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Suggestion: [Optional] Periodic Placement test

I propose that a duolingoer should get a periodic placement test which will quickly deteriorate the skills the students do badly thereby forcing the student to go back and re-learn the concept before proceeding.

Or if the individual so chooses block the student from proceeding until the earlier module is completed.

Perhaps also a way to progress through the levels, because currently as it stands, the levels are somewhat arbitrary and meaningless. I can theoretically keep doing practices on the same skill and reach level 25, yet have very little understanding of the language.

I think this will prevent what often happens in the education system. Whereby a student fails to understand a concept, barely passes the subject, and keeps on going just because it isn't feasible to keep teaching/learning until the concept is mastered.

September 18, 2013



I would submit to you that failure to master a concept becomes painfully obvious even without some form of gatekeeper test and we have all found ourselves circling back to revisit concepts we thought had been mastered. Successful language learning has repetition at its core – and that is where Duolingo excells.

As to your second point, the levels are not meaningless because they do in fact provide us with a rough indication of the amount ot time we have spent in practice and thereby a very approximate indication of proficiency (i.e. level 17 ought to be more proficient than a level 7). And that is all they do. :-)

As to gaming the system to reach level 25. Of course that's possible, but it's also pointless. If someone 'cheats' to get to level 25 before you and I, who cares ?


Interesting discussion, and a valid point.I partially agree with you. The difference being, that I (and probably all humans) am lazy by design. Although there are many concepts I have yet to master, I don't really know where most of them are. Searching through the whole vocabulary/skills is indeed an option. But its pretty hard to track these concepts.

My idea is basically an optional test that identifies the areas where you're lacking and puts/suggests where you belong. Kind of like the drivers test, performed every couple of years, at least where I come from.

Or to use a game as an example. From what I've read and seen, Starcraft online gaming mechanics use exactly this. It has a sort of ladder and based on your skills you can either improve to the highest level, or if your performance deteriorates you're pushed down to a lower level.

Regarding gaming the system, I'm not really concerned about others. Perhaps because I've played many games, I see the last level as a target to reach, and as a motivation to myself to see how far I've mastered the game/ learnt the concepts.


Hi, I understand your point, but disagree on a number of counts. Firstly, the timed repetition through skill decay ensures that users are forced to revisit previous skills. Secondly, to really know a concept requires extensive use and repetition. I feel that the system simply exposes you to concepts, which you must then reinforce through a mixture of immersion and real world practice. For example, I 'learn' a new concept with Duolingo and then I start to try it out in the real world. Eventually, after many uses of the concepts, it sticks in mind and it is only then that I feel that I've truly learnt it. Thirdly, Duolingo tends to build on concepts, so that the concepts from early lessons are utilized in later lessons. Because the system continues to build on previous concepts it is very hard to progress unless you have a reasonable grasp of previous concepts. So to summarize I feel the system restricts people progressing without a decent grasp on early concepts, and without extensive real world practice one will never have truly learnt the concept.


Not really, I think either you or I misunderstand the skill decay. From my understanding of it, even if the skill keeps decaying until one golden bar, we can still progress through the lessons. One user who finished all languages indicated that he managed to get through most of them without a solid grasp on the language or even the topics learnt which is what is broken about the education systems in many countries. You memorize concepts rather than learn to use them effectively. I do agree with your points on immersion and real world practice. However, I feel that at least for basic skills, one should not be allowed to progress without knowing them well, I've heard about university students who aren't aware that " .05" == 0.05, or some research students who can't understand what independent variables are. This shows a severe lack of basic knowledge.


You are quite correct about the skill decay. I guess that I have made the error of assuming that others refresh a skill every time it starts to decay. Of course, this is my approach and others will choose their own. I also agree with you that many national education systems fail their students from over emphasizing memory almost to the exclusion of actual learning. Well, that is my experience of the English system to say the least. However, as adults we choose to use Duolingo; it is not mandatory. If people choose to make completion rather than understanding their goal, they cheat no-one other than themselves. Personally, I prefer to accept that some people will have learnt very little if that means retaining the current flexible and fluid framework within which Duolingo operates.


Regarding the flexibility, it wouldn't change. My suggestion was more like a recommendation. Its simple, how confident are you in your mastery of German?

Are you novice, experienced, intermediary, or advanced?

Besides, if the tests are used effectively, it can be used to improve the current fluid and flexible framework/ algorithm duolingo uses.

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