Should You Take the Computer or Paper IELTS?

Have you ever taken the computer-based version where you live?


The computer-based version is at least at this time offered mainly in large cities in very central locations. So you may have to travel a long distance to take the exam.

The paper-based version may be available somewhere closer to you. So is it worth it to travel a long way? Here, we're gonna analyze some factors that may help you decide that, but just keep in mind, in general, the two versions of the test are basically the same. One is not tougher than the other.

The paper-based version is offered only once or twice a month. So many students show up to the test center, large room in many cases where you're with a lot of other people. There can be some crowding or just it's more difficult to schedule an exam because so many people are trying to take it. Computer-based version is offered more frequently and it tends to be, if the center isn't smaller, at least you have fewer people right around you. You've got your own little workspace for the computer-based version of the test. Therefore, it feels like there's less of a crowd, less competition or less noise or whatever it is that might bother you about a crowd.

Listening section

The listening section is considered one of the sections of the computer-based test that is actually quite a bit more difficult than the paper-based version. The difficulty is not because of the content of the test as you're going to get the exact same listening passages, the exact same kinds of questions on both versions of the test. The difficulty is about other things.


First of all, on the computer-based version of the test, you have to type. You have to scroll down through the answer choices for some types of questions. And you have to do all of this while you're listening as hard as you can. If for some students, it's much easier on the paper-based version to have all those questions in front of you in your booklet. You've got your pencil there, you can scribble notes. You can write down things that you think might be the correct answer. You can underline things in your question. It's just easier a little bit to do while you're listening to the speaker's talk because you have to answer questions while you listen on the listening section on both versions of the test. For the computer-based version, there's just a little more stuff going on, the scrolling, the typing.

However, on the computer-based version you can take notes, and they are going to give you some paper, but it really isn't all that useful. It's really not advisable on the listening section for the computer-based test to use your note paper. If you are somebody who relies on your notes, who's circling things, underlining things, you're writing down answers in your test booklet. And if that's a key strategy for you, a thing that really helps you answer questions correctly, then you may want to consider taking the paper-based version of the test for that reason, because those notes are much more difficult to take on the computer-based version of the test.

Last but not least, there is no ten minute transfer period at the end. So after you've heard the last listening passage of the paper-based version of the test, IELTS gives you ten minutes to take all your answers that you wrote down in your test booklet and transfer them over to your final answer sheet.
It's an important time for you, you can look back at your questions again, you can decide what you wanna put on your final answer sheet. It's also a time when you can check your spelling, some of you who have difficulty spelling, you can go and review those little details related to your answers as you transfer them to the answer sheet on the paper-based version of the test.

On the computer version of the test, you don't have that time. They give you about two minutes right at the end just to check your spellings. You can go back through your answers from one to number 40 in the test but that's not really enough time to really think about your answers for any other questions.

Reading section

Some people do better when they're reading, having that piece of paper there where you can do all of those things with your pencil and sort of keep track of information by marking them up, taking notes. Fortunately, on the computer-based version, you can also make notes, you can also highlight information, but you're doing it all on the screen.

So that's a skill, first of all you have to practice a little bit. And we have those features in our website for your practice. You can highlight in exactly the same way you can for the IELTS exam, so you'll have to practice that.

It should be easier for someone to read and understand while you're taking note with a pencil in your paper booklet. However, others are just fine or it may be even better for them to use the highlighting features provided on the computer-based version of the test. Practice those things, get a sense of how well you do and how easy it is for you to retain information.

Writing section

Remember and answer questions correctly as you do practice questions for both versions. For the writing section, how well do you write on a computer versus on paper? Well, some people can write much faster and feel very comfortable typing and they can often type faster than they can write by hand. Therefore, if you can write significantly faster, that can give you a big advantage on one version or the other. So editing, here, editing is much easier to do on the computer. 


So if that's a key factor for you, if writing speed and also the process of editing are really, really hard for you on the paper-based test, then the computer-based version may be a reason to choose the computer-based version of the exam. Another simple one, some people's handwriting is really, really difficult to read.

And you can lose points on the IELTS exam if they can't read your words, if they don't know what you're saying. So if your handwriting is really, really tough to read, then maybe the computer-based version is the right choice for you. Finally, the computer-based version of the test has a word counter. So you will know if you are under the word minimum or over it.

If you're someone who can write a lot of information and you can write with speed by hand, you're easily getting over the word count, not something to really consider that much. It could help you strategically in some ways to have the word counter there. But especially for students who are struggling to get those words counts, that word counter could be a big factor for you on the reading section.


Well, think about whether taking one version of the test or the other is gonna help you boost your score in that troubling area for you.  So, think it through, make a list if you have to, the pros and the cons of both versions of the test, try to decide which version of the test will give you the best advantage on exam day.