The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) came up with the computer-testing in 2017. This test was first introduced in Australia and now it has been made available in several parts of the world. Knowing about the basic difference between computer based and paper based IELTS is vital if you have to choose between the two. Those who have taken the IELTS test in the paper-based format will know that Listening, Writing and Reading sections will be completely paper-based with the Speaking test held face-to-face with trained examiners. The computer test is the same but the answers will be typed on computers rather than in papers.
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A Brief Introduction to Paper and Computer Based IELTS
In the paper-based IELTS test, Reading, Listening and Writing sections are to be answered on the examination paper itself. Speaking test in this case will be carried out with a trained IELTS examiner through a face-to-face interview.
Computer-based IELTS will have the Reading, Listening and Writing sections taking place on a computer. The Speaking test will be held in the face-to-face method with IELTS examiners. The examination is completed on the same day for both paper and computer based formats. The Speaking section may be completed up to one week after or prior to the other tests.
Difference Between Computer Based and Paper Based IELTS- Key Pointers
There are several aspects worth considering if you are examining the difference between computer based and paper based IELTS formats. Here’s taking a closer look at the same:
1. Paper-based IELTS will come with an answer sheet and pencil for writing. You will have to write answers on this sheet within the stipulated time. In computer-based IELTS tests, you will have to type answers in their respective boxes on the screen. A pencil or pen and some paper will still be provided for making notes in this format as well. The computer test is tailored for those with basic typing abilities.
2. Just like the paper-based IELTS examination, the computer-based version begins with Listening, followed by the Reading and Writing tests. The Speaking test is held on the same day before or after the computer-based examination.
3. In the paper-based IELTS format, you will be writing answers in the question booklet while hearing the recording. You get 10 minutes at the close of the Listening section for transferring the answers to the official answer sheet. In the computer-based format, you will be typing answers in suitable boxes on the screen. You will have time between your sections for scrutinizing answers without any extra time at the conclusion. Since you will have completed answering, the added 10 minutes will not be required.
4. Paper-based IELTS examinations are mostly held in bigger rooms, sometimes at educational institutions and universities, centrally located establishments and hotels. Computer-based IELTS tests are usually done at custom-tailored and smaller rooms. Everything in these testing rooms is designed accordingly for the maximum comfort.
5. Everybody appearing for IELTS on the computer will get their own machine, a high-quality display unit and their own headphones for taking the Listening section along with a brand-new room for testing. You will not have to talk to the machine and hence no microphone will hinder performance. Most centers offer noise-cancelling headphones to enable better emphasis on self-performance.
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Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Computer and Paper-Based IELTS
While you have ascertained the difference between computer based and paper based IELTS formats, here are some major advantages and disadvantages of both.
Advantages of Computer-Based IELTS
1. Smaller rooms or venues with lesser aspirants, enabling better concentration and lower stress.
2. Flexibility in some centers about taking the examination in the afternoon or morning or before/after the Speaking test.
3. Results are obtained more quickly within 5-7 days.
4. The word count is shown on the screen for the Writing section so you need not count words.
5. You have individual headphones for the Listening section. This ensures clearer audio and better concentration.
6. There is a timer on the screen which will turn red when you have 10 and 5 minutes remaining for the Reading and Writing tests.
7. You will not have to worry about handwriting quality.
8. You can edit your content in a convenient manner.
9. You can highlight the text with a right-click in the Reading and Listening tests.
10. You can change your screen settings including text color and size.
11. The Listening volume can be conveniently adjusted.
12. The screen will have a Navigation bar where you can view your progress at the bottom and track answers that you have missed out.
13. You can review your answers anytime within the overall time limit. Click on the number you wish to review and the Navigation Bar will highlight the same for maximum comfort.
14. You can manage your time and go forwards/backwards as per your own wishes.
15. Your answers will be automatically saved, meaning that you need not keep saving or pressing Enter. You can change any answer anytime without any hassles.
Read More: Know more about IELTS test format
Disadvantages of Computer-Based IELTS
1. Using the screen for 3 hours may be stressful.
2. You cannot actually draw/write in the Writing Task and this may be an impediment for some people.
3. You will not have an extra 10 minutes for transferring your answers at the conclusion of the Listening test, like in the paper-based format. You will however get more time in between sections and two minutes at the very end. Some aspirants prefer this extra time for checking spelling and answers.
4. You will have to click and drag or type answers directly while listening to every portion which may be tough at times.
5. You can hear people typing behind you which may be a major distraction at centers. However, some centers do offer noise canceling headphones and quieter keyboards.
6. You may not be used to typing your answers and it may eventually slow your progress.
7. You have to keep listening and typing simultaneously and this is tough for those people who are not used to the same.
8. Not many opportunities are available for practicing the test on the computer.
9. You will of course require basic computer knowledge including scrolling, clicking, navigation, clearing, highlighting, copying and pasting, dragging and typing, etc.
10. Being unfamiliar with computer operations can waste your time. You may of course use the tab for jumping to the next question without continually using the mouse.
Advantages of Paper-Based IELTS
The benefits of paper-based IELTS can be summed up as follows:
1. Many students will appreciate the ability to actually write and draw, particularly for the Writing section.
2. Students can easily circle, underline and practice words before writing them on the answer sheet. This is a common method for many aspirants and is not possible if you are taking the computer-based IELTS examination.
3. You need not possess so many basic computer skills and can fully focus on the task at hand.
4. You need not be used to typing out answers and this will not slow you down at all.
5. You will get an extra 10 minutes at the end of the Listening section, for transferring your answers to the answer sheet. This is often a boon for several students.
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Disadvantages of Paper-Based IELTS
The disadvantages of paper-based IELTS examinations include the following:
1. You have to count words while writing.
2. You cannot track progress and editing/changing answers is more difficult.
3. You will face issues if your handwriting is not clear.
4. Transferring answers into the answer box is a process that comes with risks.
5. Examination venues are usually packed with more students, leading to loss in concentration.
6. Results need more time to be obtained.
7. Lack of flexibility in some cases.
Which Format is the Best for You?
While the difference between computer based and paper based IELTS is quite apparent, choose your format wisely. If you have good computer skills, prefer typing and will appreciate the greater privacy, better focus and convenient editing, word counting and other features, then the computer-based format is ideal for your needs. However, if you are used to practicing and writing on paper, are anxious about your typing and computer skills and want an additional 10 minutes after the Listening section, you may consider the paper-based IELTS examination format.