Introducing an alternative internationally recognised English Test to China during COVID-19


Introducing the Duolingo English Test (DET)

With the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in January 2020, the Chinese government shut schools and all exams were suspended for IELTS and TOEFL, the world’s most popular English-language tests. For millions of students quarantined at home, they had no choice but to go online to maintain their English studies in order to prepare for university.

This presented a once in a lifetime opportunity for Duolingo, the world’s most downloaded language-learning app, to raise brand awareness their own online Duolingo English Test (DET), and capture market share from the market leaders. Sinclair quickly was appointed to boost app downloads and test sign ups in China from February to April 2020.


Top US universities accept the Duolingo English Test (DET) as an alternative to IELTS and TOEFL, world leading English written tests.

Positioned the DET as a well regarded exam accepted by top US universities that is available to take online, in the safety of homes, and also cheaper than in-person tests.

Developed an integrated strategy with PR and KOL components to educate students about the DET as an alternative and cost-efficient language test and drive test-takers to sign up.

Created compelling content linked to the hot news topic in China at the time – students studying online from home – to deliver brand messages to wide audience base.

Worked with more than 12 KOLs over 3-month period to create engaging and motivational content to different audience segments and help students to continue their studies in safety and on schedule.

User growth compared to the same period a year ago
influencers shared branded content over 3 months
Reach through stories in print, online and social media
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