If you’re looking for a heart-pumping exercise on Duolingo, then look no further than timed challenges.
They’ve been around for a few years now, and recently the guys at Duolingo have started to mix things up with some cool variations.
They’re great for improving your comprehension speed and make it super easy to rake in the XP.
In fact, if you play your cards right, you could easily earn as much as 80 XP in under 2 minutes!
Then stick around — all will be revealed!
This page may contain affiliate links. This means that we may receive a commission for any sign-ups or purchases made, but at no extra cost to you. Learn more
What are Timed Challenges on Duolingo?
Timed challenges on Duolingo are lessons with a time limit.
There are currently three different timed challenges (which we’ll look at in a sec) and they rotate depending on device, course and day of the week.
Timed challenges are currently one of the best ways to earn XP on Duolingo. Not only can you complete them quickly, but, if you’re strategic, you can pretty much guarantee yourself as much as 80 XP every time.
What are the different Timed Challenges?
Duolingo currently has three different timed challenges: XP Ramp Up, Lightning Round and Match Madness.
xp ramp up
XP Ramp Up was one of the original timed challenges.
It takes a mixture of different exercises from your normal lessons and gets you to tackle them against the clock.
XP Ramp Up follows a multi-tier system. It’s split into three levels and each level has three different steps. Each step is worth a different amount of XP.
The goal is to work through each step in each level, all the way to the top step of level 3.
XP Ramp Up is currently only available on weekends.
Lightning Round is very similar to XP Ramp Up.
It throws pretty much the same kind of questions at you and follows a tiered progression system.
However, the biggest difference is that the tiers are actually inside the lesson rather than between them.
In Lightning Round, you get 2 minutes to work through 3 levels.
If you manage to complete the first level, you’ll guarantee yourself 5 XP.
If you make it through the second, you’ll guarantee yourself 10 XP.
And if you make it all the way to the end before the time runs out, you’ll earn 40 XP.
Lightning Round is currently only available on weekdays.
Match Madness is the newest addition to Duolingo’s timed challenges.
Unlike XP Ramp Up and Lightning Round, Match Madness is just one continuous exercise: match the pairs.
It features the same sort of progression system as the Lightning Round, in that it’s split into 3 tiers and you get a couple of minutes to complete it.
To bag the full 40 XP from Match Madness, you need to match 90 pairs of words before the time runs out.
Match Madness is currently only available during the week and randomly rotates with Lightning Round. It’s also only available in a few courses.
Check out the video below to see Match Madness in action — and how to earn a massive 80 XP in one session!
How to do Timed Challenges on Duolingo
To do a timed challenge on Duolingo, simply head over to your league section and tap the timed challenge icon in the bottom right corner.
The icon changes depending on which timed challenge is currently running.
It’ll also tell you how long it’s available for.
During the week it will be either Lightning Round or Match Madness, while on the weekend it will be XP Ramp Up.
Timed Challenges achievement
Duolingo currently has a tiered achievement for timed challenges called Challenger.
You can view your progress in your profile section.
The more XP you earn, the more you progress through the different tiers until eventually you turn it gold.
The Challenger achievement currently has 5 levels:
- Level 1 – 40 XP
- Level 2 – 120 XP
- Level 3 – 400 XP
- Level 4 – 1000 XP
- Level 5 – 5000 XP
Which Timed Challenge is best for learning a language?
All three timed challenges have their strengths when it comes to improving your language proficiency.
Match Madness is probably the best for testing your instinct and trusting your gut. It’s basically a rapid-fire flashcard exercise that forces you to answer quickly.
Lightning Round is similar, albeit tests you on actual questions rather than basic word-to-word translations. There’s a bit more variety with Lightning Round so it tests your instincts in areas that Match Madness doesn’t.
XP Ramp Up is cool in that it progressively ups the difficulty. It probably has more in common with Lightning Round in this respect, the main difference being the tiers between sessions and the amount of XP on offer.
In terms of learning, they’re basically the same.
Which Timed Challenge is best for XP?
All three of the timed challenges are decent for boosting your weekly XP totals.
But one is definitely weaker than the others.
XP Ramp Up takes a lot longer to get to the top tier where you can earn 40 XP, and getting there is far from guaranteed.
Lightning Round and Match Madness, however, give you the chance to earn the maximum 40 XP straight away and you can do this in under a couple of minutes.
Therefore, the best time to focus on timed challenges is during the week, and on weekends focus more on lessons, legendary levels and stories.
How to get as much XP as possible from Timed Challenges
If you’re a bit of a league nut and you’re looking for ways to maximise your XP, then make a note of the following tips:
focus on lightning round and match madness
If XP is your goal, then Lightning Round and Match Madness are the best timed challenges.
