IELTS Test Experience: paper-based and computer-based

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is one of several internationally recognized English language tests, which involve testing for listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. Maybe you have heard of several other types of tests, such as the TOEFL, TOEIC, and PTE.

In this article, I will not write about the differences between the various types of tests, but share my experience when taking the paper-based and computer-based IELTS tests. If you don't know about IELTS, such as the number of questions, the duration it takes, and the score is given, you can read about it at the following link

IELTS test experience

I have taken the IELTS test twice. In March 2020, I took the paper-based IELTS, which is an IELTS test that uses printed paper for questions and answer sheets. Meanwhile, in March 2022, I chose to take the computer-based IELTS, where the questions and answers were computer-based. Both, I took the Academic IELTS.

Academic IELTS intends for those who wish to continue their studies in a country where English is the primary language. So, Academic IELTS can be used in the university application process and educational scholarships.

For fees, there is no difference between paper-based IELTS (PB) and computer-based IELTS (CB). I paid different fees not for using different modes, but for testing in different years. In 2020, the cost I spent was 2.8 million rupiahs. While in 2022 it is 3 million rupiahs.

Personally, I prefer CB over PB on the IELTS. So, what is the difference between paper-based IELTS and computer-based IELTS? 

Difference between CB IELTS and PB IELTS PBT


In both PB and CB IELTS, we are asked to solve 40 questions in 30 minutes. If the PB will be given about 10 minutes at the end of the listening test, the purpose of which is to copy and recheck the answers on the answer sheet, we will only be given 2 minutes on CBT.

CBT provides highlights and note features to replace our habit of underlining questions and answer choices and writing down notes that may be needed.

In addition, if in PBT, we must write down answers on the answer sheet provided, in CBT, not all answers need to be typed. There are some answers that we just need to click or drag. Even the copy and paste feature can be used by pressing CTRL + C and CTRL + V (we cannot use the mouse).

This feature can help us minimize mistakes in writing IELTS answers, like misspellings or related to grammar,  obviously it helps our time management as well.



When taking PBT for reading, I have to flip through the paper to see the reading text because the text and questions are on different sheets. Whereas with CBT, the display of text and questions is side-by-side.

Similar to listening, in the reading section, highlight and note features are also provided. We can mark keywords and write notes if needed. Copy and paste are also possible. There are also questions that we only need to click or drag.

In my experience when practicing IELTS reading PB questions, I once confused writing answers on the Yes/No question type True/False. This error is not possible with CB because we only need to click on the answer that we think is correct for that type of question.

We can also see the duration of the processing time. However, with 1-minute remaining, there will be no second countdown. We have to calculate how many seconds are left. The display will close automatically when the time is up.


IELTS writing with CB mode is very different from PB. First, it is related to time management as well as listening and reading, providing an indication of the duration of the work.

Second, we can move, delete, or add sentences more easily. When I took PB IELTS, I found it difficult to insert certain sentences or words. Especially when you want to delete a sentence in the middle of a paragraph. On CB IELTS, this is not that complicated.

In addition, we also don't have to bother counting the number of words that we have written because there is an automatic counter like in Ms. Word! No need to worry about whether in Task 1 we have written 150 words and Task 2 a total of 250 words.


Unlike listening, reading, and writing; speaking on CB IELTS does not use a computer. So, we will still be face-to-face on-site with the examiner.

Personally, I'm more comfortable with that mode than having to record videos in front of the computer during exams. I can interact directly with the tester and see the tester's expression. It is more convenient for me.

Which one is better: paper-based or computer-based IELTS?

Based on my experience, during PBT the eyes don't get tired easily because they stare at the paper, not the computer. In addition, regarding taking small notes, I feel that taking notes on paper is faster than typing on a computer.

However, CBT provides more convenience. When listening, we get headphones to focus more. When reading, the text and questions that are next to each other on the screen make it easier for me to work on the questions. The highlight feature can also replace the need to underline important words. In addition, the features in the writing test are also very helpful, such as a timer and word count counter.

In addition, we can see CB IELTS results in just 3-5 days. Meanwhile, PBT takes about 2 weeks.

So, PB IELTS is suitable for those of you who are more comfortable looking at the paper, compared to working for a long time staring at a computer. However, if you don't have problems doing questions on a computer and need IELTS results in a short time, computer-based IELTS can be an option.

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