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Improve scores based on DET grading elements

By DET Practice - TADE Hub
April 05,2024 | 20:46 PM

In order to obtain the Duolingo English Test desired scores, DET takers have to comprehend how each question type is scored to utilise what they have to aim for the highest score possible.

There are two main question categories: Question types with correct answers and Open-response question types. 

If it’s a question type with correct answers, there are no grading elements as your scores will be graded 100% by machine algorithms. If it’s an open response question type (Speaking and Writing questions), your answer will be evaluated based on the following grading elements: 

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  • Content: relevance, style, development, and effect on the reader;
  • Discourse Coherence: clarity, cohesion, progression of ideas, and structures (for Writing questions only);
  • Lexis (Vocabulary): lexical diversity, lexical sophistication, choice of words, formation of words, and spelling (for Writing questions only);
  • Grammar: grammatical complexity, grammatical accuracy, and punctuation (for Writing questions only);
  • Fluency (Speaking questions only): speed, natural use of pauses, and reliance on filler words, repetition, and starting/ stopping;
  • Pronunciation (Speaking questions only): intelligibility, individual sounds, word stress, sentence stress, and intonation.

In this article, we will be concentrating on Open response question types that we share how you can improve scores for each grading element. By doing so, your scores for all Speaking and Writing questions will be increased as well. 

1. Content

Our strategy is to focus on what is easier to improve first. In this grading element, Relevance and Development are easier compared to Style and Effect on the reader. When a question appears, our job is to answer it relevantly, and Development is your ability to build an answer to the question from scratch. 

Style and Effect on the reader are something else. We need to devote our time for a period of time to practice in order to develop our style, which is unique and authentic. On our Practice Website, all Speaking and Writing questions have sample answers that we wrote for your study. We do provide feedback based on this Content grading aspect as well, so make sure to check it after submitting your practice answer and learn from our sample answers to improve your Content scores. To illustrate, when you practice an Interactive Writing set, you check the Content aspect and see that your answer is just slightly relevant to the question, so you need to read your answer again and compare it to our sample answers for a better understanding. You may also need to retry that question for a better outcome.

2. Discourse Coherence

Did you deliver a clear and coherent answer? Did you make any idea progression from the Opening until the Ending? Or did you deliver a great structure? 

Duolingo English Test takers need to ask the above questions after writing any practice answers to review their work. 

To deliver a clear and coherent answer, we need to avoid ambiguity and use transition words to connect sentences with sentences, and paragraphs with paragraphs, DET takers need to ensure that they move from one key point to another smoothly. In your DET Practice Premium account, you can check sixteen (16) linking words categories and apply them to practice. 

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Secondly, it’s not hard to make ideas progress. Simply put, it’s how logical your ideas are in supporting the main thesis. For instance, if you speak an answer to Read then Speak, you state that you agree with something but you fail to provide evidence to support your argument. In this case, you do not make any idea progression. 

Last but not least, having a great structure is not hard as well. Having a great structure means we answer all questions that are asked, and we connect all minor questions smoothly. At any cost, we need to ensure it happens. Each Writing and Speaking question has several minor questions, we DET takers just need to answer each of them by applying a proper time management strategy. In this Tips and Strategies page, we shared strategies to help you face all question types along with time management tips, go search for any item type you want to learn. 

3. Lexis

Lexical Sophistication evaluates the level of words you use, while Lexical Diversity evaluates the variety of words you use. Both of these grading elements are still the main parts of the Lexis even though we have Choice of Words and Words Formation after April 02 2024. 

In feedback DET takers receive after submitting their practice answers, we share detailed information regarding Lexical Sophistication and Lexical Diversity to help students identify the level and variety of words they used. By checking their feedback, students should avoid using one word over three times and A1-level words for a higher score. 

Choice of Words assesses how appropriate your words are in a specific situation, while Word Formation is the word forms that we use. For example, Employ, Employment, Employee, and Employer are in the same word formation. If we use all word forms in one answer, we will get higher scores.

