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Computer Delivered IELTS: Pros & Cons

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Computer Based IELTS test (CBT). Comments below come from various IELTS candidates. Many of the comments are from Kumar = “thanks, Kumar!” Note, this test is sometimes called the CDT = computer delivered test.

  • Easy to write/type your answers
  • Screens provided are a good size which is useful for reading
  • Less crowded
  • Quick results (one candidate got his results in 5 days)
  • Slot availability
Cons – 
  • You need to be very good at typing. If you are not a good typist, you should consider the paper based test instead.
  • Screens will get locked exactly at the mentioned time so we will not be able to make any last minute changes.
  •  The timer will not display seconds in the last one minute. so you don’t know when the screen will get locked.

General Advice:

  • Make sure you practise CBT sample tests before you try the real one. You can find one on the IDP website. Below is feedback on each module.
  • If your typing isn’t good, take the PBT (paper based test).
Listening Pros and Cons:
  • Con: You are given a pen and paper, but you need to type your answer directly into the computer. This means you need to be able to listen and type at the same time.
  • Con: You will not have 10 mins to transfer your answers. In the paper based test, you have 10 mins to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer sheet. In the CBT, it is presumed that you have already typed your answers directly into the computer so you are only given 2 mins – just to check spelling.
  • Con: If you don’t know how to move from one section to the next, you might waste valuable time figuring it out.
  • Note: One candidate had an example conversation played at the start of the listening test, another did not. So be aware of this.
  • Advice: Please get familiar with the Page look and feel on CBT exam for each question type. You can get a sample for each question type in IDP website.
Reading Pros and Cons:
  •  Pro: The best thing with CBT is that you can have passage on left-hand side and questions on the right-hand side. It is really easy and convenient to read and answers the questions.
  • Pro: You can increase the font size and can highlight the text as needed. In the PBT, it is not easy to highlight because you can’t use a highlighter pen in the test.
  • Advice: Get used to scrolling up and down long articles to get used to reading passages and navigating passages on a screen.
Writing Pros and Cons:
  • Pro: You do not need to count your words. The computer will show the word count.
  • Pro: It is easier to edit your writing.
  • Con: The major disadvantage with CBT is we unintentionally make typo errors. Though we know how to spell a word we make mistakes when we type. It is not always possible to identify all the spelling mistakes when proof reading.
  • Con: There will be a lot of people typing for one hour all at the same time. This means it can be very noisy which some people find distracting.
  • Note: You will be given a pen and paper. You can use it to plan your essay.

Speaking Test: This hasn’t changed. It is still a face to face conversation with the examiner.

I would like more feedback on the IELTS CBT.

If you took the CBT, can you post more pros and cons so I can add them to the list above? I would like to make this page as useful as possible. Can you think of more advantages to the CBT writing?




  1. http://Nidarshani says

    Hi Liz !

    Is this “highlighting text” option available only in the Reading test ?
    Is “highlighting text” available in Listening test too ?


  2. http://Saad%20Mustafiz says

    Can anyone tell me, in CBT exam is writing part checked by computer or human personal?

    • http://Liz says

      No computer can assess language on all four marking criteria. Of course, it is marked by a person – a trained, experienced IELTS examiner.

  3. http://Suja says

    How long will it take to get results in eor cbt.will it make diifferenxe

  4. http://Abraao says

    Hi Liz and everyone.
    Does someone know if there is enough time to transfer the spelling (number/letters) from a paper (rough version) to the computer? How many minutes do you have among sections too? Liz, I have taken the mock test on the website od IDP and you can see the seconds if your mouse is on the time. They change the time format when the mouse is on the time, therefore, you can see also the minutes.

    Thanks everyone.

  5. http://jamaica says

    Hi Liz. This is so helpful. However, on CBT, are we allowed to use TAB in the keyboard to proceed to the next blank and can we as well type in Capslock? Thank you.

    • http://Tasbiha%20Liaqat says

      Hi. I just gave my test few days back and yes the TAB key works. I used it largely during the Listening test. I wasn’t even using the mouse. Just when I had to go to the next section. So do use the TAB key, helps alot.

  6. http://Jaskaran%20Kaur says

    Thank You so much Mam.

