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Paraphrasing in IELTS

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In this tutorial, we examine an important IELTS skill for starting IELTS writing task 2: paraphrasing.

Firstly, let’s start by defining paraphrasing.

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What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is the expression of a phrase or sentence in another way.

For example, the sentence:

‘The school student listened attentively to the podcast’

can be paraphrased as:

‘The pupil listened very carefully to the digital audio file’

This technique is used frequently in the writing, reading and listening components of the IELTS exam.

Why is paraphrasing important in IELTS writing task 2?

Paraphrasing in IELTS is important because it:

  • helps you to focus on the main topic, using your own words
  • provides you with the skill to develop an idea, reformulate a concept and offer variety in your writing style
  • prevents redundancy and makes the sentence structure in the essay or written material more appealing to the reader

3 ways To paraphrase

In this tutorial, let’s review IELTS test paraphrasing techniques to apply in writing task 2 of the IELTS exam.

Most students think of paraphrasing only as meaning using synonyms, but there are different ways to paraphrase that don’t require changing the word. These include changing the word form, using the passive voice to change the phrase from active to passive, changing the sentence structure or using different clauses to change the verb form. Use as many of these techniques as you can to score higher on the IELTS test.

We’ll examine three principle paraphrasing strategies:

  • Use of synonyms
  • Verb transformation
  • Sentence restructuring

Secondly, we will apply these techniques to examples of writing task 2 in the IELTS exam. Writing skills in this component of the exam include:

  • giving an opinion
  • discussing causes and suggesting solutions
  • discussing arguments for or against an idea or situation
  • discussing advantages and disadvantages

When you are sure you understand all three techniques, choose another IELTS test writing question and try to paraphrase it by yourself.

Strategy 1: use of synonyms

Let’s start with our first strategy: the use of synonyms.

  • First, read and understand the question.
  • Use a highlighter to highlight the keywords in the question.
  • Select synonyms to replace those keywords.

Let’s take an example. Read and understand the title of this writing task 2:

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing developed nations today. What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of reducing the working week to thirty-five hours?

This essay title asks the writer to provide the advantages and disadvantages of an idea or solution.

In your opening introduction, you should not immediately provide an opinion on the essay topic.

Instead, paraphrase two sentences, using our 3-step strategy.

First, read and understand the question:

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems for developed nations.

A 35-hour working week is a possible solution to unemployment.

Use a pen to highlight or underline the keywords in the question:

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing developed nations today. What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of reducing the working week to thirty-five hours?

Select synonyms to replace those keywords.

You can keep the same overall sentence structure and change keywords (making sure not to paraphrase a fixed expression without checking it carefully – for example, high unemployment cannot be changed to ‘high lack of jobs’ – it should be nationwide lack of jobs or a serious lack of jobs)

  • unemployment = lack of jobs
  • serious problems = grave issues
  • developed nations = industrialized countries
  • advantages and/or disadvantages = pros and/or cons
  • working week = professional schedule

Strategy 2: verb transformation

Let’s take the same essay topic example and apply our second strategy to it: verb transformation.

In this strategy, we:

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Highlight the key verbs

Select new verbs or synonyms OR transform the verb

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing developed nations today. What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of reducing the working week to thirty-five hours?

  • Facing = confronting
  • Reducing = lessening

Many countries are faced with the problem of unemployment.

Unemployment, which many countries are facing, is a serious problem in the modern world.

Strategy 3: sentence restructuring

Let’s apply our third strategy to the same essay topic. Sentence restructuring is using a new sentence format, based on the writing skill. In this example, the writer is expected to explain the advantages and/or disadvantages of an idea.

What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of reducing the working week to thirty-five hours?

The sentence can be paraphrased as

Let’s examine the pros and/or cons of …

Let’s look at the pros and/or cons of …

Okay! Let’s now put our 3 strategies together to write sentences with our new synonyms to create an introduction:

Lack of jobs is indeed a grave issue confronting industrialised countries at this time. Let’s examine the pros and/or cons of lessening professional schedules to thirty-five hours.

