IELTS on computer vs IELTS on paper: Which test is better for me?

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by David Boyden

IELTS Expert


You’ve practiced.  You’ve prepared.  You’ve studied all day and all night for the IELTS exam.  It’s finally time to book your test date and actually take the exam.  Now you’re faced with a choice: should you take the exam on paper or on the computer? 

IELTS on computer is the newest test delivery method, first launched by IELTS in 2017 (Australia) and now available in Canada.

What is paper-based IELTS?

The paper-based IELTS exam includes the Listening, the Reading, and the Writing sections of the test.  The Speaking section is always conducted in person with an examiner. The subject matter and the style of questions are the same for both IELTS on paper and IELTS on computer.

Advantages of IELTS on paper

The big advantage of a paper-based exam is the familiar setup: you will be sitting at a desk using a pencil and a paper booklet.  

  • This may allow you to focus better on the test questions, not the computer.
  • You do not have to worry about using the custom IELTS computer interface.
  • You can avoid the fatigue of staring at a computer screen for hours. 
  • If a low-tech approach appeals to you than the paper-based IELTS exam might be right for you.  
If you prefer the traditional way of taking tests with booklets and writing materials, consider taking a paper-based IELTS test.

What is computer-delivered IELTS?

With computer-delivered IELTS (or CD IELTS), the Listening, Reading and Writing sections of the test are taken on a computer, at an official testing venue.  An at-home version of the computer test is not currently available, as of February 2022. 

Just like the paper test, the IELTS Speaking section is always conducted face-to-face with an examiner.   

One minor difference is in the IELTS Listening section: you won’t have the 10 extra minutes to record your answers at the end, unlike the paper test.  That’s because this additional time isn’t necessary in computer IELTS.  Instead, you enter your answers directly into the computer as you listen.

Advantages of IELTS on computer

The CD IELTS exam offers other advantages:

  • Instead of scribbling your answers on paper, you use a keyboard for the Writing section of the exam.  Many test takers find this easier and quicker than the traditional pencil-paper style.
  • Your word count is automatically shown to you in IELTS Writing.  If your writing is messy or if you simply type faster than you write, this might be a huge advantage and ultimately pay off in a higher IELTS exam score. 
  • In the IELTS Listening section, you listen to the exam with headphones, instead of a loudspeaker.  While the overall audio quality of the recordings is similar, some test takers prefer the noise-cancelling aspect of headphones. (Tip: you can keep your headphones on for the other sections of the test too!)
  • There are more frequent test dates for IELTS on computer, than IELTS on paper,and results are released in 3-5 business days. 

If you’re comfortable with a computer, on a strict deadline and need results quickly, the CD IELTS test might be right for you. 

Read more about computer-delivered IELTS tests.

IELTS on computer offers many perks, such as on-screen word count for IELTS Writing, or personal headphones for IELTS Listening.

Does it matter which test I choose?

While the decision between a paper test and CD IELTS test might seem important, they are the same test.  The difference is the in the way each test is delivered and how you record your answers (i.e. on paper, or on a computer).

The difficulty level, the subject matter and (most importantly) the certificate are all the same. The standards for marking are the same, and both test formats use the exact same format in IELTS Speaking.

For immigration purposes or for academic purposes, both versions of the IELTS test are treated equally.  Your official Test Report Form (results certificate) will not show whether you took the test on paper, or on a computer.

Ultimately, the benefits of the computer-based IELTS test are only benefits if you are comfortable using a computer.  The paper-based test avoids potential technical problems, allows faster and more effective note taking, and allows students to write notes directly on their test.  If youre a traditional person who prefers the low-technology world of pencils and paper than, without a doubt, the paper-based test is for you. 

Your invigilator will be available before and during your computer test to help with any questions you have.

Should I choose CD IELTS?

Still, the computer-based IELTS test is the most popular choice amongst test takers, and has many advantages that should not be over-looked

Advantages of taking IELTS on computer include headphones in the Listening section, a word count and a keyboard for the Writing section, and a simple computer interface for the Reading section.  Test takers can also enjoy the Speaking section face-to-face with an examiner, just like a real-life conversation.  

Computer-delivered IELTS also offers a larger schedule of times and dates to take the test.  In addition, you’ll receive your results a lot faster than a paper-based test (just 3-5 business days!).  These are all important advantages of the computer-based exam. 

Unless your computer literacy is low and you dont feel comfortable using a computer in general (in which case, its doubtful youd be reading this article), the CD IELTS exam may ultimately be your best choice. 

IELTS Speaking is always face-to-face with an examiner, no matter whether you choose IELTS on paper or IELTS on computer.

Remember to practice the format of the IELTS exam that you choose. If you choose to write a paper-based exam, make sure to print out your practice tests and answer with a pencil.  If you choose to write a CD IELTS exam, make sure to practice on a computer.  Simulating your test environment is the most effective way to study.  Check out the links below for more resources and information, or to book a test!

Useful Links

Book a test
View test locations or click below find a paper or computer test at one of our official venues in British Columbia or the Yukon.
Practice a computer test
Go through common topics, look at sample questions and practice them under test conditions.
Speak to an IELTS Advisor
Interested in IELTS Preparation classes with ILAC Kiss or want to find out more about the IELTS test?  Contact an advisor to find out more today.

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