The content of the computer-delivered IELTS test is identical to the paper-based IELTS test, but instead of writing your answers on paper, you enter them on a computer. The only differences occur in the order of the test and the testing environment.

So which format gives you the best chance of securing a high score? Let’s look at some key differences between the two test formats so that you can decide what’s best for your needs:

The paper-based test uses a pencil, while in the computer-delivered test you type your responses

It all comes down to preference and speed. Some people are more comfortable with a pencil in hand, others prefer typing and clicking away their responses. Try some practice tests before deciding which test you would like to book.

The order of the tests is different

The paper-based format starts with Writing, then Reading and finally Listening. Speaking could be on the same day or another day depending on the test centre. On the other hand, the computer-delivered format starts with Listening, followed by Reading and Writing, and your Speaking test part takes place the same day.

Key differences in the Listening test

Again there is no difference in the content: the tests are exactly the same. However, in the computer-delivered format, you get 10 minutes less. That’s because you’re directly recording your answers on the computer, whereas in the paper-based test you get the extra time to transfer your answers from the question book to the answer sheet. Another key difference is that you get noise-cancelling headphones in the computer-delivered test which some people find easier to concentrate and focus on their performance.

Test environment

Computer-delivered tests are done in smaller, custom-designed test centres where each test-taker has their own computer. Paper-based tests on the other hand are conducted in larger rooms with more participants. While IDP strives to provide a noise-free environment, there will be other test takers putting their hands up to ask questions. Smaller test rooms with fewer test takers increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to focus better; but this comes down to personal preference.

Test preparation

There are a wealth of practice resources available on to help you prepare for your test. Paper-based practice tests are available in PDF format, and we have timed computer-delivered practice tests available. Our computer-delivered practice tests use the same interface to simulate the exact same experience of the computer-delivered test, and many test-takers find them a great tool to familiarise themselves ahead of the test day.

Test results

One key advantage of computer-delivered testing is that you get your results faster: you can sit the test today and get your results next week. Results are typically delivered within 2-5 days for computer-delivered tests, while results for paper-based tests are available within 13 calendar days.

Whichever format you choose for your IELTS test, IDP has helpful preparation materials to ensure you are set up to succeed on your IELTS journey.