Duolingo English Test Takers Snapping up Mirrors on Amazon

5 min readJul 6, 2020


One company called Duolingo has turned the English Proficiency Tests Market upside down. They created a test that can be taken from anywhere in the world with a laptop and at any time you want, at only 1/4 of the price charged by the Test Incumbents TOEFL and ITELS. You also get your results in only 2 days compared to a week or more. In fact, this new test DET (Duolingo English Test) is so much superior that it has been accepted by thousands of universities worldwide including your dream Ivy Leagues school Yale, Columbia, Stanford, etc. During this COVID-19 period when all test TOEFL/ ITELS centers were closed, many switched to DET because you can do directly from your bedroom.

Instead of buying encyclopedia-thick prep books with unlimited mock exam questions for TOEFL/ ITELS, people taking DET now need a buy a MIRROR. Yes, a MIRROR, in order to prove that you were not cheating. How did this happen?

A mirror is needed by Duolingo English Exam Takers to prove they are not cheating.

Cheating in TOEFL/ ITELS

Over the years, many many people have tried to cheat in these exams by paying for a GHOST EXAM TAKER to go to the test center to sit through the exam “on behalf of” them. At the beginning people would create fake IDs to match the name on record with a completely different face. Then fingerprints had to be captured on site for identity verification. (Here is one example of how cheaters were caught off guard when this new technology was implemented in 2018). But then somehow someone still figured out how to hack the system and so cheating has continued with more complex counter-technology measures.

Cheating in DET

Fast forward to 2020 summer (now), the new DET (Duolingo English Test) allows anyone to take the test from their bedroom. In order to avoid cheating, a bunch of rules have to be followed:

  1. You have to be alone in a quiet, well-lit room
  2. Your ears must be visible (not covered by hair, etc.)
  3. You can’t wear sunglasses or headphones
  4. You can’t use any writing utensils or paper
Duolingo English Test is administered completely online with test taker reading, listening and speaking directly into the test system.

If there were no rules, you could probably use a few ways to cheat:

  1. Have someone else sit in the same room look at your screen and give you the correct answers over earphones
  2. Share your screen with someone remotely and have them give you the correct answers over earphones
  3. Other more creative ways…


The test software is able to record your screen as soon as you start the test. It also has detection protocols that will detect the moment you leave the test browser or open a new tab. All these measures will be reviewed by a remote proctor after you complete the test. If you violate a rule at any point during the test session, the remote proctor will automatically invalidate your test score. Depending on the severity of the violation, test takers may also be banned permanently from taking the Duolingo English Test again.”

Recently there are a lot of posts like this in the DET Prep Online Community, where test takers’s results were invalidated for various reasons.

Test Takers looked away from the screen for an extended period of time during DET causing results invalidation.
Test Taker’s face was not always visible during the test during DET causing results invalidation.
Test Taker environment’s security cannot be verified during the test during DET causing results invalidation.

Most of these test take were given a second/ third/ etc. chance to take the test for free after being reminded on the list of rules. Check out the last time on the list!

With a team of elite Linguistic and Machine Learning scientists, Duolingo, which is based in Pittsburgh in the U.S. figured that some people could still be trying to cheat with all kind of new ways. So they decided that in order to better catch them, a MIRROR is needed in the room.

The Mirror became the lifesaver for DET test takers.

As we can imagine, the mirror behind the test taker can capture what is behind the camera, be it another person, a team, another computer, another screen, or other gadgets. With the “Magical Mirror”, now you can finally prove that you are innocent!

A test taker asking online community if his thick beard could cause him to fail the DET test.

Well for some people the drama continues 😱. Now it makes more sense to me that while DET Test Answers are completely graded by the super smart AI Duolingo has spent years perfected, it would still take 2 days for a real person (the proctoring supervisor) at Duolingo to carefully determine if some advanced type of cheating could have taken place.

It is a paramount responsibility to any company administering important Admission Tests that gives a student a GREEN LIGHT on the score to be submitted to the universities around the world. In this case, Duolingo has shown their continuous pursuit of a higher ground on integrity, despite having to request a relatively rare item (mirror) that many make easily take it as joke. Let’s hope many more companies can follow the example led by this Green Owl.

Duolingo English Test (DET) is designed by leading language learning company Duolingo.

Duolingo’s Chinese name is 多邻国, meaning Many (多duo) Neighboring Countries (邻lin国guo). Up to June 30, 2020, anyone can learn any of the 38 languages completely for free on the Duolingo app. The company reported a total of 300 million users worldwide and is led by founder Luis von Ahn, the Ex-Professor Computer Scientist that created reCAPTCHA.

reCAPTCHA created by Duolingo founder Luis von Ahn.

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