IELTS Writing Task 2: How to write a good introduction

Tip 1: Review the question, classify it, and highlight the keywords.

Tip 2: Write brief ideas by brainstorming the topic.

Tip 3: Select the best and easiest to explain ideas.

Tip 4: Write a general statement by paraphrasing, followed by your position.

Tip 5: Explain how you plan to develop your essay. Review your introduction.

Let’s try it again – Another example of paraphrasing for IELTS writing task 2

Using the techniques above, let’s apply them to a different question, this time about computer games in schools.

Firstly, we’ll take an example of a common essay writing skill, discussing causes and suggesting solutions. Let’s look at the example and then, apply our 3-step paraphrasing strategy to write an introduction.

Nowadays, many schools are using computer games to teach lessons to many children inside and outside the classroom. What are the negative and positive effects of using computer games in education and what can be done to minimise the negative effects?

2. Use a highlighter to highlight the keywords in the question:

IELTS Writing Task 2 Rough Copy

3. Select synonyms to replace those keywords.

  • nowadays = in modern times
  • schools = academic institutions
  • computer games = electronic activities and exercises
  • lessons = courses
  • inside and outside the classroom = at school and at home
  • negative and positive effects = good and bad impacts
  • education = academic development

Using Strategy 2: verb transformation

Let’s take the same essay topic example and apply our second strategy to it: verb transformation.

In this strategy, we:

1. Highlight the key verbs

Nowadays, many schools are using computer games to teach lessons to many children inside and outside the classroom. What are the negative and positive effects of using computer games on education and what can be done to minimize the negative effects?

2. Select new verbs or synonyms or transform the verb

using = employing

teach = instruct

can be done = solution

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minimise = reduce

Using strategy 3: sentence restructuring

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Let’s apply our third strategy to the same essay topic. Sentence restructuring is the skills of applying a new sentence format, based on the writing objective required. In this example, the writer is expected to outline both the negative and positive effects of using computer games on education. The sentence

What are the negative and positive effects of using computer games on education?

Can be restructured into an answer format:

In this essay, I will outline the bad and good impacts of employing electronic activities and exercises on academic development.

The second question

What can be done to minimize the negative effects?

can be transformed to:

I will also examine solutions to reducing the bad impacts of electronic activities.

Okay! We are now ready to put our introduction together, using our 3-step strategy:

In modern times, many academic institutions are employing electronic activities and exercises to instruct courses to children both at school and at home. In this essay, I will outline the bad and good impacts of employing electronic activities and exercises on academic development.

I will also examine solutions to reducing the bad impacts of these electronic activities.

Two extra strategies:

Change the word form: Unemployment is a noun, but you can change it to an adjective as an example of paraphrasing.

Unemployment is a serious problem – Change the word form of unemployment from a noun to an adjective: There are many unemployed people in some countries.

In this way, you can change verbs to nouns, nouns to adjectives and vice versa.

Use referencing.

This means using which, that, it – very useful when you can’t think of another synonym!

Unemployment is growing in many countries, and this issue is becoming a challenge for many governments.

There is always a way to paraphrase, whatever the question. With more practice, you will be able to identify the best way to paraphrase that sounds natural and appropriate.

Video: how to start IELTS task 2

Click this link to watch the video on Youtube.

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Audio tutorial about starting IELTS writing task 2

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19 sample IELTS essays and 240 task questions ebook

Additional IELTS resources:

Remember, paraphrasing is so important for both writing and speaking in IELTS. You can change the word using synonyms, change the form, change the verb/tense, change the voice from active to passive, or use referencing. and if you’re not sure, look at an example before you practice.

If you have your exam in a few months, then you may be interested in getting feedback for your essay writing, the best way is to find a professional essay correction service, or find a tutor.

If you struggle to start IELTS writing task 2 (so many students have this problem!), or if you can’t find ideas for Task 2, then this tutorial will help. Take a look at some IELTS writing task 2 questions to help you prepare. Alternatively, you might be interested in boosting your lexical resource by upgrading your vocabulary, this page explains how to do just that.

35 IELTS writing phrases PDF (copy paste)

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