The Computer Based IELTS Exam

Taking the IELTS exam. Paper or Computer? Which one is best for you?

You can take a computer based IELTS Exam or take the exam on paper.  Both versions provide the same questions and both require that the speaking test is always carried out face to face with an IELTS examiner.  The experience is slightly different though so, in this article,  we will explore the pros and cons of a computer based IELTS exam.

Are there any differences?

The main difference is that, with the paper based listening test, you have 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer sheet. With the computer-based test you type your answers in directly and have two minutes at the end to check them.

Availability oi the Computer-Based Exam

A factor to consider is whether taking the IELTS exam by computer is available in your area. The paper format of the IELTS test is currently more widespread than the computer version so you may find a test centre closer to home if you opt for the paper version.

There are a couple of extra factors to consider if you can’t decide how best to take your IELTS exam.

Taking the IELTS exam by paper


  • It is more widely available
  • You get an extra 10 minutes on the listening test to allow for time to write your answers
  • If you realise you have made a mistake on an earlier question you can easily go back and change it.


  • Your handwriting needs to be legible and you will be marked down on spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Task 3 is all about planning, labelling, and diagram labelling. It would be easy for this to become messy and difficult to read if you make mistakes. Crossings out cannot be erased.

Taking the IELTS exam by computer


  • Easy to use. Once you have written your answer, it automatically moves on to the next question.
  • Your computer screen has a timer and will flash red when you are in the last 10 minutes of the test, helping you to keep track of time.
  • Your handwriting style is unimportant and your answers will be legible and easy to read.


  • Not available in all areas
  • You only get 2 minutes to check through your answers at the end of test.
  • The questions can be answered in different ways. For example, some ask you to type in an answer whilst others ask you to drag and drop and others ask you to check boxes. Therefore, it is a good idea to get familiar with the different ways of answering the questions.

If you are confident about your handwriting and ability to keep the paper clean and neat, the paper option may suit you better. You do get a little longer with this option and it is easier to revise any earlier mistakes.


The important thing when taking any exam is to feel comfortable and as relaxed as possible so that you can focus on the answers rather than coping with extra worries of untidy handwriting or using technology.

Is your handwriting difficult to read?

If neat handwriting is really not your thing and you are more comfortable behind a screen, then you should definitely opt for the computer version.

Can you type well?

If you prefer working on a computer and can type reasonably quickly, then this one is probably your best option.

So, there are no real advantages between the computer based IELTS Exam or the paper based exam; the way that you take the test just comes down to personal preferences.

Paul Andreas

Paul Andreas is a Certified Speaking Coach and qualified TEFL Teacher Online English Lessons delivered by Skype for IELTS exam preparation and conversational English. Get a free trial lesson.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Keller

    I think I will be taking the exam by computer. There are a lot more benefits to do it that way, and I feel like I will make fewer mistakes than if I did it with a pencil. A pencil is messy, and I don’t want to have to take it again. Thank you for the advice!

  2. Paul Andreas

    I’m glad that you found the advice useful, Keller. Best Wishes for your exam.

  3. BernardDreme

    Thank you for this useful information.

  4. Wrights Iyke

    I think that the choice of choosing between the handwritten and the computer-based IELTS exams depends on an individual’s preference. Seeing that both options come with their individual pros and cons, it all boils down to how an individual will be able to manage the chosen option to the best of their ability, and most especially for a high band score.

  5. James Parker

    I am glad that I was able to find an IELTS exams centre around my location with the computer based option. I have a terrible handwriting, which in most cases is only visible to myself. So, I was really worried about failing the IELTS exams because of my poor handwriting which I was scared the examiners would find very difficult to read.

  6. Andrew

    Thank you for sharing this information. I feel more confident about taking the computer based IELTS test now.

  7. Pat Smythe

    Thanks for this useful information. I now have more idea about the differences between the paper exam and the computer exam and will be able to make an informed decision.

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