Can Duolingo disrupt the TOEFL for foreign students?
- Translation software company Duolingo plans to offer a standardized test similar to the Test of English as a Foreign Language through its app.
- The test would cost $20 and offer a Duolingo-verified score, but it is currently unknown if colleges would accept the score for admissions purposes. Duolingo's test reportedly takes only 20 minutes, compared to the TOEFL's three hours and 10 minutes.
- To combat cheating, Duolingo would make use of a smartphone's cameras and microphone, additionally requiring test takers to turn the phone around for a 360-degree view of the room they are in, to provide video and audio for employees to review later.
As GigaOM points out, monitoring cheating by having employees review smartphone audio and video may not reach a standard acceptable to colleges and universities. Taking a test remotely via smartphone with a company monitoring whether you look away from the screen often or have someone else talking to you in the room is different from taking an exam like the TOEFL in a room with a paid proctor adhering to stringent guidelines and time limits. Still, Duolingo makes a solid point that proctors in some countries are susceptible to bribery.
Before it can be accepted for admissions — and even visa applications — Duolingo will likely face a much closer inspection of its data and processes by independent parties, and that data will have to be sufficient for any authority it hopes will accept its scores. The University of Pittsburgh is currently conducting a study on the platform, and Duolingo also told GigaOM that its scores and those of the TOEFL directly correlate.
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