The International English Language Testing System is an English language proficiency test one has to take if one wants to study, work or immigrate to English-speaking countries. For a long time, IELTS was a paper-based test. However, recently, IELTS has offered students a choice of taking the test in computer-based mode [CBT] or paper-based mode [PBT]. Choosing the suitable mode of examination is no mean feat here!
The test format is the same, you get the same sections, the same question types, the same difficulty level, and the same time per section with the same evaluation and marking scheme. The Speaking section, conducted face-to-face, often on different dates, is the SAME for both PBT and CBT. The main differences between CBT and PBT can be seen in the Listening, Reading, and Writing modules, which are discussed in detail below:
- At the end of the listening section, you get 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet.
- You have to write down answers on the answer sheet using a pen/pencil.
- In the end, you only get 2 minutes to review your answers.
- Some questions need you to type your answers in the text box, others need you to drag words from one place to another, and others require you to select boxes.
- You need to flip the pages back and forth to locate answers which can be time-consuming.
- You can underline specific sentences or words you might want to return to using a pen or pencil.
- When writing your answers in the answer sheet, you have to ensure that you check for spelling or grammatical mistakes
- Those with problems reading small font sizes might find the paper-based test a little challenging
- You can see the passage in the left panel as you continue answering questions in the right panel.
- You can highlight any part of the text you want by selecting the text, right-clicking on it and choosing ‘highlight’.
- You can copy-paste from the text using CTRL+C and CTRL+V which reduces the chances of spelling errors.
- You can increase the font size, so you do not need to strain to read.
- You have to write the essay/report/letter with a pen or pencil. So, if you are one of those who finds writing on paper more challenging than typing, you might prefer to choose CBT.
- You need to count the words by yourself.
- You can write the essay with a pencil to proofread later by using an eraser which consumes some time.
- You need to have legible handwriting. If a word is difficult to read, it is likely to be marked as a spelling error.
- Your typing speed must be adequate.
- You can see the word count at the bottom of the screen
- You can easily cut, copy and paste an entire sentence. You are also provided with a pen and paper to plan your essay.
- You do not have to worry about your handwriting.
Other differences between the two test formats:
4 slots in a month
90 slots in a month
Results in 12-13 days
Results in 3-5 days
Test centers are less crowded
Test centers may be more crowded
Noise because of typing during the writing section can get distracting
While choosing the most appropriate mode of the exam, we recommend that you keep in mind your application deadlines. In addition, find out your comfort level by checking the sample of the CD-IELTS on the IDP website to know the Page Look and feel of the CBT exam. Similarly, you can try out a paper-based test to eventually decide which mode to choose.
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