IELTS computer vs paper: All you need to know

There are two versions of the IELTS test: on computer and on paper. You may be wondering what the differences are between the two and which one you should take. In this blog, we answer the most common questions about the two test formats so that you can make the best choice of which one to take.

Once you have made your choice, we also provide information on how to get ready for either the computer delivered test or paper based test with our free IELTS preparation materials. Ready to find out more? Read on!

Is the computer delivered test different from the paper based test?

Yes and no! In some ways the computer delivered IELTS test is different from the paper based IELTS test, but there are many parts of both test formats which are the same.

How is the computer delivered test different to the paper based test?

To start, the computer delivered test is taken on a computer instead of using a pen/pencil and paper. This is the main difference between both formats of the test.

In the computer delivered test, you read and answer questions on a screen and you use a keyboard and mouse to complete the test. You do not need any special technical knowledge to do the test on computer and there are staff on hand at the test centre to help you with any technical questions you may have, but you are unlikely to have many questions as taking the test on computer is very user friendly!

During the Listening, Reading and Writing sections, you are able to highlight text and make notes on screen. You can find out more about how the computer delivered test format works by watching these useful IELTS computer delivered test video guides.

During the writing tasks, you type your answers directly rather than writing on a paper. It is useful to know that there is a word count on the screen so you can see how you are progressing throughout the task.

Computer delivered vs paper based: your results

One main difference between the test formats in the time it takes to receive your results. Computer delivered test results are available in 3 to 5 days after your test date while paper based IELTS test results are available 13 days after your test date.

Computer delivered vs paper based: Test Frequency

Another difference between the two formats is the test frequency. Paper based IELTS tests are available 4 times a month (3 Saturdays and 1 Thursday). Computer delivered tests are more available with some test centres offering test sessions up to 3 times a day, 7 days a week, so there is more flexibility at when you can take the test. To search for test dates and locations, visit our IELTS registration page.

How is the computer delivered test the same as the paper based test?

Test format

The content for both test formats is the same. In addition, the speaking test for both the computer and paper tests is always face-to-face (either in person or over a video call). Both formats of the test are taken at a secure official British Council test centre giving you a perfect environment to perform your best during the test.

Is the computer delivered test easier than the paper based test?

This is a common question! Because the content is the same, the computer delivered test is not easier (or more difficult) than the paper based IELTS test.

Do I need my own computer to take the computer delivered test?

No, you will not need your own computer as the computer delivered test is taken at an official test centre. You will have your own computer and headphones (for the listening test). There will be dividers between you and other test takers so you can complete your test in privacy and without distractions.

So, which one should I take, the computer delivered test or the paper based test?

This choice will depend on your preference on how you like to take an English language proficiency test. Do you prefer to type your answers or to write them on a piece of paper? It is best to choose the test that you are most comfortable with. It is worth taking practice tests for both computer delivered and paper based and see which one you prefer.

One reminder is that if you need your results quicker, the computer delivered test may be a better option as the results are delivered in 3 to 5 days.

Do I need to prepare differently for the computer delivered test?

The content of both tests is the same so any of our IELTS preparation material will be useful for you to get familiar with the test structure. Take IELTS practice tests for both formats so that you are familiar with each type of test.

I am ready to take my test. How can I find available test dates?

If you are ready to take your test, visit our registration page to find IELTS test dates. Each test centre will be indicated with icons for computer delivered testing and paper based testing. Many of our test centres offer both formats of the test. With over 100 IELTS test locations across 50 cities in Canada, you are sure to find one close to you! Best of luck!