To improve scores for Content, Discourse Coherence, and Lexis, there is no way but to INPUT new knowledge, vocabulary (idioms, collocations, expressions, phrasal verbs, etc.), and idea development skills every day. But how? We do it by Reading and Listening. When we read articles or listen to English podcasts, for example, we learn new vocabulary and gain more knowledge in addition to exploring how to develop and structure ideas in a particular scenario. DET takers can refer to the following strategies to advance their Reading and Listening.

4. Grammar

Grammatical Accuracy, Grammatical Complexity and Punctuation (only for Writing questions) are elements in this grading criterion. When it comes to Grammatical Accuracy, if we use wrong grammar structures, our points will be deducted. To illustrate, in your answer to a Write About the Photo question, you write “This image depicts a woman standing in the elevator.”, it should be “This image depicts a woman standing in the elevator.” Instead.  

Regarding Grammatical Complexity, which assesses how complex your grammatical structures are. The more complex structures you use, the higher the scores you achieve. We already shared the top five common advanced grammatical structures that you can learn from. Nevertheless, it needs time to put all theories into practice in order to use them naturally. Otherwise, you may use them incorrectly, which leads to Grammatical Accuracy problems. 

To increase scores based on these grading elements, we also need to read and listen on a daily basis aside from practicing on the DET Practice Website as we provide instant feedback for your study and improvement as well. Check our feedback thoroughly to avoid similar mistakes next time. 

5. Fluency

Fluency is a grading criterion for Speaking questions only. It assesses your speed (word per minute), natural use of pauses, repetition and so on. 

The normal speed is around 150 to 160 words per minute, if you speak at this range, your Speed score will be the highest. Natural use of pauses shows the ability to pause and stop where needed to deliver our points clearly and coherently. Let’s imagine, that pauses in speaking are the same punctuation in writing. If you use a comma in writing, you will need to stop for around 0.25 to 0.5 seconds in speaking. If you use a full stop in writing, we will need to stop for around 0.5 to 1 second in speaking depending on your purposes. When it comes to repetition, try not to use repeated words often. Instead, DET takers should learn synonyms in order to apply various words appropriately.

Feedback on our practice website also evaluates your Speaking answers based on the same grading elements and offers advice for advancement. DET takers should know that the best way to improve Fluency is to speak regularly. You can refer to these three strategic steps to improve Speaking to learn and enhance your skills. 

6. Pronunciation

Everyone knows how important Pronunciation is in Speaking. Regardless of your targeted IPA (American or British versions), English learners need to meet the standard requirements – pronouncing words correctly first, sounding nice and attractive comes later. 

There are two things you need to know.

First and foremost, go check this article: “Master American and British Pronunciation” and learn to improve your pronunciation if you are not yet confident about it. 

Secondly, if you are confident in your pronunciation, simply practice on our Duolingo English Test Practice Website and get detailed phoneme score feedback to move to the next level. Here is an example of pronunciation feedback that you receive immediately after submitting any speaking practice answers. 

Simply click the “Detail” button to check phoneme scores. 

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DET Practice Website with instant feedback

Don’t wait! Follow our guides to start upgrading your scores based on the grading elements, and do not forget to apply everything you learn to practice on the DET Practice Platform to get instantly detailed feedback, learn from your faults and improve your scores.

Here are the benefits of your Premium account:

  • Thousands of practice questions;
  • 15 Full 1-hour mock tests and estimated scores;
  • Nearly 600 sets of questions for Interactive Writing, Interactive Reading, and Interactive Listening;
  • Instantly detailed feedback for all item types;
  • Same grading elements as Duolingo English Test;
  • Three supportive vocab lists;
  • And other supporting self-study features.

Regarding instantly detailed feedback, if you practice a Speaking Sample question, you will receive the following feedback:

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As you can see, we evaluate your practice answer based on the same grading elements as what the Duolingo English Test uses to assess your skills, including Content, Coherence, Grammar (Grammatical Accuracy and Grammatical Complexity), Lexis (Lexical Sophistication and Lexical Diversity), Fluency, and Acoustic features (Pronunciation). DET takers have to review all feedback rigorously in order to avoid mistakes if any in the time to come. Feel free to review our video sample feedback for a better understanding.

Visit the DET Practice Platform, create your FREE account and start boosting your skills today.