IELTS Computer Based Vs IELTS Paper Based

The IELTS is one of the most popular English proficiency assessments, and one important reason for its widespread acceptance is the diversity of possibilities for taking the exam. As a result, IELTS is the first choice for applicants who want to take an English proficiency test.

In computer-based IELTS, candidates listen, read, and write on a system, whereas in traditional pen-and-paper IELTS, the same modules are attempted on an answer sheet alongside question papers. Both the computer-based exam and pen-and-paper modes have face-to-face speaking sessions.

IELTS Computer Based Vs IELTS Paper Based

It is critical to note that both modalities of assessment, i.e., CBT or paper-based IELTS, may be determined by a variety of parameters.

How different is the computer-based exam from the pen-and-paper mode of IELTS? 

The sole distinction between IELTS on computer and IELTS on paper is your test-taking experience. Both the IELTS on computer test and the IELTS on paper test have the same test format, question categories, time allotted to each test portion, and material.

If you choose to complete your IELTS test on a computer, you will do the Reading, If you opt to take your IELTS exam on a computer, you will complete the Reading, Listening, and Writing sections of the exam on a computer. All responses should be typed out on the screen. During the Listening test, you will also be allowed to take notes on a sheet. You would complete the Reading, Listening, and Writing sections on paper if you take IELTS on paper.

You can finish your Writing test using a pen or an HB-pencil, but you must use an HB pencil to write your Listening and Reading answers on the answer sheet. The Speaking test is conducted in a face-to-face interview with an IELTS examiner in both the IELTS on paper and IELTS on computer tests.

How can I know if I should take the computer-based exam?

It is mostly determined by two variables. To begin, if you need a test result quickly for submission to the institution or other purposes, CBT is the ideal option because the results will be sent to you in 3 to 5 days. Second, if you are comfortable using a laptop or computer on a regular basis and have an average typing speed, you can take the computer-based IELTS test.

Candidates who have problems with illegible handwriting may also select the computer-based exam. Handwriting is vital in the pen-and-paper mode since illegible writing can lead to a lack of clarity and thus a loss of score. Since its introduction in 2018, the computer-based test has grown in popularity, and a considerable number of pupils now utilise it.

Is the computer-based IELTS easier than the pen-and-paper exam?

The level of difficulty is the same for both IELTS on computer and IELTS on paper because the exam format, question types, time allocated to each test portion, and content are the same. As a result, computer-based exam tests are neither harder nor easier than pen-and-paper tests.

The only difference could be your degree of comfort taking your IELTS exam on a computer. The IELTS computer test includes a help button to aid you throughout the exam. This help option outlines question categories as well as how the test works. In the IELTS computer exam, you can also adjust some of the settings, such as the text size on the screen. This is especially useful for the reading module, as you may alter the font size to your liking. As a result, if you are tech-savvy, you may want to take IELTS on a computer.

What are the advantages of computer-based IELTS tests?

Let us briefly look into the major benefits of the CBT

  1. Results are obtained in 3 to 5 days.
  2. More test dates and locations are being added to ensure ready availability.
  3. The fear that comes with writing quickly and your handwriting becoming illegible can be avoided entirely.
  4. The stress associated with page flipping in the pen-and-paper format is eliminated in CBT since the questions are displayed on the left side and the passage on the right, making it easier to locate keywords and answers.
  5. Only an ordinary typing speed will suffice to complete the writing work on time.
  6. There is no physical strain as a result of sore hands.
  7. Generally less crowded and well organised.
  8. The computer will display your word count as you write, saving you the time of counting words on paper.
  9. In this mode, editing and proofreading are simpler and less messy.
  10. You can copy/paste from the text during the reading test by pressing CTRL + C and CTRL + V, which decreases the possibility of typo errors.

What are some of the drawbacks of Computer Based Test?

First and foremost, CBT should be used exclusively by persons who have some experience using a computer or laptop; otherwise, it can impair performance owing to a lack of fundamental understanding. Other downsides include:

  1. Inability to highlight or mark on a screen, which might have a significant impact on the applicant during the reading module.
  2. Screen tiredness can occur as a result of gazing at a screen for long periods of time.
  3. If you are not used to reading articles and long paragraphs, or if you do not know how to navigate the screen, taking the exam will be challenging.
  4. The sound of typing can be disturbing to certain candidates because all other candidates’ typing can be heard at the same time.
  5. There are very few practise materials accessible for the listening and reading modules according to the original CBT exam format, making it challenging to understand the real-time experience of performing it online.
  6. Some candidates become more worried when they consider employing a computer to administer the exam. The computer-based test may make exam day even more unpleasant for them.
  7. In preparation for the listening exam In contrast to a paper-based listening exam, where you have 10 minutes to transmit your answers onto the sheet, you only have 2 minutes to review your answers.
  8. It is difficult to notice spelling mistakes while proofreading, and the chances of committing typo errors are increased, which will result in a lower score if they occur in excess.
  9. After the timer expires, the screen locks itself, preventing you from making any last-minute alterations.
  10. Since the timer does not indicate the seconds in the last minute, you will not know when the screen will lock.


There are some advantages and disadvantages to taking the computer-based IELTS exam. However, you must understand that they will never increase or influence your talent or score. They will only have an impact on your exam day experience. If you are a good typist with poor handwriting and are experienced with computer operation, a computer-based IELTS exam is the best alternative for you. Whatever style you pick, getting feedback on your work, rectifying errors, and practising frequently will help you obtain a higher score.

Shruthi Raveendran

I am Shruthi Raveendran, a TEFL-certified IELTS/PTE and ESL tutor who has 8+ years of experience working in the education industry. I am a passionate writer, logophile and film enthusiast

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