Paraphrasing is something that can be overlooked by students. It is however, an essential skill for the academic task 1 and 2.
Being able to paraphrase well is also incredibly useful for IELTS reading and IELTS listening.
By choosing to read this, you will learn:
- The essentials of paraphrasing
- My three tiered system of paraphrasing
- Language to help you paraphrase
- Examples of paraphrasing
The essentials of paraphrasing
What we shouldn't confuse paraphrasing with, is repetition or an entirely different sentence. Paraphrasing means to alter the sentence, but keep its meaning.
If you master how to paraphrase you are automatically entering yourself into the higher bands. Of course what follows is crucial in the examiner scoring you, but starting off on the right foot is to your advantage.
Misunderstanding a question is common among students, in many different learning disciplines and subjects. If you form a habit of paraphrasing well, this returns itself to understanding questions better. When you are practicing with test questions, try paraphrasing it first to help you understand exactly what the question is asking you.
The three tiered system
- Write- note down what synonyms you could appropriately use
- Pin-point- identify what the main ideas are so your paraphrasing stays on topic
- Check- after writing your paraphrased version, check if it makes sense with the original question.
These questions are from recent Task 1 IELTS tests shown below:
Question: The pie charts below show the percentage of five kinds of books sold by a bookseller between 1972 and 2012.
Paraphrased: The percentage of five types of literature put on sale by a bookseller, from 1972 and up until 2012, is presented in the circle graph.
Question: The graph below compares changes in the birth rates of China and the USA between 1920-2000.
Paraphrased: The line graph weighs up changes in birth rates between China and the USA over an eighty year period.
Question: The charts below show the number of people in Europe who were affected by four types of noise by day and night in cities and rural areas in 2007.
Paraphrased: The comparative bar charts demonstrate the amount of people in Europe from 2007, who were affected around the clock by four noise types in their rural neighbourhood.
Why is the overview so important?
Paraphrasing in your overview shows the examiner you have a good handle on vocabulary. It also shows that you have the ability to recognise other language and accurately use it in a sentence.
It also isn't the words themselves, but the ideas of the words.
If for example, you use the word ''work'' in a paragraph, use words like 'tasks'', ''jobs'', ''duties'', ''assignments'', ''exertion'', 'labour'', in other parts of your writing. You need to check however that the word has the right connotation with the sentences and wider paragraph!
Here are some common words/phrases and their paraphrased versions
- Graph- line graph
- Chart- bar chart
- Shows- illustrates, demonstrates, presents, represents
- Compare- contrast (if you are noting a difference), juxtaposition, difference, weigh up, balance
- Diagram- figure
- Proportion- part, portion, amount, quantity, bit, section, piece, segment
- Information- data
- From 1990 to 1995- over a period of 5 years, over five years
- You don't need to change all the words, just some. Some words will also be very difficult to change, so don't waste time trying to do so. Just focus on creating a version of the sentence.
- Some technical words just can't be replaced.
- Describe the main features in the opening paragraph, without entering detail territory.
- Capitalise on what you're going to discuss (the main features), without trying to discuss everything.
- Non-ielts resources should be part of your preparation. Reading and writing skills stem from exposing yourself to realistic real-life texts, not simply exam papers. Try the Guardian for reading practice and the Economist for data practice.
I would love to help you improve
If you would like to send me any of your practice examples of paraphrasing, email me here: