IELTS: Should I take the Paper-Based or Computer-Delivered Test?

In 2016, the IELTS Computer-Delivered test rolled out in 20 countries, and now is becoming more and more common in test centers across the globe.  But as the computer-delivered version of the test becomes more common, the question Should I take the Computer-Delivered test or the Paper-Based test becomes more and more frequent among English students.

Both the Paper-Based and Computer-Delivered versions of the test have their pros and cons: The computer-delivered test is offered much more frequently in exam centers, and offers convenience of receiving faster results.  However, the paper-based test offers students a more traditional exam experience.

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Exam centers offer the computer-based IELTS several times per week, generally offering flexible schedules (morning/afternoon).  Test takers complete the listening, reading and writing sections using a computer; the speaking exam is still delivered in an interview format.

The paper-based version of the exam is offered once or twice per month, on Saturdays.  Almost always, students will take the speaking exam a different day.

Regardless of whether you register for the paper-based or computer-delivered version of the test, the content and level of difficulty is the same in both tests.  

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Both exams test your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.  Question types, content, timings and markings are identical.

The true question you need to ask yourself in order to make a decision is: How quickly do I need the exam results? 

If you are under a tight deadline, without doubt the computer-delivered version of the test is your best option.  Apart from having more frequent exams, you’ll receive your results within 5-7 working days.  Students who take the paper-based IELTS generally receive their results within 13 working days.

If you have more time, though, the paper-based version of the exam offers many advantages.  Sure, you’ll have fewer possible test dates, and you’ll have to spend a bit more time waiting for your results, but (in my opinion) you’re avoiding lots of potential problems by taking the exam on paper. 

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Can you imagine seeing the blue screen of death during your IELTS exam?!

How many times have you been working on a computer, and it freezes, or crashes, or has a problem?  Imagine that happening during your IELTS exam…  Even though exam centers are expected to keep their computers maintained, there are so many exam centers around the world that there is definitely a problem happening somewhere, somehow at this very moment.

How many times has your book crashed, or have your photocopies frozen?  Never.  By taking the test on paper, you avoid several potential problems: your test won’t freeze, you won’t have to spend time logging on, registering, etc.  Pencil and paper never fail.

writing-exam.jpgLet’s also think in terms of comfort.  Imagine sitting in a room with 30 computers and 30 people.  It’s going to get quite hot.  I wouldn’t want to be taking the IELTS, while also sweating because the room is too warm.

All things considered, the question on whether the paper-based or computer-delivered version of the test is better for you comes down to the question of how much time you have before you need your results.  

Are you taking the IELTS exam in Bogota?  Check out my IELTS preparation course in Bogota.  Feel free to send me an email with any questions you might have.

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