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The IELTS Computer Based Test Guide

Ron Ross March 20th, 2020

When it comes to taking the IELTS exam, many test-takers often wonder about the benefits of taking one format of the IELTS over the other. Thanks to technology, paper-based testing is no longer the only form of testing available. IELTS is now offering the convenience of computer-delivered testing for Listening, Reading and Writing sections. The Speaking section will still remain face-to-face with an examiner. This type of exam is typically referred to as either the CD IELTS (Computer-delivered IELTS) or CBT ( IELTS computer based test).

In this guide, we will look at all questions and aspects regarding IELTS computer based test. Before we get started, to help get you prepared for the computer-based IELTS exam, be sure to check out the official sample of IELTS test questions on the computer. Alternatively, sign up for our IELTS online preparation course and gain access to our 30 IELTS practice tests. All 30 tests offer both paper based and computer based versions.

Now let's dive right in and see what computer-based testing has to offer you. 

Where Is the Difference between Computer Based IELTS and Paper Based IELTS?

In short, the computer-based IELTS exam does not differ from the paper-based exam in terms of questions and content. Both variations of the test offer the four main sections (reading, speaking, writing, and listening). The scoring system for both paper-based and computer-based is the same, too. The IELTS test utilizes the same content and the same marking system for both exam formats. 

The only major difference is that the computer-based test has the reading, writing, and listening completed on the computer. In the case of both exams, the speaking section is held in the form of an interview. 

For the listening section, there is a small difference between the two formats. For paper-based tests, you have 10 minutes at the end of the IELTS listening section to transfer all of your answers from the question paper to your answer sheet. For the computer-based test, you type your answers directly into the computer and will have two minutes to check your answers at the end before submitting your test. 

Finally, computer-based testing can offer quicker results than paper-based. Paper-based tests take approximately 13 days for results, while computer-based results are given within 5 – 7 days. In addition, computer-based testing offers more test date availability than paper-based testing. This is crucial if you want to re-take your IELTS exam or improve your score for whatever reason. 

IELTS computer based test vs IELTS paper based test

(The above image is taken from IELTS essential)

The Features of the Computer Based IELTS Test

The IELTS computer based test software does offer a few extra tools to help you. For example, you can go back and check your answers, change answers, highlight text, take on screen notes, and more. The following videos will help you understand the features of IELTS Computer Based exam.

Introduction to computer-delivered IELTS

 

Listening

 

Reading

 

Writing

 

The Pros and Cons of Taking the IELTS Computer Based Exam

There are a few reasons why a test-taker may jump at the chance of using a computer-based test over a paper-based test. Let's look at some pros and cons of taking the IELTS Computer Based test.

Pros:
  • Less crowded test sites. Fewer people tend to take the computer-based format at one time.
  • More slot availability.
  • Quicker results and feedback.
  • Easy to write and type for those who have excellent typing skills.
  • Screen sizes are great and useful for the reading section of the exam. 

Cons:

  • You will need to be very good at typing. If you feel your skills are not up to par, then paper-based is the better choice for you. 
  • Screens will lock once the time is called. You will not be able to quickly change any answers after. 
  • The timer does not display seconds and will not countdown the last minute before the screen locks. 

The following tables show the pros and cons for each section of the IELTS test.

Listening Section

Pros

1. You can use the tab key to move between parts of the test.
2. It is easier to select answers. Some questions are drag and drop, others require you to type an answer, and a few questions may require you to select boxes.

Cons

1. If you struggle to move between sections you may end up losing valuable test time.
2. You only get two minutes to re-check answers.
3. While you may be given a pen/pencil and paper, you will still need to put your answers onto the computer. 

Reading Section

Pros

1. You can use control functions to copy and paste answers. (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V)
2. You will be able to highlight text.
3. The font size is adjustable.
4. Your passages are on the left-hand side and your questions are on the right-hand side. This makes it easier to skim and search for answers instead of wasting time reading the entire passage. 

Cons

1. It is a bit inconvenient for some people to highlight text on the computer. For most people, it is easier to highlight text on paper using pencils.

Writing Section

Pros

1. There is no need to do your word count, the computer will provide that information to you.
2. You can edit your writing quickly by using the cut, copy, and paste functions. 

Cons

1. Accidental typos and other writing errors are possible.
2. You will need to be able to type quickly and adequately for at least an hour straight.

All in all, choosing either a paper-based test or a computer-based test is a matter of preference for the test-taker and the availability at your local testing center. 

Where Can I Take the IELTS Computer Based Test?

