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I took the computer-based IELTS yesterday and it was great! I never thought I’d say that about taking the IELTS, but I can assure you that the experience was so much better than taking the paper-based test for a number of reasons, and the difference it made to the writing section was significant. Here are five reasons why Writing task 1 and Writing task 2 are made much better on the computer-based IELTS:

  1. Typing is way easier than handwriting

If you’ve ever taken the paper-based IELTS writing test you will know that writing is physically TOUGH! Being a native speaker of English, I have no trouble forming perfect sentences and structuring my paragraphs but I really do struggle to write on paper with a pencil. Before taking the IELTS, the last time I wrote an essay with a grey lead pencil was when I was in high school! When I write for more than 10 minutes my hand hurts. Touch typing, in contrast, is a breeze. You will not be distracted by an aching hand or a burned out pencil in the computer-based IELTS.

  1. Typing is way faster than handwriting

I did a quick experiment before test day and timed myself writing a 250-word writing task 2 essay. Writing on paper, it takes me about 30 minutes. Guess how long it took me to type 250 words? 7 minutes!  While it wasn’t the best essay I have ever written that experiment gave me an enormous amount of confidence for the test because I knew that even if it took me 25 minutes on test day, I would have at least 15 minutes to edit my essay. I also knew that the extra time would allow me to plan my Writing Task 2 properly.

computer-based IELTS lets you type

I did the same experiment describing a graph, and 150 words took me just over 4 minutes while typing. Again, it wasn’t the best description but that experiment reassured me that I would have much more time to analyse the graph, plan my answer, write it properly and edit the hell out of it!

  1. Typing allows you to rewrite sentences and restructure paragraphs

When you write with a pencil you have to think of the sentence in your head before you write it out because there is no ‘backspace’ and there certainly is no cursor to add a word or phrases here or there… If you do want to go back and restructure a sentence you have to put in arrows or strikethroughs and it ends up looking like a dog’s breakfast. While typing, I went back to previous sentences and either completely rewrote them, or made significant or small edits to them. This allowed me to write a really well structured and logically cohesive essay and Writing Task 1 from start to end. Joy!

  1. You don’t have to count your words

As you type, the number of words you have written appears on the screen in front of you… Magic! I remember when I took the paper-based IELTS I had to count those damned words and it took away precious time! No more… The computer counts them for you.

  1. The question prompt stares you in the face

The last good thing about the computer-delivered IELTS test is that the question prompt or the graph is always at the top left-hand side of the screen. You don’t have to flick the page over to see it like in the paper-based test. It means that you can constantly make sure that what you are writing is on topic and on the right track.

Currently, the computer-based IELTS is only offered in Melbourne and Adelaide in Australia and the seats are limited. If you are in this part of the world and worried about your writing then I strongly suggest that you book one of these exams. You won’t regret it.

UPDATE: I just received my band scores and I received 8.5 for writing. Not bad, ‘ey? I’ll send it off for review to see if I can get 9, but I won’t hold my breath. Maybe I’ll have to be ever satisfied with 8.5.


Written by Jay

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