Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Many of my students ask me if they should take the paper-based test or the computer test. What they really want to know is which one will help them get a higher score. The simple answer is - neither.
Some students feel more comfortable using a computer, while others would rather old school pencil and paper. Below are the things students told me they liked or hated in their test. Make up your own mind.
In the past, the paper-based tests used speakers in the exam room to play the listening test. This was a problem for many people because they couldn't hear very well. At the moment, most Sydney test centres provide wireless headphones to each student. In the computer test, you will also be given headphones connected to your computer for the listening test. Students who have taken both computer and paper tests report that there is not much difference between the two when it comes to listening.
I always teach my students to circle or underline keywords in the reading questions and to do the same when reading the passage. Many complain that it is not easy to do the same with the computer test. You can right-click on the computer and highlight the text on the passage side of the screen, but you cannot highlight on the question side. Our local IDP test centres provide a free service which allows you to enter the computer room and play around with the software. Ask your local centre if you can take a look before your test date.
In the past, many students worried that the examiner will not be able to read their handwriting and that they might get a lower score because of it. The computer test eliminates this fear, and many students tell me that they can finish earlier on the computer because they can type faster than they can write. On the other hand, most students are less accurate on the keyboard and make many spelling mistakes due to typos.
The other thing my students like about the computer test is the ability to cut and paste. With the paper-based test, you have to use a pencil and an eraser in case you make mistakes. Students spend a lot of time erasing and starting over again, which takes time and adds to stress.
The speaking test is face to face with a human examiner for both paper-based and computer tests.
IELTS is not like the Pearson Test of English (PTE), which requires you to speak into a microphone and uses a computer to score your spoken answers.