How Duolingo English Test is reinventing high stakes testing with AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has touched almost every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate to how we work, shop, travel, and even learn. Teachers are using AI to personalize learning experiences for students, create customized curricula, and improve student outcomes. For instance, the Duolingo English Test (DET) is a digital-first assessment that uses human-in-the-loop AI for test design, measurement, and much more. The Duolingo English Test is the first and only high-stakes test to use AI and machine learning end-to-end at every process step. In particular, the test uses these technologies to:

Designing customized test taking experiences: The test uses AI to assess the language ability required for each test item by automatically aligning them to proficiency levels in the CEFR; subsequently adaptively administers items for every test, which makes it both shorter and more secure. The latest technology then automatically grades test-taker answers, which can be complex and are not simple multiple-choice items, and finally synthesizes all of this into a final test score; and helps make the human review and proctoring stage more stable and efficient before test scores are certified and released.
Digital security: DET’s rigorous security protocols ensure the test is highly secure. Unprecedented security technology, including a 1:2 candidate-to-proctor ratio, where every proctor has access to AI tools monitoring dozens of biometrics and behavioural data categories. This approach is a proctoring plus. As part of DET’s digital-first approach to test development, it has combined human expertise with the power of AI for a comprehensive approach to exam supervision. Its AI-powered “Item Factory” blends human expertise with technological innovation, allowing it to constantly generate new test items, ensuring that repeat test takers cannot encounter the same test item. DET’s test bank is so large that any question appears in only 0.2% of all tests.
Accessibility: Since its inception, DET has employed AI to replicate all the functions of a conventional paper-based, in-person test in half the time and at less than half the cost. The test’s length is reduced through computer-adaptive technology, while automated item generation and scoring have made it more cost-effective. Moreover, secure at-home testing has made it accessible to a broader audience.

Considering how AI and DET work hand-in-glove, the brand has established a set of Responsible AI standards to support the assessment scientists who use AI to develop the test, and build a valid argument for digital-first assessment and support claims for the DET about validity, reliability, and fairness.

In times to come, generative AI will continue to evolve in ways we can’t yet imagine. But we have a lot of experience working with this powerful technology. We will continue to use its incredible capabilities to improve the lives of learners worldwide as part of our mission to make high-quality education available to everyone on the planet. From high-stakes English proficiency testing to language, math, and literacy lessons, we’re ready (and excited) for all the innovation to come!

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