Here are the pros and cons of the Computer Delivered IELTS Test versus the paper-based test according to my students and other IELTS experts.
Get the latest official updates here. (Britishcouncil.org)
*Update November 2022 – Academic Test-Takers can take the test online at home, but not for immigration purposes and only in certain countries.
Scroll to the bottom to find some practice sites that I would recommend plus my podcast version of this blog.
Computer Delivered IELTS Test: Pros
- You take it in a smaller room/venue (some centres have individual cubicles), with fewer people, so it’s easier to concentrate and possibly less stressful.
- In some test centres, there’s some flexibility about when you take it e.g. in the morning or afternoon, before the Speaking or after the Speaking.
- You get your results faster
- You have headphones for the Listening, so the sound is clearer and easier to follow.
- Your answers are saved automatically – you do not need to press enter (you can change your answers at any point).
3. TECH HELP
- The word count in the Writing is on the screen
- There’s a timer at the top of the screen – it will flash and turn red when you have 10 and 5 minutes left (Reading and Writing Test)
- In the Reading and Listening tests, you can right-click and highlight the text.
- You can change the screen settings – this lets you change the size and colour of the text.
- You can adjust the volume of the Listening.
- There is a Navigation Bar at the bottom, where you can see your progress and any answers you missed.
- You can go back to review your answers at any point within the time limit. Just click on the number you want to review – this will be highlighted in the Navigation Bar.
- You can edit your writing more easily than with pencil and paper.
4. PERSONAL PREFERENCE
- You don’t have to worry about your handwriting
- Just like the Paper IELTS Test, you can manage your own time, and go backwards and forwards whenever you want to (using the Forward and Back arrows).
Computer Delivered IELTS Test: Cons
- you have to stare at a screen for 3 hours – this can be tiring.
- you can hear people typing all the time (but some centres use noise-cancelling headphones and quiet keyboards)
- In the Listening Test, you have to type (or click and drag) your answer directly as you listen to each section, which many people find difficult.
- you need to be able to listen and type at the same time, which is difficult for some people who are not used to typing.
- You do NOT get 10 minutes to transfer your answers at the end of the Listening test (but you get more time in between each section, and 2 minutes at the end). Some students like the 10 minutes transfer time because you can go back and check your answers and spelling, but now you cannot do that.
2. Tech Issues
- you can’t actually write/draw on the Writing Tasks (but you can open a ‘notes’ window in the Listening and Reading). In Academic Task 1, most people like to draw arrows on bar charts/line graphs so that the key features are easier to distinguish (you still get a pencil and some paper to make notes, but this is not the same as actually writing on the Task itself).
- you may not be used to typing, and this could slow you down
- there aren’t many opportunities to practise taking the test on computer (see my link below for the official practice site)
- It sounds obvious, but you do need to be computer literate. You will need to know how to navigate, scroll, click, clear, highlight, drag and type, copy and paste (CTRL+C and CTRL+V) and be able to do all of these things quickly while also focusing on the test.
- You can waste time if you are not familiar with these computer skills. Note that you CAN use the TAB key to go to the next question – many students say they did not need to use the mouse much.
Listen to the full podcast episode here
Interview with Jessica from All Ears English
1. Computer Delivered IELTS Reading Test
Main advantages of doing the CD Reading Test:
- you save time – you don’t have to keep flipping backwards and forwards, turning the pages over. It’s a split screen, with the passage on one side and the questions on the other side. You have a separate scroll bar for the Text and the Questions (make sure you scroll right to the bottom so you don’t miss any questions!)
- you can double-click and highlight key phrases – this is really clear on a large screen
- you can compare the parallel expressions much more easily
- you can copy and paste gap-fill answers, so you are less likely to make a spelling mistake.
- there’s a timer on the screen, which is better than the invigilator shouting out ‘10 minutes left! 5 minutes left!‘ when you’re trying to concentrate! (but it does not display seconds, so you do not know when the screen will lock you out after the last minute).
2: Computer Delivered IELTS Listening Test
Main advantages of doing the IELTS CD Listening Test:
Many people prefer the CD Listening Test because you use headphones, so this is a MUCH clearer sound, and there is less danger of someone coughing or scraping their chair at a crucial moment! (You also tend to me in a smaller room with very few people, which is less stressful for some people).
Jess’s advice: You can double-click on a word, and a little box pops up. You can choose to highlight text OR to take notes. DO NOT TAKE NOTES! This will distract you too much, you’ll miss answers and waste time.
Make sure you try out the computer test before you do it. You do NOT have 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers. You write your answers as you do the test.
You can find IDP’s Practice for the Computer-Delivered test on their website here.
Get more practice on this Official Australian IELTS site.
3: Computer Delivered IELTS Writing Test
One big drawback of doing the CD IELTS Writing test is that you cannot draw or make notes on the screen, which can be frustrating when you have a graph or chart that you want to annotate to see the key features.
It has been said that some examiners think the quality of answers written on a computer is worse.
This may be true because:
- people type too fast on the computer and make ‘typos’ (small typing errors)
- students write too much (because they can type fast), go off topic and don’t follow a clear structure
- they write so much that they run out of time and don’t proof-read
There’s a danger of getting a false sense of security – it looks good because it’s typed up, so it’s more difficult to see the mistakes.
The key is to be prepared and to practise typing on a computer with a time limit.
Other IELTS FAQs from the podcast
'Can you pass IELTS by using special strategies?'
We’re all human, and we all look for shortcuts and ways of cutting corners so we can achieve our goals faster.
Yes, there are strategies that you should know and learn and use, but find a system that you trust, and only use that system. Choose your path, trust it, and practise those strategies over and over again, especially for Reading. It WILL get easier, though it takes HOURS of practice, using the strategies over and over again.
Ultimately, you’re learning a LANGUAGE. When your language improves, the answers will appear more clearly.
You will need to keep learning English after the IELTS test, so it’s best to start finding strategies that will help you learn English for the long-term.
'How can I stay motivated?'
First of all, be honest and self-aware. If you’ve been stuck at the same Band for a while, why do you think this is? What are the gaps in your knowledge?
Also, if you’re seriously fed up, take a break for a couple of weeks. Spend time enjoying English in a way that motivates you, and then get back to the preparation.
Most people avoid doing what they are not good at – if you’re stuck, you need to do more of the things that you’re not good at unfortunately!
Jessica and I see so much bad advice flying around about the IELTS Test.
Make sure you only follow the advice of people who know what they’re talking about.
How to prepare for the Computer IELTS Test
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