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How does IELTS on computer work?

Published on November 19, 2018

With the introduction of IELTS on computer, getting to know how the test works on computer before your actual test is important for your preparation. This makes sure that you are going in to your actual test familiar with how to use the system, so you can focus on the test content instead of the system.

This article will provide an overview of how IELTS on computer works.

IELTS test sections

Both the computer-delivered and paper-based formats have the same test sections. There is a Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking section. The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections will be done on paper for the paper-based test and on computer for the computer-delivered test. However the Speaking test of both the computer-delivered and paper-based test is done face-to-face with an actual IELTS examiner.


Both tests formats (computer-delivered & paper-based) are the same length in regards to timing. The Listening section is approximately 30 minutes, with an additional 2 minutes provided once the section is over to check your answers. The Speaking section is approximately 11-14 minutes long. For both the Reading and Writing sections, 60 minutes is given. A timer is located in the middle, at the top of the screen with the computer-delivered test. It is written in white font, however will change to red and flash at both the last 10-minute and last 5-minute mark during the Reading and Writing test.

The way you start, finish, and take breaks during the test is different with computer-delivered IELTS. At the start of the test, there is a screen that provides important information about the test. You will enter the test from there by pushing the ‘Start Test’ button.

You can hide your test by hitting the ‘Hide’ button in the top right side of the screen if you want to take a washroom break. You can hit the ‘Resume Test’ button to continue writing the test once you have returned.

The test will automatically close once the time has finished.


You can adjust the settings to your preference with computer-delivered IELTS. Setting options will pop up when you hit the ‘Settings’ button in the top right-hand corner. You can choose the size and colour of the text as well as the screen resolution. This will allow you to adjust to your personal preference to make it as comfortable for you.

Listening test

Although the test may look a little different on computer compare to paper, the Listening test content and questions types are exactly the same. Instructions can be found by clicking on the ‘Help’ button located at the top of the screen for the computer-delivered test. There is also a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. Here, you are able to see, and click on, all 40 questions. There are also back/forward arrows to move through questions. A line will appear under the question number once it has been answered. Check ‘Review’ and the question will change from a square to a circle if you want to review the question afterwards. There is also a volume bar at the top of the screen, on the right-hand side, which allows you to adjust the volume of the Listening section to what suits you. Click here to launch some sample Listening test questions for IELTS on computer.

Reading test

Again, the Reading section for both the paper-based test and computer-delivered test is the same, including the amount of time, as well as the different question types. However, the
Reading test looks slightly different on screen than on paper. The reading text is on the left side of the screen, while the questions are on the right. Make sure you read the complete text as there are scroll bars for both the reading text and the questions. You can highlight sections of the text as well as make notes on the sections you have highlighted. You will need to use your mouse to highlight over a certain section and right click on the section. This will give you the option to highlight or make notes about a certain section of the text. There will be an orange box beside the highlighted section of text if you make notes. There is a navigation bar that allows you to see all 40 questions, similar to the Listening test. Just as you would on the paper-based test, you may do them in any order, change answers, and leave answers blank. Click here to launch some sample General Training or Academic Reading test questions for IELTS on computer.

Writing test

You are able to complete the writing tasks in either order on the computer-delivered test, as per the paper-based test. There is a space to write your answer on the right-hand side of the screen, while the question is on the left-hand side. You don’t need to worry about saving your work, as your writing will automatically be saved. You are able to see your word count under your writing to make sure you meet the specific number of words for both writing tasks. Again, timing as well as question types are identical for both the paper-based and computer-delivered test. Click here to launch some sample General Training or Academic Writing test questions for IELTS on computer.

Getting used to the computer-delivered system might take some time for some candidates. There is a ‘Help’ button located at the top right of the screen for those of you who need some extra assistance. Here, you can get information which is important to candidates as well as task help, which is help with the question you are doing at the time. You can also get test help. This helps you with the overall test, including descriptions of the icons used on the test.

Find more information along with videos on the computer delivered IELTS test here.