For test-takers around the world, yes you can take the IELTS test on the computer so long as it is offered by your local testing center. Also, many test centers which have computer-based testing usually offer both the academic or general training versions of the IELTS exam.

Testing locations that offer computer-based testing will vary depending on the region. Some countries will offer more test centers with the option for computer-based testing for all IELTS test takers. Other nations, on the other hand, may only offer the computer-based IELTS for those applying for UKVI.

Note: If you are taking the IELTS test to support a UK visa application to work, live or study in the UK, you may need to take the IELTS for UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration). The IELTS for UKVI is only required for UK Visa Immigration. It is the exact same test as the real IELTS test, the only differences are:
  1. It is more expensive
  2. There are surveillance cameras in the test centers.
  3. You may use your IELTS UKVI results just like you would a regular IELTS test. It is the UK that will reject a non-UKVI result when immigrating.

To figure out where you can take a computer-based IELTS exam in your country, check with the official IELTS website - Computer Delivered IELTS or the official computer-based IELTS UKVI site

If you are needing a quick reference to current cities that offer computer-based IELTS exams, check down below. Cities in any given region are subject to change at any given time.

Region Countries & Cities

Computer-based IELTS in North America

Canada (Calgary, Halifax, Mississauga, Montreal, Ottawa, Scarborough, Toronto, Winnipeg), Mexico (Mexico City, Condesa, Coyoacan, Satelite, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Queretaro)

Computer-based IELTS in Oceania

Australia (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Wollongong), New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington)

Computer-based IELTS in Europe

France (Paris), Germany, Greece (Athens), Ireland (Dublin), Italy (Bari, Milan, Salerno, Rome), Poland (Warsaw), Portugal (Lisbon), Romania (Bucharest), Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg), Spain (Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid), Switzerland (Bern, Saint Gallen), Ukraine (Kiev), United Kingdom

Computer-based IELTS in East Asia

China (Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing), Hong Kong (Macao, Hong Kong), Japan (Tokyo), South Korea (Seoul), Taiwan (Kaohsiung, Taipei, Taichung, Taoyuan, New Taipei City, Hsinchu), 

Computer-based IELTS in South Asia

Bangladesh (Dhaka), Sri Lanka (Colombo, Kandy), India (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bathinda, Bangalore, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Mumbai, Noida, Pune), Nepal (Kathmandu), Pakistan (Islambad, Karachi, Lahore), 

Computer-based IELTS in Southeast Asia 

Cambodia (Phnom Penh), Indonesia (Bali, Jakarta, Surabaya), Laos (Vientiane), Malaysia (Kuala Lampur, Penang), Myanmar (Yangon), Philippines (Manila, Cebu, Baguio), Singapore (Singapore), Thailand (Bangkok), Vietnam (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City)

Computer-based IELTS in the Central Asia

Uzbekistan (Tashkent), Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana)

Computer-based IELTS in Western Asia/ Middle East

Azerbaijan (Baku), Cyprus (Nicosia), Turkey (Ankara, Erzurum, Istanbul), Lebanon (Beirut), Israel, Jordan (Amman), Kuwait (Salmiya, Safat), Bahrain (Manama), Qatar (Doha), Saudi Arabia (Al Khobar, Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah), United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah), Oman (Muscat), Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria)

Computer-based IELTS in Africa

South Africa (Johannesburg, Pretoria), Nigeria (Lagos), Kenya (Nairobi), Ghana (Accra)

Computer-based IELTS in South America

Argentina (Buenos Aires), Brazil (Brasilia, Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo), Chile (Santiago), Colombia (Bogota, Medellin), Peru (Lima)

People who are applying for the United Kingdom Visa and Immigration (UKVI) can take a computer-based IELTS in any of the above-mentioned test locations. On top of these locations, there are a few test centers that are specifically used for UKVI applicant IELTS exams.

Unfortunately, these specific test centers for the UKVI can be fairly restricted. These test centers often only offer the computer-based IELTS exam for UKVI applicants who are taking the academic version. The academic version of the IELTS is given to mainly international student visa applicants and medical professional certification.

The general training version of the IELTS, given to applicants for other UKVI visas, is not available at these specific locations.

Will the Computer-based IELTS Exam Become More Widely Available in the Future?

For those who can't take the computer-based IELTS, don't worry! Every year the IELT exam adds new testing locations and centers for computer-based testing. And while this is good news, there isn't a list of which countries will get this wonderful test option.

However, like with all new things, the computer-based IELTS exam trend is sure to spread to more countries as technology and testing progress. 

Final Reminder

Finally, keep in mind that the Listening, Reading and Writing sections of paper-based IELTS are completed on the same day. The Speaking test, however, can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests.

 
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