IELTS Paper-based test or IELTS Computer-delivered test?

Guess which is the most widely taken test of English in the world today.

You got it – it’s IELTS.

IELTS is the world’s most popular English language test, taken by over 5 million people every year for many different reasons. Some take it to study in an English speaking country, some take it to apply for a job and some candidates need IELTS to migrate to another country. These are just a few reasons for taking IELTS but but there are so many more!

Up till now, you could only take the paper based IELTS test but now you have the option of taking the computer based test as well.

So what’s the difference between the IELTS paper based and computer delivered tests? 

Let’s look at 3 main differences.

1. Test dates and location

The computer-delivered test has more options for test dates and locations. So, you have more choices about when and where to take the test. 

2. Test results availability

The computer-delivered IELTS test is processed more quickly and the results are available 5-7 days after taking the test. So you can log in to check their results only  5-7 days after the test and Universities and recognising organisations receive the results quickly so they can process your applications faster.

For the paper-delivered test, you must wait 13 working days for your results.

3. Test centre

Both Computer and Paper-delivered tests are taken at official test centres. The computer-delivered test takes place in computer labs, which have the most up to date technology.

For the paper-delivered test, you will write your answers on paper in the designated room.

4. Listening test length

In the Listening module of the computer delivered test, you only have 2 minutes after the recording to check your answers whereas in the paper based test, you have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet and check them.

Although the technology might be new, everything else about the test is the same.

What are the similarities between the IELTS computer-delivered and paper based tests?

Test structure & questions

The structure of the test and questions are the same. Listening, Reading and Writing are all on the same day with no breaks in between. Speaking part may be immediately after the Listening, Writing and Reading modules or may be up to a week before or after them.


The tests are assessed in exactly the same way. All IELTS scores are between 0 and 9. You can also get half bands such as 6.5. You will get a separate band score for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking and the overall band score is the average of all of these.

Level of difficulty

The level of difficulty for computer and paper-delivered tests is the same because the content is exactly the same for both tests.

Length and timing

The length of the test and timings are the same. The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes for all 4 sections.

You have 30 minutes for listening to the recording and 2 minutes to check your answers (10 minutes for the paper-delivered test). The Reading section takes one hour and you do not have any extra time to check your answers or to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. For the Writing section, you have one hour for two tasks. The Speaking test takes around 14 minutes for all 3 parts.

Speaking is still face-to-face

The speaking test remains face-to-face with a certified live IELTS examiner. In Part 1 you answer questions about yourself and your interests. Then, in Part 2 you are given a topic and must talk about it for 2 minutes. And lastly, in Part 3 you have a discussion with the examiner about something related to Part 2. 

Academic and General Training tests are available

Both Academic and General Training tests are available on paper and on the computer. Make sure you know the differences of the two tests and what is the right for your purpose!

How to choose between the IELTS paper-based and the IELTS computer-delivered test.

On the official IELTS website, you can find more information about the computer based test, dates and where computer-delivered IELTS tests are available.

If you are considering taking a computer-based IELTS test, be sure to familiarise yourself with the materials and the computer-delivered experience. There’s so much available for you to prepare yourself for the test. You can review the test support materials and tutorial videos and take free sample tests.

So see what is most convenient for you and which you feel more comfortable with. Is it computer or paper? This will give you more confidence so you can perform better on the test day.

Whether you choose the computer-delivered test or the paper-based test, be sure you prepare well and effectively!

In order to pass the IELTS test, you have to prepare well and effectively. Fortunately, the IELTS Elephant course gives you all the information you need to achieve a 7 or a higher band-score. The course teaches you all the IELTS techniques, methods and tips you need to know to succeed. It also provides a free ebook with extra practice material so make sure to check it out!

Good luck with your IELTS journey!