  7. http://khalid says

    Hi, guys

    First of all, I just wanted to thank Liz for all her useful tips and help. She is really wonderful! And I would like also to express my sincere wishes to all potential test takers here.
    As for whether to take CBT or PBT, it is totally up to the test taker’s level of willingness and capability as well as being comfortable of typing on PC or otherwise. As a matter of fact, I am not 100% sure whether to go for CBT or not even though I have been using the keyboard comfortably for over 20 years now!

    Thanks for you all guys and good luck!

  8. http://Jamani%20taiwo says

    Hi Liz,
    Thank you for sharing this information with us, I want to know if one can write the PBT alone in the essay instead of CBT.

    Taiwo jamani.

  9. http://Arati says

    Hi Liz ,

    I is great to fallow you. Very helpful tips. Thankyou.
    I am planning to give my test next month. Hopefully will do best.

    Thanks again,

  10. http://HAPYIE says


  11. http://Yuliya says

    Hello all
    Thank you very much Liz for the post, it is exactly what I was looking for. I have a question about writing CBT, and I would appreciate if somebody could share the information. The question is – Can you move between writing task 1 and task 2 during the exam? I mean I prefer to write task 2 first, for example, and then move back to the task 1. Or I have to finish task 1 in 20 minute, and only after 20 min I would be able to start task 2. And would I be able to double check both tasks at the end if I have time. Thank you in advance!

    • The rules do not change because it is on a computer. The time is not fixed for writing task 1 and writing task 2. The time is only recommended. You manage your own time for the reading and writing tests. The only significant difference in format is in the listening test when you only have 2 mins to check your answers rather than 10 mins to transfer your answers.

  12. http://Geetika says

    Listening: My typing speed is pretty good so I tried CB test, however couldn’t score as desired in this section. While dragging answers from right to left on big computer screen, I lost my focus as the answers were long enough to interpret.
    In Paper based I scored 8.5 but 7 in computer based. Undoubtedly, writing and readingexperience was awesome.

  13. http://Ashwin says

    Nice written Liz, thanks for sharing this

    Have a question for a long time in my mind, is it ok to type all in capital letters as in paper based for reading and listening ?

  14. http://Neeru says

    Hi Liz,
    Is CtrlF option works in reading?

  15. Reading pros:
    We can do highlight by selecting the phrase, you would like to highlight and right click and select highlight. There is instructions in IDP page.

    Advice for Writing
    We can use the ear phone to avoid the noise of typing. So you can only hear your own typing and may not get distracted by others typing.

    • Thanks for sharing 🙂 For your point about using headphones to deaden the noise, people will need to check that their test centre uses headphones for the listening test.

      • http://Nahawand%20ali says

        unfortunately, they collect the headphones exactly at the end of the listening section. and you are not allowed to bring your

  16. http://Geetika says

    Listening: Though I am good in typing, but computer screen was quite big to drag answers from right to left and in that process I lost my focus. In earlier attempt of Pen-paper, I scored 8.5, but in CB it was 7.

    • Interesting. Sounds like the listening test doesn’t work as well being computer based.

      • http://Millie says

        I tried this before, too, and failed to see the complete diagram in Listening. I had to change my font size to either regular or smaller font. Or as a general rule, look at all the questions first before focusing on the specific questions.

    • http://Arati says

      Hi There,
      8.5 is a good score. Well done.
      I did not quite understand what is dragging the answers. It does not show in CB practice tests.

  17. http://Meenakshi says

    Can we move segments of sentences or paragraphs in writing CBT? Does cut-copy-paste work? Is it similar to MS Word usage sans spell or grammar checks?

  18. http://Khan%20Sian%20Muang says

    The major disadvantage of CBT exam is that examiner for the writing section knows exactly the number of words you have typed in and will find the writing quite awkward if you wrote more than what is required. This can trigger an alarm for reducing your score with the judgement that the test taker wrote unnecessary and irrelevant contents that are out of context. I am telling you all about this since I had just gone through such result where I was given only 6 in writing even though I had met the important criteria for scoring high in writing. I took the CBT exam in Bangkok and I scored 8.5 in L, 6 in W, 7 in R, and 7.5 in S, which resulted in overall 7.5 for my IELTS. In fact, I am quite dissatisfied with the writing score which I even speculated that the examiner was quite junior in exam checking experience and was not at all a supporter of lengthy complex writing.

