IELTS exam – NEW format 2019 – Computer delivered test – all you wanted to know!

It is a well-known fact that modern technologies are developing at a really fast pace and affecting all the spheres of humans’ lives. IELTS exam is not an exception. In most of the countries around the world, starting January 2019 this exam has become available not only in the usual, paper-based format but in the computerized version as well. As far as humanity is moving towards the “digital world” faster and faster, it can be assumed that a new format will gradually replace the usual one. However, until it happens, we have a choice – paper-based or computer delivered – CD – IELTS? Let’s consider the pros and cons of the new format.

The first thing that surprises pleasantly is the number of people. Despite the fact that it is designed for groups of a maximum of ten candidates, much less amount of people can take the test. This does not create additional anxiety, which often happens during the regular test.

Also, a candidate can register for the exam just 7 days before and get the results 5 days after the exam. Also, the exam is held four times a week, so there is an opportunity to take it more often.

A large user-friendly screen and keyboard should be mentioned as well. In addition, there is a function to adjust the font size of tasks from the usual to large and very large.

At the beginning of each section, the sheets containing the candidate’s number and password to enter each section of the exam are handed in. Despite there is no additional paper for notes, records are allowed on the back of these sheets.

However, there is the other side of the coin. First of all, it is the price, which is higher than for the usual test. Secondly, during registration, you need to keep in mind that there is only one day to pay, not three or even five, as it is for the regular test.

Now consider the advantages and disadvantages for each section separately.

The order of the sections has not changed the same as the tasks. Listening is the first part of the exam. There are still four sections and forty questions. Question types remained unchanged.

What are the pros?

  • Headphones and the possibility to adjust the sound to suit your comfort. Nobody and nothing distracts, every sound is heard clearly. It is impossible to achieve such an effect in a large auditorium – those who sit closer to the speakers hear the sound too loudly, those who sit further have the feeling of ‘split’ sound. Of course, this has little effect on the result, but wearing the headphones on, you feel much more comfortable and confident.


  • There is no need to fill in the Answer Sheet anymore! At the paper-based test, ten minutes are given at the end of the Listening part to write down the answers, while in the computer version there is no longer a need for it. Therefore, two minutes are given at the end of the test for revision. At the top of the screen, there is a timer which changes colour to red during the last minutes. Since at the end of each section there is still half a minute to check the answers, two minutes at the end of the test is more than enough. Of course, it depends on the level of preparation of the candidate and the speed of reading. Perhaps, for some candidates, these two minutes may not be enough.


  • Some tasks which can cause difficulties in this part of the test are much more convenient to do on a computer. For example, such a task as ‘Matching information’. In the usual exam, it looks as follows:

The difficulty of the task is that answers follow one another very quickly and looking through the whole list in finding the right answer takes a lot of time. In the computer version, a candidate just needs to drag the correct answer to the place next to the question. In such a way each option disappears from the list, reducing the number of possible answers one by one which simplifies the task greatly.



The same concerns maps. Instead of filling some information in, you just need to drag the required answer to the appropriate place on the map.


Of course, there are several cons:

  • Questions which require typing the words. It seems that there is nothing special in moving the cursor to the next question. BUT! Listening is the first task, and, any person needs to adapt to an unfamiliar keyboard regardless of how computer-literate he is. In the beginning, typing words using the keyboard can take some time and a candidate can miss one or even two questions. It is advisable to write the words on a piece of paper by hand not to waste time and not to skip anything, and then transfer the answers at the end of the section. Half a minute is quite enough for this.
  • It is a candidate’s task to follow the alteration of the questions. Sections, as well as questions, DO NOT switch automatically! Therefore, a candidate should always listen carefully to the instructions.
  • The questions are not always arranged in the usual way on the screen. As a rule, Multiple choice questions are presented in a column followed one by one. However, on the screen it looks like this:

A candidate should follow the order of the questions carefully not to be confused which question to answer.

Those candidates who are used to reading on a computer or smartphone screen will probably like the Reading section. The text is located on the left side of the screen; the questions are on the right. There are no restrictions in the sequence of the tasks – the question numbers are at the bottom of the screen and a candidate can always click on the needed number to move from one section to another. Answered and unanswered questions are seen at the bottom of the screen which is really convenient.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26  27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

14 – unanswered question;   27 – answered question; 22 – question a candidate is answering at the moment.

In addition, a candidate does not need to waste time filling the Answer Sheet, which usually takes a certain amount of time during the regular test. True / False / Not Given questions will no longer be confused with Yes / No / Not Given since they do not need to be written but chosen from one of three options like in the Multiple choice tasks.

But still, there is a fly in the ointment. Despite the possibility to highlight words or part of the text, this cannot be compared with underlining on paper. So, if you are used to making different notes and underlining in the text, in the computer version you will not be able to do it.


There is a timer at the top of the screen, and it is convenient to keep to the time. Nevertheless, unlike during the usual test, examiners do not tell how much time has passed or is left.


The Writing Section is not different; the only thing is that the essay should be typed instead of being written by hand. If it does not cause difficulties, then this exam is just for you. If typing, especially, in a foreign language is a problem, you will have to develop this skill, in addition to all the other necessary for the exam.

The order of the tasks can be chosen by the candidate. Following the time is also a candidate’s responsibility.


The Speaking section remained unchanged. The interview is conducted by the examiner personally with each candidate.

Good luck at your exam!

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