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IELTS Computer Based Test vs Paper Based: Key Differences

Updated on 01 February, 2024

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) came up with 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 the primary difference between computer-based and paper-based IELTS is vital. Those who have taken the IELTS test in the paper-based format will know that the Listening, Writing, and Reading sections will be entirely paper-based, with the Speaking test held face-to-face with trained examiners. The computer test is the same, but the candidate will type the answers on the computer rather than write them on paper.

A Brief Introduction to Paper Based and Computer Based IELTS 

In the paper-based IELTS test, the 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 is 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 the candidate examines the difference between computer-based and paper-based IELTS formats. Here’s a closer look: 

  • Paper-based IELTS will come with an answer sheet and a pencil for writing. The candidates will have to write answers on this sheet within the stipulated time. In computer-based IELTS tests, they 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. 
  • 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. 
  • In the paper-based IELTS format, the candidate will be writing answers in the question booklet while hearing the recording. They get 10 minutes at the close of the Listening section for transferring the answers to the official answer sheet. The candidate will be typing answers in suitable boxes on the screen in the computer-based format. They will have time between the sections for scrutinizing answers without any extra time at the conclusion.
  • 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 in custom-tailored and smaller rooms. Everything in these testing rooms is designed accordingly for maximum comfort. 
  • Everybody appearing for IELTS on the computer will get their machine, a high-quality display unit, headphones for taking the Listening section, and a brand-new room for testing. They will not have to talk to the device so no microphone will hinder performance. Most centers offer noise-canceling headphones to enable better emphasis on self-performance.

Important Resources to Read:

IELTS Writing Task 1 AcademicIELTS Last Minute TipsIELTS Academic Reading
IELTS Speaking Test formatHow IELTS Exam is ConductedIndian Education System Essay
IELTS Academic Writing Task 1IELTS Academic ExamIELTS General Writing Tips Task 2
MBA in Germany Without IELTSHow to Improve IELTS Score from 6.5 to 7IELTS Speaking Tips

Download E-Books for IELTS Preparation

ielts sample essays


Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Computer and Paper-Based IELTS 

While the candidate have ascertained the difference between computer-based and paper-based IELTS formats, here are some major advantages and disadvantages. 

Advantages of Computer-Based IELTS

  • Smaller rooms or venues with lesser aspirants, enabling better concentration and lower stress. 
  • Flexibility in some centers about taking the examination in the afternoon or morning or before/after the Speaking test. 
  • Results are obtained more quickly within 5-7 days. 
  • The word count is visible on the screen for the Writing section; hence there is no need to count words. 
  • The candidates should have individual headphones for the Listening section. This ensures clearer audio and better concentration. 
  • There is a timer on the screen will turn red when the candidate has 10 and 5 minutes remaining for the Reading and Writing tests, respectively. 
  • The candidate will not have to worry about handwriting quality. 
  • The candidate can conveniently edit their content. 
  • The candidate can highlight the text with a right-click in the Reading and Listening tests. 
  • The change the screen settings, including text color and size can be done. 
  • The Listening volume can be conveniently adjusted. 
  • The screen will have a Navigation bar where the candidate can view the progress at the bottom and track answers that they have missed out. 
  • The candidate can review their answers anytime within the overall time limit. Clicking on the number they wish to review and the Navigation Bar will be highlighted for maximum comfort. 
  • The candidate can manage their time and go forward/backward as per their wishes. 
  • Their answers will be automatically saved, meaning they need not keep saving or pressing Enter. They can change any answer anytime without any hassles. 

Disadvantages of Computer-Based IELTS

  • Using the screen for 3 hours may be stressful. 
  • The candidate cannot draw/write in the Writing Task, which may impede some people. 
  • The candidate will not have an extra 10 minutes for transferring their answers after the Listening test, like in the paper-based format. However, they will get more time in between sections and two minutes at the very end. Some aspirants use this extra time for checking spelling and answers. 
  • The candidate will have to click and drag or type answers directly while listening to every portion, which may be challenging. 
  • The candidate can hear people typing behind them, which may be a significant distraction at centers. However, some centers do offer noise-canceling headphones and quieter keyboards. 
  • The candidate may not be used to typing the answers, which may eventually slow their progress. 
  • The candidate must keep listening and typing simultaneously, which is tough for those who are not used to the same. 
  • Not many opportunities are available for practicing the test on the computer. 
  • The candidate will require basic computer knowledge, including scrolling, clicking, navigation, clearing, highlighting, copying and pasting, dragging and typing, etc. 
  • Being unfamiliar with computer operations can waste a candidate’s time. They may 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: 

  • Many students will appreciate the ability to write and draw, particularly in the Writing section. 
  • Students can quickly circle, underline and practice words before writing them on the answer sheet. This is a standard method for many aspirants and is impossible if they take the computer-based IELTS examination. 
  • The candidate need not possess so many basic computer skills and can entirely focus on the task at hand. 
  • The candidate need not be used to typing answers, which will not slow down their speed. 
  • The candidate will get an extra 10 minutes at the end of the Listening section for transferring their solutions to the answer sheet. This is often a boon for several students. 

