IELTS: Computer-based or Paper-based

To type or to write? That is the question.

Congrats on deciding to take the IELTS exam. You’re now probably wondering whether to take up the paper-pen test or the computer-based one, Aren’t you? To help make your decision, we have compiled this list of of pros and cons.

In a nutshell, Computer based testing is better for time management and edits while paper will work out better for those who can’t type fast or have computer related migraine issues.

COMPUTER-BASED (CBT) PAPER-BASED (PBT)
There are a greater number of slots available and the exams are conducted more frequently. You may be able to get a slot even if you try to book one 24 hours prior to the test You will have to book your slot at least a month in advance
Each candidate will be provided a personal computer and headphones Test takers will be given the relevant question booklets and answer sheets
Answers are typed out or selected from the options. Usually a time saver compared to the PBT Answers are to be written out legibly with a HB pencil and the relevant option is shaded in the OMR sheet
You can easily edit your answersErasing or striking out answers previously written is time consuming and reduces clarity
The glare of the screen and your typing speed may slow you down, but you can be assured of the legibility of your answers You will have to make sure you write legibly. This could be a challenge for users who have poor handwriting (myself included). However, you’re likely to be more time efficient while writing, given that the average person writes faster than they type
Questions can be flagged if you need to come back to itNo easy option to remember which questions need to be revisited
The exam hall houses just a few people, so you can expect lesser distractions. However, unless you’ve been provided noise-cancelling headphones or quieter keyboards, the sound of people typing could be distracting The exam hall houses comparatively a large number of people
You can highlight texts in the reading section You can underline or make notes on the question booklet, but the use of highlighter is prohibited
A count of the number of words you’ve typed out will be displayed You will have to estimate the word count yourself. The limited space will make sure you do not stray too far from the topic
A timer displayed on your personal screen will help you keep track A common wall clock will be placed in the exam all for you to keep track
The computer will get locked at the exact end time You are requested to stop writing at the end time
You will be given 2 minutes at the end to review your answers You will be given 10 minutes at the end of test to review your answers and transfer them into the OMR sheet
Your results will be out in 5-7 days   Your results will be out in around 13 days

Remember, time is of the essence when you’re taking the IELTS test so make your decision (paper-pen or computer based) after considering which one you’re more comfortable with and faster at. It would be a good idea to try both forms of mock tests and then decide on the mode of testing that would work for you. My recommendation would be to go for the CBT unless your typing speed is really slow or you have issues using a computer.

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