IELTS Computer-Based vs. Paper-Based Test: What Are The Differences?

One of the most popular language assessment tests is the IELTS exam. It offers two modes of delivery for its test-takers, the IELTS Computer-Based Test and the IELTS Paper-Based Test. 

The IELTS has made the exam more convenient and accessible to its test-takers. Depending on your preference or convenience, you can either take the IELTS Computer-Based Test or the Paper-Based Test. 

However, most test-takers are confused about these two IELTS exams. For example, do they contain the same test format, which is easier or more accessible to take? 

To know more about the IELTS Computer-Based Test and the IELTS Paper-Based Test, we have come up with a comprehensive article, and we will also differentiate these two. 

IELTS Computer-Based vs. IELTS Paper-based Test: What Are The Differences?

What is IELTS?

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a standardized English language proficiency test widely accepted and recognized by educational institutions, industrial companies, and government organizations worldwide.

It is a highly accepted English language proficiency test for non-native English speakers. In addition, this exam was created by the British Council to evaluate the four primary English language skills, including writing, speaking, listening, and reading.

IELTS has two test formats: the IELTS Academic Test and IELTS General Training Test. Moreover, there are over 1,200 official IELTS testing centers located in various countries worldwide. 

Consequently, the IELTS has two modes of delivery, the computer-based test, and the paper-based test. This exam is commonly used for admissions in universities and colleges, global migration requirements, and it delivers a structured and accurate certification for English language proficiency. 

It would be best to consider that the exam fee for the IELTS differs per location worldwide. It is usually around USD 200 for both the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training Test. 

IELTS Two Exam Formats

The IELTS has two exam formats:

Both of these IELTS exam formats assess the English language skills in writing, listening, reading, and speaking.

IELTS Academic Test 

The IELTS Academic Test is suitable for those individuals who want to pursue a higher educational level in international academic institutions in any English-speaking country worldwide.

You can also use this IELTS format to prove your English language proficiency level for admission in doctorate degrees, master’s degrees, and graduate schools programs. In addition, this exam is also suitable for professional registration purposes and the likes. 

Moreover, the IELTS Academic Test uses an advanced and higher English vocabulary and content. That is why it is recommended for academic purposes. 

IELTS General Training Test 

The other IELTS format is the IELTS General Test, and this format assesses one’s English language proficiency for work-related requirements and further employment training. 

In addition, this exam format is also generally used and applicable for those individuals who wish to study for a below-a-degree level in any educational institution — for example, those English-speaking schools or local colleges. 

The IELTS General Test is also considered and preferred by most immigration offices for migration requirements. Consequently, this language proficiency exam uses conversational English language contexts in its exam. It is also usually based on social scenarios and workplace type of settings. 

IELTS Paper-based and Computer-based Test Format

The IELTS offers Paper-Based Tests and Computer-Based Tests for its test-takers convenience. 

In the paper-based IELTS exam, you are to use a pencil and an answer sheet wherein you need to write your answers on the provided answer sheet during the exam. 

On the other hand, instead of writing your answer for the computer-based IELTS exam, you will be typing them and using the computer while taking the exam. 

The computer-based and paper-based IELTS exams share the same exam contents, question types, exam length, and difficulty level. In addition, both four test sections measure English language skills, including writing, reading, listening, and speaking. The corresponding test sections for both test delivery formats are:

Note that the IELTS Paper-based Test and Computer-Based Test speaking section is accomplished and done one-on-one with a certified IELTS examiner. And also, you will take the speaking test section before or after you are done with the three test sections. 

One of the IELTS computer-based test features is headphones while taking the listening test, which is more comfortable and convenient than the paper-based test that the audio clips in the listening test section will be played via a speaker. 

You will also use individual computers at the testing centers if you prefer to take the computer-based IELTS exam. Moreover, you will receive your test results three to five days after your scheduled test date compared to the IELTS paper-based test, which will take about 13 days to release your results. 

More test-takers prefer the computer-based test to the paper-based IELTS exam because it delivers faster results and offers multiple test schedules in a day. It is also available seven times a week. While the paper-based IELTS exam only has 48 pre-scheduled test dates annually. 

Exam Features and StructureIELTS Paper-Based TestIELTS Computer-Based Test 
Test SectionsFour Test Sections: 
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
Four Test Sections:
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking 
Mode of Delivery Paper-Based TestComputer-Based Test
Test Materials UsedPaper and PencilComputer 
Exam FeeApproximately USD 200Approximately USD 200
Exam Length
  • Listening – 30 minutes
  • Reading – 60 minutes
  • Writing – 60 minutes
  • Speaking – 11 to 14 minutes 
  • Listening – 30 minutes
  • Reading – 60 minutes
  • Writing – 60 minutes
  • Speaking – 11 to 14 minutes 
Exam Format
  • IELTS Academic
  • IELTS General Training Test
  • IELTS Academic
  • IELTS General Training Test
Exam AvailabilityAvailable for 48 Pre-Scheduled Test DatesAvailable 7 days a week with 3 test schedules 
Exam VenueOfficial Testing Centers which is conducted in larger roomsOfficial Testing Centers which is conducted in smaller and custom-built rooms with individual computers. 
Test Results Availability13 days3 to 5 days

Additional FAQs

Can I Change My IELTS from Paper-Based to Computer-Based?

Transferring of IELTS test format is allowed. If you wish to change your paper-based test to computer-based, you can do so; however, you need to pay the transfer charge of USD 19 to USD 20 or PHP 1,000. Note that you need to process this 14 calendar days before your scheduled exam date to avoid cancellation or invalid requests. 

Do They Provide a Rough Paper in the IELTS Computer-Based Test?

Yes, they will provide a pen or pencil and paper to write your notes when you take the IELTS computer-based test. In connection, it does not mean that if you take the computer-based test, you will no longer be given a spare paper for you to use if you take the computer-based test. 

Is Computer-based IELTS Accepted?

Yes, the IELTS computer-based test is accepted in various academic institutions and organizations in different countries worldwide. Note that the IELTS test scores are highly recognized and trusted whether it is taken in a computer-based or paper-based format. Moreover, the IELTS is a standardized language proficiency exam that delivers a quality assessment of your English language skills so that you can ensure a reliable and accurate interpretation of your test results.