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Computer-Based vs Paper-Based IELTS Tests

For the reading, writing and listening IELTS paper, you are able to select whether you want to take the computer-based or paper-based test. Many users are unsure of the differences between these two paths. In this article, we will explore how each test works and its advantages and disadvantages.

Quick Facts

  • The paper-based and computer-based tests include the same content – the only difference is where your answers are shown and recorded.
  • The paper-based and computer-based tests are also marked according to the same criteria.
  • The timings and format of the reading and writing tests are the same in both the paper-based and computer-based tests.
  • The timing of the listening test is slightly different, depending on whether you are taking the paper-based or computer-based test. In the paper-based listening test, there are 10 minutes allocated at the end of the test for answers to be transferred onto the answer sheet. In the computer-based test, there is no need for this as you will fill answers in on the screen as you go along. Instead, two minutes will be provided for checking through the answers you have inputted.

Pros of the Computer-Based Test

  • If you are a fast typer, and better at typing than writing, you would benefit from taking the computer-based test. However, if you are a slow typer, the paper-based test is recommended for you.
  • The questions and texts that you must read in the test are displayed on a computer screen, so the text is of a good size and well-illuminated. This could make the text easier to read for some people.
  • Whilst the paper-based and computer-based tests are marked according to the same criteria, the way in which they are marked is different. Therefore, the results of computer-based tests can be published more quickly.
  • Currently, the paper-based test is more popular. Therefore, the exam rooms for the computer-based test are often emptier. If you don’t like the feel of a crowded exam room, this could be a preferred choice for you.
  • As more people tend to take the paper-based test, it may be easier to find a good time slot for your test if you take the computer-based test.

Cons of the Computer-Based Test

  • If you have poor typing skills, this is not the right route for you. Only choose to take the computer-based test if you have good typing skills.
  • At the end of each test, the computer screens will be locked. This means no last-minute changes can be made. The timer on the screen displays only minutes (not seconds), and so you will not know when the screen will be locked in the final minute.
  • If you like to take notes, you may find you are spending time going between working on paper and pen and recording your answers on the computer. For some people, this may be too fussy and time-consuming.
  • You may find you have spent a lot of time preparing for the IELTS tests by working on paper. This will make you unprepared for the computer-based test. If you are going to take the computer-based test, be sure to spend time practising this type of test first.

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