4- Test experience
This is where you really feel the difference:
Writing on paper feels natural, but it can reveal your handwriting which might not be in your favour if it is not neat. On the other hand, Typing creates a well-organized text that is easy to read for the examiner. But if you are not used to typing, you might be slow and not finish all questions. Of course, the test is designed for normal typing skills, but you still need to be comfortable typing two full writing tasks.
Looking at the screen for 3 hours might be challenging if you are not used to it. On the other hand, paper is kind to your eyes, but you have to keep your neck down for 3 hours which can be painful!
There is a timer on the screen that will turn red in the last 10 and 5 minutes, which is helpful to speed up your reading and writing. However, on paper, the time will be announced on speakers, which might be distracting for you.
There is also a navigation bar that tracks your progress and all unanswered questions. By clicking on any number, it will be highlighted, and you are taken to the question for review. The arrow keys will also move the pages forward or back so you can change your answers if you need to. Tab key also takes you to the next part. However, when it comes to paper, you have to review all pages one by one, which is time-consuming.
Taking notes for listening and reading sections might seem easier on paper, but you can open a “notes window” on the computer to write down your notes. However, you will often get pen and paper in computer-based IELTS. Just check with your test centre if this is really important to you.
Reading passage is displayed on the left side of the screen and questions on the right side with separate scroll bars, which is convenient compared to flipping pages of paper.
There is also the challenging part of the writing section on paper that limits you to the order of lines. Once you have filled all lines, you can’t insert new lines at the last minute to complete word counts. If you do, it will disorganize your article, which causes losing marks. But the computer gives you the flexibility of adding or removing lines in order to integrate your article.
When it comes to typo errors, it depends on your typing skill. If you are not comfortable with the keyboard, you might make many spelling mistakes that require time to edit, or you will lose marks. But on paper, hopefully, you are not used to making spelling mistakes!
Screens get locked precisely when the time ends, so you have no chance of making last-minute adjustments. But on paper, you still have times when the answering sheets are being collected one by one. Just be careful with these adjustments!
What sets the computer-delivered IELTS apart is all the text editing features that a computer offers. For example, you can enlarge font sizes or copy/paste words by right click. Pressing CTRL+C and CTRL+V do the same, respectively. This is most helpful in answering gap-fill question types, so you don’t make spelling mistakes! You can even drag words from one place to another! There is the highlighting feature too that replaces underlining on paper. With a right-click, you can highlight keywords for scanning and skimming the text. Even your writing task’s word count is readily displayed on the screen. These functions can help you with time management.