High up in the hills, overlooking the vast expanse of his language learning kingdom, Duo gazes down from atop his mighty stone castles.
You’ve probably come across these fancy fortresses quite regularly along your Duolingo journey, as well as some rather imposing locked wooden doors — denying you simple passage to the next stage of your language adventure.
These castles and doors represent units and checkpoints — important references of where you’re at in your target language.
Shall we learn a bit more about them?
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What are Duolingo Units?
Let’s start with the fancy castles.
A castle in Duolingo represents a unit in your language course. Some courses have 2, others have as many as 10!
A unit on Duolingo is just a block of content. Each course is broken down into logical chunks, each one cranking up the difficulty as you progress through the course.
As the units go up, so too do the number of towers in the castles. Unit 1 of a Duolingo course will have one tower in the castle, whereas Unit 10 will have — you guessed it — 10 towers!
If you tap on a unit, you’ll get a little pop-up that tells you how many crowns you’ve earned.
Basically, to fully complete a unit, you need to unlock every crown level.
However, you can progress to the next unit once you’ve earned at least one crown in each skill.
Confused? Don’t worry — there’s layers to this stuff! Check out my article on Duolingo crowns for more info on crowns and why they matter.
What are Duolingo Checkpoints?
Now for the checkpoints.
A checkpoint on Duolingo is basically an end-of-unit exam, which you need to pass in order to move on to the next unit.
You simply tap the wooden doors with the big fat lock and you’ll be thrust into your checkpoint challenge.
How to unlock a checkpoint on Duolingo
To unlock a checkpoint on Duolingo, you need to complete the end-of-unit challenge.
To do so, just tap the checkpoint, then tap START to get stuck into the challenge.
In my experience, the checkpoint challenges are about 30 questions long, so they’re pretty gruelling. Don’t expect to whizz through it like the normal lessons.
Checkpoint challenges don’t come with the usual hints and tips of the standard lessons, so you won’t be able to tap a word if you don’t know what it means.
Although the challenge contains 30 questions, you’ll be relieved to know that you don’t have to get all 30 right.
Unlike the standard lessons, if you get a question wrong, you won’t encounter it again at the end of the challenge.
If you lose all 4 hearts before the end of the challenge, then, unfortunately, you’ll have to try again.
I remember getting to the final question recently with one heart remaining — and I got it wrong!
I swear it took me a good 10 minutes to get there as well, so be warned — it can be pretty frustrating!
What happens when you complete a checkpoint
Once you complete a checkpoint, the main thing that will happen is you will unlock the next unit, and therefore pass through to the next big chunk of the course.
You’ll also earn a solid 50 XP!
However, depending on where you were in your course when you attempted the checkpoint challenge, a few other things might happen as well.
If you skipped a bunch of skill levels to take the checkpoint challenge, then you’ll unlock the first crown in each of the skills you skipped.
As a result of this, not only will your crown total increase, but you’ll probably unlock a bunch of new stories (depending on the language course) as well.
You might even find yourself completing a daily quest if one of the challenges was to unlock a crown.
You can also feel super confident in the knowledge that you’re absolutely bossing the course!
How many checkpoints/units are there in a Duolingo course?
As you’ve probably guessed by now, some courses have more checkpoints than others. This is entirely down to the number of units a course has: the more units, the more checkpoints.
So French, for instance, which is easily one of Duolingo’s most popular and feature-laden courses, has a whopping 10 units to work through. As such, it also has 10 checkpoints to complete.
Navajo, on the other hand, only has the one unit — so only has one checkpoint to pass through.
When to do a checkpoint
In most cases, the best time to tackle a checkpoint will be when you’ve reached the first crown level in all of the skills before it.
That way you’ll be in the best position to know the sort of material that’s going to pop up.
However, there aren’t any hard and fast rules on this. You can tackle a checkpoint whenever you fancy it — whether you’re deep into your unit or at the very beginning of it.
This ‘test-out’ feature is pretty much the same as what you get within the skills individually. If you’re familiar with how the crown levels work, then you’ll know you can do a test to unlock a crown early without having to go through the rigmarole of all the usual lessons.
This is pretty useful if you’re already familiar with your target language and you want to reach a more challenging level in the course.
How hard are checkpoints to complete?
The guys at Duolingo have made the checkpoints pretty gruelling.
If you’re super comfortable with the language, then you’ll probably be fine in most cases.
But 30 questions without hints is a lot, especially with only 4 hearts.
The challenge is an assortment of questions from throughout the previous unit, so expect to see examples from every skill you’ve worked through.
In which case: the better you know the unit, the easier you’ll find the challenge.