Paraphrasing in IELTS essays.
Updated: August 2022
An important skill in IELTS writing is being able to paraphrase the task question. Paraphrasing means to say something in your own words while keeping the same meaning.
In the introduction of your essay, the first thing you should do is paraphrase the topic question by changing the structure of the sentences or changing the formation of the words. This can be done using synonyms (words with the same meaning). Remember that if you just copy the original question word for word you may lose marks. However, you do not have to paraphrase every single word especially if there are no synonyms that accurately match.
Keep it simple and concise, do not use overly complicated language or try to impress the examiner with very high-level grammar. Simple and concise is the key.
Changing the structure and word formation
Changing the form of the words is an important skill to practice by using: a verb, gerund, adjective, noun. Look at the examples below.
1. People increasingly access the news online these days, rather than buying newspapers and magazines to find out what is going on in the world.
2. There is an increase in people accessing the news online these days, rather than buying newspapers and magazines to find out what is going on in the world.
3. An increasing number of people are buying what they need online nowadays.
4. In recent times, the number of people who buy what they need online is on the increase.
- Sentence 1: adverb + verb (increasingly access)
- In sentence 2: noun + subject+ gerund (an increase in people accessing…) also I re-ordered the sentence.
- Sentence 3: collocation (an increasing number of) + present continuous (are buying)
- Sentence 4: relative clause (who buy..) + set noun phrase (on the increase)
Using this technique you need to be confident with your grammar. If you decide to reorder the sentence structure it will show the examiner your ability to manipulate grammar effectively.
To see a lesson on paraphrasing without synonyms, Click here.
Note on synonyms: Be careful when using synonyms because if they are used incorrectly they will lower your score. Remember that not everything has to be paraphrased. Some words can remain the same, just rephrase the keywords.
Let’s look at some IELTS questions and my ideas below.
I have not written a thesis statement or my opinion yet, the examples below are just to show how to paraphrase the question.
One of the major problems facing the world today is the growing number of refugees. Some say developed nations of the world should tackle this problem by taking more refugees.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
A major issue in the world recently is the increasing number of refugees. Many believe that developed countries ought to deal with this problem by accepting more refugees.
Take a look at how I have paraphrased the words.
1. one of the major problems facing the world today = A major issue in the world recently
2. The growing number of = the increasing number of
3. some say = many believe
4. developed nations = developed countries
5. should tackle this problem = ought to deal with this problem
6. taking = accepting
You will notice I have not paraphrased the word ‘refugees’ as this is difficult to paraphrase. The closest word to this would be ‘asylum seekers’ but that carries a slightly different meaning. So, in this case, I just keep the same word from the task.
Some people think that sports involving violence, such as boxing and martial arts, should be banned from TV as well as from international sporting competitions.
To what extent do you agree?
Certain people believe that violent sports, namely martial arts and boxing, should not be shown on TV including international sporting events.
1. some people think = certain people believe
2. such as = namely
3. should be banned from TV = should not be shown on TV
4. as well as = including
5. competitions = events
In many countries, a small number of people earn very high salaries. Some people believe that this is good for the country, but others think that governments should not allow salaries above a certain level.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
In several nations, there are some people who make large salaries. Some would argue that this is beneficial for the country, whereas others believe governments should limit salaries to a certain amount.
1. in many countries = in several nations
2. a small number of people = some people
3. some people believe = some would argue
4. good = beneficial
5. but others think = whereas others believe
6. should not allow salaries above a certain level. = should limit salaries to a certain amount
Some people prefer to spend their lives doing the same things and avoiding change. Others, however, think that change is always a good thing.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
Many individuals would rather go through life staying the same, whereas others like the idea of facing new challenges.
1. Some people prefer = Many individuals would rather
2. spend their lives doing the same things = go through life staying the same
3. others however = whereas others
4. think that change is always a good thing = like the idea of facing new challenges.
The impact that the growing demand for more flights has had on the environment is a major concern for many countries. Some people think that one way to limit the number of people travelling by air is to increase the tax on flights.
To what extent do you think this could solve the problem?
There are global concerns over environmental problems caused by the growth of air travel. Tax hikes on tickets have been suggested by some as a measure to limit the number of air travellers.
You can see here the way I have moved the sentences around and changed the form of the words. It is not just about using synonyms. Practice this skill for a higher band score in vocabulary.
As you can see from all the examples, I have not rephrased everything. Some words cannot be accurately paraphrased because they lose the meaning.
After paraphrasing the question you will need to write a thesis statement (click here for a lesson on Thesis statements) If the question asks for an opinion you must include it in your thesis statement and throughout the essay.
If you do not paraphrase the essay question you could lose marks. Be careful too as synonyms used incorrectly can lower your score.
Can you paraphrase the task question below?
Some people think that governments should give financial support to creative artists such as painters and musicians, while others believe that creative artists should be funded by alternative sources.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.