the test from my bedroom in country X, and $320 to take it from my bedroom in country Y.
  • When designing a website, use UX practices from 2021, not 2008.

I understand that it may be impossible for Duolingo’s competitors to offer a 60 minute test that costs $49.95.  Perhaps they will never be competitive on price and length.  But they can all make modern websites.  They can all make a proper FAQ.  They can all provide dynamic practice tests. And so on.  They can all compete on these aspects of the TTX, and can do so right away.  The fact that they have not done these things boggles the mind.

Again, I do not wish to offend. But I am available for consultations.  And I am very, very cheap.


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