Disadvantages of Paper-Based IELTS

The disadvantages of paper-based IELTS examinations include the following: 

  • The candidate must count words while writing. 
  • The candidate cannot track progress, and editing/changing answers is more complicated. 
  • The candidate will face issues if the handwriting is not clear. 
  • Transferring answers into the answer box is a process that comes with risks. 
  • Examination venues are usually packed with more students, leading to loss in concentration. 
  • Results need more time to be obtained. 
  • Lack of flexibility in some cases.

More Resources to Read:

IELTS Band Score ChartHow to get 8 band in IELTSTypes of IELTS Exam
Average IELTS ScoresIELTS Score for USAStudy in USA Without IELTS
Study in UK Without IELTSIELTS Reading Band ScoreIELTS Bar Graph
Writing Task 1 Line GraphCollocation for IELTSIELTS Reading Tips


Download IELTS Sample Papers

Reading sample test
Writing sample test
Ielts sample paper1

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Get to know about the latest updates on the IELTS Exam, Eligibility, Preparation Tips, Test procedure,  Exam Pattern, Syllabus, Registration Process, Important Exam Dates, and much more!! This guide is a one-stop solution for every IELTS Aspirant who aims to crack the exam with an impressive band score.


Which Format is the Best - Computer based vs Paper based IELTS

While the difference between computer-based and paper-based IELTS is quite apparent, choosing the format wisely is important. Suppose a candidate has good computer skills, prefers typing, and appreciates greater privacy; it is better to focus and conveniently edit count words, and other features. In that case, the computer-based format is ideal. However, if the candidate is used to practicing and writing on paper, is anxious about typing and computer skills, and wants an additional 10 minutes after the Listening section, then they may consider the paper-based IELTS examination format.

Difference Between Paper-Based and Computer-Based IELTS

For the IELTS General Training and Academic Tests, the candidates can take it either on a computer or on paper. Though the question type, test format, and time allocation are the same, the difference between computer-based IELTS and paper-based IELTS will be felt during the test day experience. Though the speaking section of IELTS remains the same in both paper-based and computer-based IELTS, the reading, writing, and listening, section remain the same in both the paper and computer-based IELTS. The differences between paper based and computer based IELTS are listed below based on various parameters.

BasisIELTS on computerIELTS on paper
BookingSearch for the computer icon while booking the testSearch for the paper icon while booking the test
Test availabilityTest options available up to seven days a week and three times a day

Test options available for 48 days per hours (Thursday and Saturday)


Delivery formatTake the Reading, Listening and Writing sections of the test using a computer and complete the Speaking part face-to-face with an IELTS examinerTake the Reading, Listening and Writing parts of the on-paper test and the Speaking part face-to-face with an IELTS examiner
ResultsResults are declared within 3 to 5 days of taking the testResults are out after 13 days of taking the test


Also Reads:

IELTS Essay on Space ExplorationIELTS Test FormatIELTS General Training Exam
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Frequently Asked Questions

Can one change the IELTS test format from Paper-based to Computer-based?

Students need to contact their test center directly to change from an IELTS paper-based test to a computer-based test. Changing from IELTS paper-based test to a computer test means that the candidate will be receiving all the required devices and equipment for the test.

Which IELTS is better - Paper based vs Computer based?

While both the computer-based and paper-based IELTS have the same difficulty level, This has been observed that the students feel that the computer-based test is more manageable.

Do Universities accept computer based IELTS?

Every university accepts IELTS scores of either computer-based or paper-based test, and students should feel free to choose any version of the test. The computer-based IELTS test excludes the problem of handwriting and is for those who have a good speed in typing.

How is computer-based IELTS marked?

The computer-based test's IELTS Reading and Listening sections are marked automatically by the computer, whereas trained examiners still grade the Writing and Speaking sections.

What is the difference between paper and computer-based IELTS?

While there are many differences between a paper based and computer based IELTS, one of the major ones is how they are conducted. While the Reading, Listening, and Writing sections of the computer-based test are taken using a computer, the Reading, Listening, and Writing parts of the paper-based test are conducted on paper. The Speaking part is undertaken face-to-face in front of an IELTS examiner.

Know More:

IELTS Score for UKIELTS Score for USAValidity of IELTS Score
IELTS Speaking TopicsIELTS Reading TipsIELTS Preparation Books
Types of IELTS ExamIELTS Academic vs GeneralIELTS Exam Pattern

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Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

Mrinal Mandal is a study abroad expert with a passion for guiding students towards their international education goals. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, earned in 2018. Since 2021, Mrinal has been working with upGrad Abroad, where he assists aspiring students in realizing their dreams of studying abroad. With his expertise and dedication, he empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of international education, making their aspirations a reality.

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