Units and checkpoints on Duolingo have long been some of the most important references of where you’re at in your target language.
For a long time, Duolingo used fancy castles and bolted doors to represent its units and checkpoints. And for many, this will still be the case.
However, as you may be aware, Duolingo is changing — and so too are its units and checkpoints.
The ‘tree’ is out and the new learning path is in. As of September 2022, Duolingo is still rolling out the new format, so you may or may not have it yet. If you’ve got it, then you’ll notice that units are still a thing, but they’re a bit different to how they used to be.
As such, this article goes over the two different versions of units and checkpoints. The first part covers the original and the second part covers the new.
Shall we get into it?
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What are Duolingo Units?
Let’s start with the original version of Duolingo units.
On the tree, Duolingo represents its units with some rather fancy-looking castles.
Some courses have 2, others have as many as 10!
A unit on the Duolingo tree 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.
duolingo new learning path units
Duolingo’s new learning path takes a slightly different approach to units.
Units on the new learning path are much smaller than on the tree. They usually only contain a handful of levels. Depending on the course, these will usually be grouped thematically and contain a nice mix of exercises (including stories).
Also, depending on the course, each unit comes with its own guidebook. This gives you the lowdown on all the juicy grammar and vocabulary explanations you’ll need to ace the unit.
What are Duolingo Checkpoints?
Now for the checkpoints.
On the tree, a checkpoint 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.
duolingo new learning path checkpoints
As with the units, Duolingo’s new learning path takes a different approach to checkpoints.
The main difference is that it doesn’t really have any. Each unit ends with a challenge containing up to 8 levels. However, you only have to complete the first level to move on to the next unit.
Alternatively, you can jump ahead to a unit further along the path by tapping JUMP HERE at the start of the unit.
How to unlock a checkpoint on Duolingo
To unlock a checkpoint on the Duolingo tree, 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 grueling. 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 on the Duolingo tree, 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?
This depends on a couple of things.
The main thing is which version of Duolingo you’re running. If you’ve got the old tree, then you’ll have significantly fewer units than if you’re running the new learning path.
It also depends on the course you take. As you’ve probably guessed by now, some courses have more content than others. So, as a general rule of thumb: the more content, the more units there are likely to be.
The French course, for instance, which is easily one of Duolingo’s most popular and feature-rich, has a whopping 10 units to work through on the old tree.
Navajo, on the other hand, only has the one unit on the old tree.
When to do a checkpoint
In most cases, the best time to tackle a checkpoint on the old tree 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 made the checkpoints on the old tree pretty grueling.
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.