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Timed Practice?

Timed Practice has been in place for quite a while now, but I feel that it has become more central to the duolingo experience. My question is this: is there any proof that timed practice strengthens your words more than standard (untimed) practice? According to my intuition, timed practice would allow learners to answer more questions incorrectly while still receiving more points than standard practice, causing users using standard practice to learn more and receive less points than those using timed practice. Since this could result in misaligned incentives, I would like to know whether duolingo has conducted a study using its data to compare the effectiveness of timed practice with standard practice.

April 6, 2013



I think that the idea is to force users to recall information quickly as you would need to do in real life situations. Some users have suggested that the timer should be stopped after answering questions and that might be especially useful for reviewing mistakes. Maybe it would be best to use timed practice when you feel that you are ready for a bigger challenge.


My complaint isn't so much that timed practice is too difficult... it's that, at times, it has been too easy (as measured by the number of points that are received). Sometimes I am able to complete the timed practice while missing half of the questions. This can happen when a series of multiple choice and/or definite article questions appear consecutively, allowing the user to receive ten extra seconds from a question that only takes two.

When learners can receive more points for answering questions about material that they already know and can quickly recall (assuming that this will be at least half of the material in a timed practice) than for answering questions about material they don't know (which they would have to do in an untimed practice, since learners must not miss less than three questions), an incentive problem arises.

Duolingo could, to remedy this problem, simply include the heart system in timed practices, which would necessitate that users answer most of the questions correctly. My point is really that, unless duolingo requires users to answer a certain portion of the questions correctly, users may not be getting the practice that they think they are getting.


Come on, people come here to learn! Skill points and achievements are great when they help to learn, they are good motivators, but by themselves they are just nothing. Why should people care to earn points if they don't want to learn? And if they want to learn, certainly they won't be comfortable with making mistakes in half of the questions.

There is an option to do timed practice of "Basics" unit any time. You can easily get full 20 points by answering the same beginners' questions over and over again, but would you seriously consider this as an option? I don't think so. If anyone does, well, that's his problem, let him entertain himself with pointless skill points :-) Duolingo skill points cost nothing and it does not harm the others if anyone earns these points by doing something requiring little effort.


yesterday i wasn't able to get much out of my timed practice for spanish (1 or 2 points every few minutes).

with unlimited i could get 3-5 points per minute, or so.

however today i'm getting through the timed practice with 30-60 seconds to spare, getting 17-20 points per round.

i agree with lenkvist, time pressure is meaningful in use and learning of a language.


"yesterday...however today"

And you maintain that the cause of the huge point variation is yourself? That you were not very bright the first day and that you were a genius the second? Think you not that duolingo has some inconsistency here?


actually, i have found that duolingo has too much repetition for it's practice thing. so after i memorize one example it's likely i'll get it right when i see it. duolingo presents the same example to me after i get good at it. after a few sessions of getting a low score, i'll suddenly get 20s consistently.


At first, I also thought I'd rather do timed practice at all times and get points without the risk of being kicked out for losing hearts. However, this just does not work: when my skill is poor, I really feel more comfortable with redoing old lessons and giving myself plenty of time to think over every question. I use timed practice as a test to prove I can recall the words and phrases quickly. I only get more points than in an untimed practice when my skill level is really high.

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