Around three years ago, IELTS introduced the option for IELTS students to take the test on a computer instead of on paper. Since then, we receive emails from pupils every day asking ‘Which one is easier?!’
Our response is the same every single time – neither!
That’s right, the questions included on the computer-based and paper-based exams are exactly the same.
In fact, Cambridge and IELTS published a number of research papers that compare the results of the computer-based exam with results of the paper-based exam. You can see for yourself at semantic scholar, scientedirect and cambridge.
The only question that you should ask when choosing between the computer-based and paper exam is: Which one is right for me?
To help you decide which exam is best suited to your needs, we asked a number of our VIP students to give us their honest accounts and experiences with each type. This article will outline the pros and cons that we discovered and help you determine which test will help you get the score you need.
Pros of taking the computer-delivered exam
- Easier to edit
A lot of our pupils found that using a computer made it easier to edit their writing. Therefore, they found it much easier to structure and organise their essay.
- Word count
The computer will automatically count the number of words in your essay. A number of our pupils found that this made the exam a little less stressful, as they had one less thing to focus on.
- Less crowded test centres
Computer-based IELTS test centres are typically less crowded and more organised. While this won’t directly impact your score, some pupils found that a better-organised test centre limited the amount of stress they experienced on exam day.
- Handwriting isn’t a factor
If you worry that your messy handwriting could make it difficult for an IELTS examiner to understand what you are writing (especially all you doctors out there!), then the computer-based test is an ideal solution.
- No page flipping!
For the Reading section, the screen will be divided into two parts – the text and the questions. This means that you don’t have to keep flipping pages as you do in the paper-based test.
Cons of taking the computer-delivered exam
> Drawing, highlighting or making notes on the screen isn’t as easy
Despite contrary belief, we discovered that you can right-click to highlight the text or make notes on the screen. However, for many of our students, this wasn’t desirable and would have prefered to use a pen and paper. You are not always given a pen and paper in a computer-based test. If this is a concern for you, you should check with your local test centre to see whether you can get them on the day of your test.
> Screen fatigue
For example, tired eyes or a sore head. Some students find looking at a screen for multiple hours very tiring. (However, this depends on the individual – some people find it harder to focus on a book for too long!)
> The sound of typing can be distracting
If you’re like me and need silence to focus, you might struggle to concentrate when the sound of multiple other candidates typing surrounds you.
> Not everyone is comfortable typing or using computers
The IELTS exam is stressful enough. If the idea of using a computer makes you nervous, the computer-based test could make exam day even more and stressful.
> Fewer practice questions for Listening and Reading
While this hasn’t been a huge complaint, unfortunately, it’s one that can’t really be rectified. It takes YEARS for a single IELTS practice question to be created, approved and uploaded. Hopefully, this will change in the future but there’s not much that can be done for now.
There are a number of pros and cons to taking the computer-based IELTS exam. However, it is important that you realise that they won’t ever improve or impact your ability or score. They will only affect your experience on the day of your exam.
In my own personal experience, students that blame the IELTS exam for their failure rarely ever achieve their required scores. The reason is that students with this mindset don’t like to accept feedback and take action against their weaknesses.
If you’ve taken the IELTS exam multiple times and keep failing to get the score you need, it’s very likely that there are serious problems with your reading, listening, writing, speaking or exam skills. What’s worse is that you might not even know what they are!
If this sounds like you, then take action and send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a minute to tell me about your IELTS history and the score you need to achieve. We can’t promise that we can help everyone as we don’t have the capacity, but we’ll definitely try our best.
You can watch the video lesson we made on this topic below: