Paper-based vs. Computer-based IELTS

November 9, 2020


IELTS or the International English Language Testing System is a widely accepted English proficiency test across the globe. IELTS test is usually taken by people who are looking to migrate, work, or study to English speaking countries. IELTS is meant for those people who have English as their second language. Read on to learn the pros and cons of giving Computer-based IELTS vs Paper-based IELTS.

Until 2017, the IELTS test was conducted in pen-paper mode. After that, IELTS introduced the computer-based examination option for the students in place of pen-paper mode. The first country that introduced the IELTS computer-based examination was Australia and now it’s available around the world.

Both modes have their advantages and disadvantages. The obvious difference in the computer-based test and the paper-based test is that you have to type the answers on a computer instead of writing on a paper. If you judge very carefully, you will understand some other differences as well.

So, if you are looking forward to immigrate to Canada or any English speaking country, then it is a must that you efficiently qualify the IELTS examination. Let’s now discuss the differences between the paper-based test and computer-based test, their pros and cons.

Types of IELTS Test

Depending on one’s purpose of interest, the exam is further classified into IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.  IELTS Academic is suitable for students who wish to pursue any degree programme or for those who are seeking professional registration in the UK. IELTS General Exam is taken by those who plan to work or migrate to an English native land like Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the U.K. 

IELTS: Test of four skills

Being a task-based exam, IELTS consists of four sections namely:

  1. Listening
  2. Reading
  3. Writing
  4. Speaking 

IELTS on Paper vs. IELTS on Computer


Whether it is paper-based or the computer based IELTS you have to appear for both the tests in-person in a predestined location selected by you at the time of registering for the exam. The only difference that you can encounter between the two modes is that the paper-based test takes place at a larger venue comprising of 100-150 students while the Computer-based IELTS takes place at a smaller venue which allows one candidate per computer.


Be it IELTS paper-based or IELTS computer-based, the timings are usually the same. But the only difference between the two is the mode of delivery, the paper-based IELTS test is given by the means of pen and paper. While in the computer-based test you make use of the computer desktop to answer the questions.

Order of Test

Similar to the paper test, the computer-based test also starts with Listening, followed by Reading, and Writing. The Speaking test either takes place on the same day before or after your computer test or it is held a week before or after the other sections are conducted. 

Listening section is shorter

In the paper-based test you are given 10 minutes at the end of the listening section to transfer your answers to the answer sheet from the question booklet. Whereas in the computer-based test, you type your answers directly in the appropriate places on the screen and you do not get any extra time at the end. 


The assessment part is different in both the types, in IELTS computer-based test, the test is saved in the computer and directly uploaded to the server. Whereas in the IELTS paper-based test, the answer sheets are collected in person by the examiner, and are sent to the marking facility. 

Reasons for Preferring Computer-based IELTS Examination

We all belong to the digital era and computers are mostly preferred than any paper based examination. It is pretty well predicted that very soon the computer based IELTS will be taking over the globe. Now, if you are still wondering why you should go for a computer based IELTS examination, then here are some popular reasons.


In the computer-based test, the writing task is comparatively easy, as you are allowed to both rewrite and edit the sentences whereas in the paper-based test, once you have written you cannot change it. Apart from this, in the computer-based test, you in fact get more time to proofread in the end.

Word count 

In the computer-based IELTS test the computer automatically keeps count of the number of words in your essay. A lot of people who undertake paper-based IELTS test find it stressful to keep a count of words.

Handwriting isn’t a factor

If you worry that your handwriting could make it difficult for the IELTS examiner to understand what you are writing, then the computer-based test is an ideal solution.

Countdown clock

The other benefit in the computer-based test is that you are warned about the running time through the countdown clock placed on the desktop itself, whereas in paper-based IELTS you sometimes tend to forget the time scenario while you are busy writing the test.

No page flipping 

For the Reading section, the screen will be divided into two parts with the text on one side and the questions on the other. And you don’t have to keep flipping pages as you do in the IELTS paper-based test.

Quick Results 

In case of computer-based IELTS test you get your results out within 5-10 days whereas the paper-based IELTS test takes up to 4-6 weeks.

Use of headphones

In the paper-based test, in the listening section, audio is played on the speaker which usually creates the issue of clarity whereas, in the computer-based test, every candidate is provided with a pair of headphones separately which helps the candidate to listen clear audio and focus. 

But there are also some disadvantages

  • You have to stare at a screen for nearly 3 hours which can be tiring.
  • You have to type your answer directly as you listen to each section, which some people may find difficult.
  • If you are not used to typing, this could slow you down.
  • It sounds obvious, but you have to be a computer literate. You will have to know how to navigate, scroll, click, clear, highlight, drag and type, copy and paste and be able to do all of these things quickly while also focusing on the test.

To Conclude…

So, above we have seen some grounds of differences between the paper-based IELTS test and the computer-based IELTS test, but both the tests are similar in the test format and timings. There may be a number of advantages and disadvantages to taking the computer-based IELTS exam or paper-based IELTS exam. However, it is important that you realize that they won’t ever impact or improve your ability or score. They will only influence your experience on the day of your exam.

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