    • The examiner will know the number of words you wrote in the paper based test because the words are counted. So, it makes no difference in this case whether you take CBT or PBT. You should never aim for a lengthy essay. Your essay should be between 270 and 290 words. This comment is not related to the CBT test, this comment is about understanding how the whole IELTS writing test is marked. If you write unnecessary information in your essay, you will get a lower score.

  19. http://Luciana says

    I liked it so much! I work with a computer for 20 years so to write on a laptop is so much easier than paper writing for me.
    My marks increased and the difference between the first test and the second one was just one month. I do think that is because of the method

  20. http://Juliet says

    I found this really helpful.Thank you Liz.

  21. http://Tasbiha%20Liaqat says

    Hi Liz. I gave my IELTS Academic CBT on 14th of February and got an overall 8.5 band with 9/8.5/7.5/8 – RLWS.
    I really want to thank you for your amazing tips. Especially regarding the speaking and writing tests. It really helped me to score 8.5 as a non-native speaker.

    As for the advantages of giving the Computer based exam, I believe there are many benefits. Especially with the Reading and Writing sections. As for the listening section, a word of caution, please make sure your headphones are working. I had a slight issue at the start, got my headphones changed and it was all good.

    Know the format for Writing Task 1 and 2 that really boosts up the band.
    Also for the listening test, use the Tab key. Helps to move quickly to answer next questions.

    • Great results – well done 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • http://Pilar says

      Did they return the time lost to getting a new pair of headphones in the listening test?

      • http://Rockstar says

        We are asked to test the headphones if it is working properly and a sample audio plays. Only if you are satisfied with this check stage, you can click on the button to start the exam. So the listening doesn’t begin you agree that that headphones is working good. This is what happened in my case.

  22. http://Ibtassam%20Rasheed says

    I got the result in 4 days only for CDT. My experience was very good as I actually enjoyed giving the test on computer. For some people like me, it’s easier and faster to type than write so I felt right at home. There are no cons for CDT compared to PBT in my opinion. In fact, you get to see the number of words on screen while writing, can erase your mistakes while avoiding bad impression on the examiner and give more time developing your ideas as typing can be done way faster than writing for even medium users. I also don’t agree with the notion that a person with bad typing should go for PBT. My wife gave PBT for first three times but due to fewer dates and delayed results, she went for CBT in her fourth attempt and onwards. She didn’t even know where the various letters on the keyboard were as she never typed in her life or used the computer often but she spent around 4-6 weeks on a typing tutor (Mavis Beacon is the one she used). Even though her typing speed is still around 15 WPM, she managed to finish her test (400 words) on all CBTs and get respectable scores. The main motivation behind her decision to learn typing was to be able to give CBT which can be booked just 3 days ahead of test, result always comes on time (5 days average for us) and it’s basically taking place every day for our test center. So, my point is that if you’re motivated enough for your ambitions, you can achieve it even if you have to undertake something that may feel impossible at first. My only CBT attempt yielded (LRSW 9-8.5-8-7.5) and I can say with confidence that there is nothing that should stop you from doing it. One of the invigilators at IDP told me that they don’t have PBT in Australia anymore as IDP believes that CBT is the future and they will be phasing out PBT sooner or later in other countries as well. Furthermore, if anyone feels distracted by the noise in the exam room, they can put on the noise cancelling headphones for the entirety of the test which really helps in focusing better.

  23. Please let test takers know that the Reading passages are different for candidates in the same exam but I think difficulty level is same.

    Another con for writing is that it’s very tempting to write far beyond the word count. I was guilty of this ! I unbelievably wrote about 251 words for Task 1 and I didn’t have time to come back and edit the my work. Anyway the result wasn’t nice, LWRS – 8.5, 6.5, 7, 7.5.

    My reading passage, section 3 to be precise was extremely difficult. I spent 38 minutes on just section 3. The passage was on flavoring of foods.

    • Thanks for sharing 🙂 I think you make a good point. If typing is quick and easy, it will be easy for people to write lengthy essays and reports or letters (task 1). So, it is something to bear in mind. Always make sure you are paying attention to word count. A length essay is not the aim. In task 1, you will be marked down for adding too much insignificant detail in your report for task 1. Good results on the whole 🙂

  24. http://Emmanuel%20Pratt says

    Hi Liz thanks for the update. I want to know if the CBT has a spell check function enabled.

  25. http://David says

    Thanks a lot, Liz.
    I will be taking my test March 19 and it is a CBT. I will provide you some feedback from my experience.

    Thanks again,

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