There are many questions that surface with the new system of IELTS test taking. The best way to understand computer-delivered IELTS is to actually see what it's all about.
The structure for both the paper-based and computer-delivered IELTS is the same. There's a listening, reading, writing, and speaking section. The speaking section for both systems will be done in person. However, the listening, reading, and writing sections will be done on paper for the paper-based test and on the computer for the computer-delivered test.
Timing is also the same. The listening section is approximately 30 minutes with 10 minutes given once the section is over. The speaking section is approximately 11~14 minutes long. For both the reading and writing sections, 60 minutes is given. With the computer-delivered test, the timer is located in the middle, at the top of the screen. It's written in white font, however, it will change to red and flash at both the 10-minute and 5-minute mark during the reading and writing test.
With the computer-delivered test, the way you start, finish, and take breaks is different. When you are going to start the test, there is a screen that provides important information about the test. From there, you will enter the test by pushing the ‘Start Test’ button.
If you want to take a washroom break, you can hide your test by hitting the ‘Hide’ button in the top right side of the screen. Once you have returned, you can hit the ‘Resume Test’ button to continue writing the test.
Once the time has finished, the test will automatically close.
With computer-delivered IELTS, you can adjust the settings to your preference. Hit the ‘Settings’ button at the top right-hand corner and setting options will pop up. You can choose the size and colour of the text as well as the screen resolution. This will allow you to adjust to what's comfortable for you.
The listening section is the same for the paper-based and computer-delivered test, they just look a little different. For the computer-delivered test, the instructions are in a box located at the top of the screen. There's also a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. Here, you're able to see, and click on, all 40 questions. There are also back/forward arrows to move through questions. Once the question has been answered, a line will appear under the question number. If you want to review the question afterwards, check ‘Review’ and the question will change from a square to a circle. There is also a volume bar at the top of the screen, on the right-hand side. This allows you to adjust the volume of the listening section to a level that suits you.
Again, the reading section for both the paper-based test and computer-delivered test is the same, which includes the amount of time as well as the different question types. However, the reading test looks slightly different on screen than on paper.
For the computer-delivered test, the reading text is on the left side of the screen, while the questions are on the right. There are scroll bars for both the reading text and the questions, so make sure you have read the complete text. You're able to highlight sections of the text as well as make notes on the sections you have highlighted. In order to do this, you just need to drag over a certain section and right click. This will give you the option to highlight or make notes about a certain section of the text. If you make notes, there will be an orange box beside the highlighted section of the text. Just like in the listening section, there's a navigation bar that allows you to see all 40 questions. You may do the questions in any order, change answers, and leave answers blank, as you would on the paper-based system.
As per the paper-based system, you're able to complete the writing tasks in either order on the computer-delivered test. The question is on the left-hand side of the screen, while there is a space to write your answer on the right-hand side. Your writing will automatically be saved so you don’t need to worry about saving your work. Also, under your writing, you're able to see your word count to make sure you meet the specific number of words for both writing tasks. Again, timing as well as question type are identical for both the paper-based and computer-delivered test.
For some, getting used to the computer-delivered system might take some time. For those of you who need some extra assistance, there is a ‘Help’ button located at the top right of the screen. Here, you can get information which is important to candidates as well as task help, which is help with the question you are working on 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.
Having both systems, paper-based and computer-delivered, allows candidates write the test in a method that works best for them. As more centres provide the option of computer-delivered IELTS, understanding how the test works is half the battle. Here's a link that provides more information along with videos on the computer-delivered IELTS test.