When it was first conceived, the IELTS exam was a paper-based test. It remained that way until just a few years ago, when the organisers finally made a IELTS computer-based test alternative. Nowadays, you can choose to either take your IELTS test in the traditional mode or to do it on a computer.
The IELTS computer and paper exams are basically the same, but of course there will be some small differences. There will also be advantages and disadvantages to consider. As such, in this article I will explain to you the things you need to consider when choosing to do the new computer-based IELTS exam.
What parts of the test are done on a computer?
First of all, you need to be aware of how the computer-based IELTS exam differs from the regular paper-based one.
Although the exam content is essentially the same, the two exams are generally delivered in different ways. For the computer-based test, you will not receive papers with written questions or answers on them. Instead, these will be displayed on a computer screen. This is true for both the listening and reading tests.
In addition, you will need to type out your answers for the writing exam on a computer keyboard. You will be able to see what you have written on the screen, alongside the question/prompt that you are writing about.
The only part of the test that will not change is the spoken section. Understandably, this will still be conducted face-to-face with an IELTS examiner. He or she will still sit opposite you in a room and this will not be conducted over a computer screen.
What are the benefits of computer-based IELTS?
Although it is impossible to say objectively that one form of the IELTS test is better than another, there are definitely certain aspects of the computer version that are appealing to many people and which could thus be viewed as major advantages.
Chief among these is the fact that you can type out your essay on a computer. For most candidates, this is a serious benefit over the traditional mode of handwriting an essay on a piece of paper. There are various reasons:
- Most IELTS candidates can type an essay or report lot faster than they can write by hand, meaning that they can finish quicker and spend more time checking their essay, letter or report for mistakes.
- If you make an error, you can easily go back and change it. This can be done by deleting words or inserting new ones. You can even rearrange words.
- You do not have to worry about poor handwriting obscuring your meaning in some way because the computer font will always appear legible.
- The computer screen will display the number of words you have written, thus making it easier for you to see your progress and know when to come to a conclusion.
Beyond just the writing exam and its process, there are other advantages to doing IELTS on computer. For one thing, there are more dates available and also fewer people in each exam room. This means that you have more choice when picking a date and that you will feel less stressed because you will not be surrounded by so many other people.
For all of these reasons, it is generally considered more advantageous to do the IELTS exam on a computer than on paper.
Are there any drawbacks to computer-based IELTS?
Again, it is subjective and so it is impossible to say conclusively one way or another, but there are some issues relating to IELTS that you need to consider.
For one thing, many IELTS candidates train for the listening and reading tests by making notes on the exam paper. In particular, with the reading exam they like to underline words and phrases, make notes in the margins, and generally put pen to paper in order to remember where things are.
Of course, with a computer, this is just not possible. You have to look at the screen (which can even be hard on the eyes) and then write down your answers. Although there is some minor capacity for note-taking, it is generally much less favourable than in the paper-based test. However, computer-delivered IELTS includes features which allow candidates to highlight text in the reading and listening sections of the IELTS exam.
Please note as well that in the paper-based IELTS exam, you will be given time at the end to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer paper. This means that the exams are slightly different in how they are timed. This is not really a drawback, but if you are not used to it, it could be an unpleasant surprise.
When will I get my results back?
When you do the paper-based IELTS test, you have to wait for quite a long time to receive your results. In fact, it can take about two weeks to get them back. This is because each part of your test is read and marked by human examiners who will go over the results several times.
In contrast, results for paper-based tests are returned much quicker. These will be given to candidates within 3 to 5 days, which is less than half as long as results for a paper-based test. This is because the reading and listening tests are marked by automated computer programmes, which are much faster than human beings.
For this reason, the computer-based IELTS test can be more attractive to people who either need their results quickly or are unwilling to wait a long time to receive those important scores.
Although there is no real difference in terms of exam content, many people now choose to do the computer-based test because of some perceived advantages. However, there are things to consider before you make your choice. This exam will prove more attractive to some people and less attractive to others. You should look carefully at the differences before you make your choice and book your test date. Benchmark IELTS offers plenty of IELTS practice tests which you can practice on a computer as a way to prepare yourself for the final IELTS exam.