Carnegie Mellon University
July 23, 2014

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon Will Partner With Duolingo To Evaluate English Language Certification Test

Inexpensive Online Test Could Broaden Access for Prospective Students and Job Applicants

Contact: Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /

Duolingo LogoPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University will partner with Duolingo, a CMU spinoff company that provides free online language education, to evaluate the company's new low-cost test for certifying the English skills of college and job applicants.

The Duolingo Test Center, which Duolingo launched today with the support of Google, would enable users to certify English proficiency using a mobile app for a fraction of the cost of existing language certification tests. The test eliminates the cost and inconvenience of travelling to a designated test site, takes less time to complete and provides results immediately. The app attempts to limit cheating using features such as remote video monitoring and test questions that are rarely repeated.

Carnegie Mellon, a global research university that attracts student applicants from around the world, is the first academic partner of Duolingo for the English language certification exam.    

In this role, the university in the coming year will encourage applicants and newly admitted students to take the online exam as part of a research study. The exam results will not be used as the basis of admission decisions during this period; rather, CMU would perform research into the stability, reliability of the test and its correlation with TOEFL iBT, an established English proficiency test.

"Carnegie Mellon is excited that we will be Duolingo's first academic partner," said CMU President Subra Suresh. "Duolingo's bold vision to create an affordable and reliable English language app-based test will allow more young people around the world to pursue higher education at CMU and other major research universities."

Suresh noted that this is the type of educational innovation that Carnegie Mellon is fostering through its Simon Initiative, a university-wide effort to improve student learning through the application of learning science and technology. Such educational innovation also is very much aligned with the vision of the Global Learning Council, which was launched in November 2013. The council, chaired by Suresh and comprised of leaders from academia, industry and non-profit organizations, promotes collaboration and coordination in advancing standards, practices and metrics to create effective technologies that enhance learning outcomes.  

Luis von Ahn, the co-founder of Duolingo, will be a featured speaker at the inaugural meeting of the Global Learning Council to be held on the Carnegie Mellon campus Sept. 4-5.

Duolingo was established by von Ahn, a Ph.D. graduate and associate professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, and Severin Hacker, who earned his Ph.D. in computer science at CMU earlier this year. The free education platform, which began as a research project at CMU, now offers 32 language courses and has more than 30 million users. Apple named Duolingo the iPhone App of the Year in 2013 and Google selected it as the Best of the Best for Android in 2013.

Just as Duolingo was designed to enable more people to learn foreign languages, the Duolingo Test Center is intended to make it easier and less expensive for people to certify their English proficiency for college and job applications. The test can be taken on a mobile phone and will cost $20, compared to $250 charged for similar tests.

"Current English language proficiency exams, such as TOEFL, IELTS and ITEP, are critical tools in university admissions, hiring decisions and even visa applications around the world," said John Lehoczky, interim executive vice president of Carnegie Mellon. "The Duolingo Test Center applies the latest technology to this challenge, and it promises to be a data-driven system that will be much cheaper and more convenient for test-takers around the world."

Lehoczky said the first task for this academic partnership is to undertake joint research with Duolingo to establish the reliability of the Test Center in accurately assessing English-language abilities among CMU applicants.