They make it super easy to rack up a lot of XP in a short amount of time.
Both give you the chance to go for 40 XP immediately, which only takes a couple of minutes if you’re successful.
XP Ramp Up takes a lot longer as you have to work your way up to the top tier. It’s not always that easy, either, and there’s always the risk of falling back through the tiers.
As such, it’s better to focus on timed challenges during the week when the timed challenges cycle between Lightning Round and Match Madness.
XP Boosts are essential for getting the most out of timed challenges.
Back in the day, you could only use XP Boosts in normal lessons, but now they work in timed challenges as well.
When used with Lightning Round and Match Madness, you stand to earn as much as 80 XP every couple of minutes.
Check out this video for the three best ways to earn XP Boosts!
turn off listening and speaking exercises (lightning round)
Listening and speaking exercises generally take longer to complete than the normal typing/bubble ones.
Duolingo gives you the option to switch these off, which gives you a much better chance of completing your Lightning Round.
Again, only do this if XP is your goal — this won’t do you any favours if you’re actually trying to learn your target language!
pick easy courses
Timed challenges pull words and phrases that you’ve already come across in your normal lessons.
If you’re really advanced in your course, it’s going to pull in a lot of long and complex sentences.
Naturally, these questions take longer to answer than the beginner ones — but the time limit stays the same.
Even if you’re fluent in your target language, the time it takes to type out the answers on Lightning Round is going to put you at a major disadvantage.
Therefore, consider doing Lightning Round when you’re at the beginning of a course, ideally around the first couple of units. This will ensure it’s pulling through easy, bite-size questions that will be much easier to answer.
Remember why you’re using Duolingo
Timed challenges make it super easy to make a lot of XP in a short amount of time.
But as you’ve probably gathered, doing so often involves taking a lot of shortcuts.
If you actually want to make progress in your target language, then this isn’t the way to go about it.
As we’ve seen, it’s easy to earn loads of XP without making any tangible progress. There is simply no correlation between the amount of XP you earn and your proficiency in your target language.
Unfortunately, this is the big trade-off in Duolingo at the moment — success in the leagues almost always comes at the expense of success in your language.
So keep this in mind. Timed challenges are great for improving your listening and reading comprehension, as they force you to think and respond quickly.
But if you prioritise XP, using some of the above tips, you’re likely to make decisions that will undermine your language goals!
Which timed challenge is your favourite?
I’m absolutely loving Match Madness at the moment. It’s pretty challenging at first, but once you find your rhythm it becomes a lot easier.
But which is your favourite?
Let me know in the comments!
I’ve never seen any timed challenge icon? Is it only for people using Duolingo Plus?
Hi! I learn Spanish and it gets harder to play timed challenges, so I add another course English in Spanish. But in that course there’s no lighting round or any other timed challenges in the league. Why is that and how can I fix it? Please reply 😊
I have an older iPhone 5 the timed challenges don’t come up this device on the main language tree, but with exactly the same use profile on an Ipad air 2 access is possible to rapid reviews either side of the language tree.
You should see timed challenge icon options in the league section on both devices
why can’t you use timed challenges on laptop? Only appears on the app.
sorry for late reply. desktop basically has way less features than mobile, just normally outdated. same for me.
Helpful! Anyone else missing the timed challenges? This is my 2nd week with none offered. Is it only for Plus now? Thank you
Icon doesn’t appear for me even though I’m invited to complete the challenge. Bug??
I am doing several languages (on iOS), but only a few give me the challenges. How much do you have to complete in a language to get the challenges to appear? Also, my friend has Android, and he doesn’t have any challenges appearing at all, for French and German. Is there a trick to getting them to appear?
I have timed challenges on the android app, not paying for plus, learning Spanish.
I find the icons are on the lower left hand side of the screen when I’m looking at the league table (shield icon).
Hope that helps,
The matching timed challenge is ridiculous. There is no way to complete the higher levels in allotted time. The only way to do it is to spend money on extenders. I just feel that paying 80 dollars for the program should get me the ability to have success in all the challenges without paying more.
I fully agree, it is completely unrealistic and results in you only being able to achieve 15 points per round versus the other timed challenges where you can achieve 40 points
Oh… and I personally learn less. It has nothing to do with comprehension and everything to do with speed
It’s there a limit on how many timed challenges you can use?
I loved them but since last week they don’t appear anymore in my Chinese lessons
I have a second language, French, and I still can get them there but I want to concentrate on Chinese
Is that a bug?
I use the Android app
I hate Match Madness and it’s all I ever get as a weekday option. I love Lightening Round but haven’t had one for months now. I also don’t like the new lesson progression structure – the previous one was far easier to navigate and review. It’s put me off doing Duolingo anymore. Plus nobody ever answers feedback emails.