By Anna Hasper

24 December 2023 - 12:00

A person sitting IELTS in a test centre

Explore the differences between the IELTS on paper and IELTS on computer tests and determine which way of taking the test is best for you. 

In this article:

If you’re planning to take IELTS, you have two choices to make. First, are you going to take IELTS Academic, or IELTS General Training? Once you’ve made a decision about which IELTS test you are going to take, you can decide how you prefer taking the tes: IELTS on paper vs computer.

Before you decide which way would be best for you, it’s important to understand the differences between IELTS on paper vs computer. Let’s take a look at the various points to consider when making your decision.

IELTS on paper vs computer: which is best for me?

Let’s take a look at the various points to consider when making your decision:

  • What are the main similarities between IELTS on paper vs computer? 
  • What are the main differences between IELTS on paper vs computer? 
  • Which way of taking the test will give me faster results? 
  • Which way of taking the test is available to me? 
  • Which way of taking the test works best for my needs? 

The answers to these questions will help you to decide whether IELTS on paper or on computer is better for you.

Learn more about IELTS 

Similarities: IELTS on paper vs computer

In both IELTS on paper and IELTS on computer, your Speaking test will always be with a certified Speaking Examiner. You might be in the same testing room face-to-face or in certain situations, the Speaking test can be conducted using a secure online platform with videoconferencing.

Remember, whichever test you choose, you are taking the same test, with the same marking criteria, content, task types and test report. The main difference is that during the IELTS on computer you use a computer to complete your test. For example, the reading texts and answer booklet are on the screen and you type your answers on the answer form you can see on the screen. This is the same for the Listening and the Writing sections of the test. In both ways of taking the test, you will still have access to paper and a pencil to take notes for yourself.

Differences: IELTS on paper vs computer

Below are a couple of key differences that might impact your choice: 

1. Mode of delivery

IELTS on paper: The Listening, Reading and Writing sections are conducted on paper. You will receive a question booklet and answer sheet for each section of the test. You will write the answers on paper using a pencil.

IELTS  on computer: The Listening, Reading and Writing sections are conducted on a desktop computer and you will be required to type your answers using a keyboard. Using a desktop computer means that you can see the time you have left on the screen at all times. For the Writing section there is an automatic word counter, but you still need to check your own spelling!

2. Test results

IELTS on paper: your results come out 13 days after taking the test

IELTS on computer: your results come out 3 to 5 days after taking the test 

3. Test availability

IELTS on paper: available mostly during the weekends, up to 48 days per year. Check the test dates for Academic and General Training tests with your local British Council office. These may differ according to location. 

IELTS on computer: available in many countries two or three times a day, seven days a week giving you more choice of when to sit the test. 

4. Timing of the test

IELTS on paper: Reading and Writing timings are exactly the same in both ways of taking the test. At the end of the Listening section of IELTS on paper you have ten minutes to transfer your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet. 

IELTS on computer: At the end of the Listening section you only have two minutes to check your answers. It is important to type your answers during the Listening section and we suggest noting down, on paper, any questions you want to double-check before the test closes down automatically when time is up. 

Which way of taking the test is best for me?

Because everyone is different there is no straightforward answer to this question. But there are a few things worth considering before choosing between IELTS on paper vs computer:

1. Familiarity with computers

If you are accustomed to writing by hand or if you are mainly used to reading longer texts on paper instead of on a screen, you might want to consider IELTS on paper. If using a keyboard to type your answers is new to you, it might enhance your stress on test day and cause you to make avoidable errors.

2. Unclear handwriting

However, if you want to take IELTS on paper, you must make sure your handwriting is clear and legible. It is essential that the Examiner can read your handwriting. If the Examiner cannot read what you have written, it will impact your band score. So if your handwriting is difficult to read, IELTS on computer might be a better choice for you.

3. Ability to focus

Most IELTS on paper testing sessions take place in a large room with a lot of other test takers. If you feel this is distracting for you, then IELTS on computer might be a better choice. IELTS on computer takes place in a smaller room with fewer test takers. Another advantage is that you get headphones for the Listening section of the test. You could simply wear these for the complete test to reduce the distraction of other sounds!

Whether you choose to take IELTS on computer, or IELTS on paper, you’ll get the best score if you familiarise yourself with the test format and the type of questions you’ll get in each section of the test. Make sure you sign up to our IELTS Ready free preparation resources.

Learn more about IELTS