Paraphrasing and Synonyms in IELTS reading

An exercise to test your synonyms and paraphrasing in IELTS reading.

A key skill for a high score is your ability to understand paraphrasing in IELTS reading.

Paraphrasing is also a crucial skill for the writing section as you need to change the wording of the task question, it is also very useful in speaking and it shows up in the reading and listening sections. Paraphrasing is when the wording changes but the same meaning is retained. It can be done with synonyms, changing the grammatical structure and the use of set phrases.

In the reading section, the words in the question will be reflected in the text but they will not have the same wording, they will be paraphrased usually with synonyms. Bear in mind also that a whole sentence can have a completely different wording but keep the same meaning.

Actually, the reading section in IELTS is not actually about reading it is about your vocabulary !

  • You should not read the whole text in IELTS reading as you will not have time and you cannot use a dictionary either, guessing meaning from context is a skill you will need to develop. Have a look at this lesson here to see more about this.

Let’s take a look now at a reading text from the Cambridge IELTS 13 book and try the paraphrasing exercise below. You can buy this book on amazon.com. The latest book in the series is IELTS 14.

 

Source: Cambridge IELTS 13 page 38

Match the words highlighted in yellow in the text with the synonyms / paraphrases below, then check your answers.

  • an indication of how wealthy an individual is
  • a sign of
  • which originates from
  • stated
  • a number of
  • added to
  • was believed to heal different illnesses
  • made from
  • participating in
  • a sweet smell
  • main
  • was also said to be beneficial to well being
  • leave a mark on
  • especially

Click below for the answers

The bold words on the right were in the original text.

  • made from = produced from
  • which originates from = which is native to..
  • stated = mentioned
  • a number of = several
  • added to = mixed with
  • a sign of = indicating
  • participating in = attending
  • a sweet smell = a pleasant scent
  • main = primary
  • especially = particularly
  • leave a mark on = impress
  • an indication of how wealthy an individual is = a sign of wealth at his or her disposal
  • was also said to be beneficial to well being = was also reported to have health benefits
  • was believed to heal different illnesses = was thought to cure various ailments

Here is how I have reformulated the above paragraph using these synonyms and paraphrasing.

Cinnamon is a sweet, fragrant spice made from the inner bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum, which originates from the Indian subcontinent. It was known in biblical times, and is stated in a number of books in the Bible, both as an ingredient that was added to oils for anointing peoples bodies, and also as a token which was a sign of friendship among lovers and friends. In ancient Rome, mourners participating in funerals burnt cinnamon to create a sweet smell. Most often, however, the spice found its main use as an additive to food and drink. In the Middle Ages, Europeans who could afford the spice used it to flavour food, especially meat, and to leave a mark on those around them with their ability to purchase an expensive condiment from the ‘exotic’ East. At a banquet, a host would offer guests a plate with various spies piled upon it as an indication of how wealthy an individual is. Cinnamon was also said to be beneficial to well being and was believed to heal different illnesses, such as indigestion.

 


Let’s try it with paragraph 2

 

 

Match the words highlighted in yellow in the text with the synonyms / paraphrases below, then check your answers.

  • keen to get involved in
  • together with
  • through
  • amounts
  • kept it under wraps
  • set an excessively high cost
  • competitors
  • arrived at
  • the way of living
  • prompted them to look for
  • this resulted in an increased need for…
  • cartel
  • buy their stock of

The bold words on the right were in the original text.

  • the way of living = the lifestyle
  • this resulted in an increased need for… = this led to a growth in demand for..
  • kept it under wraps = closely guarded the secret
  • competitors = rivals
  • through = via
  • arrived at = reached
  • buy their stock of = purchase their supply of
  • amounts = quantities
  • cartel = monopoly
  • set an excessively high cost = set the price exorbitantly high
  • together with = coupled with
  • prompted a search for = spurred the search of
  • keen to get involved in = eager to take part in

 

Here is how I have reformulated the above paragraph using these synonyms and paraphrasing.

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the European middle classes began to desire the way of living similar to that of the elite, including their consumption of spices. This resulted in an increased need for cinnamon and other spices. At that time, cinnamon was transported by Arab merchants, who kept the source of the spice under wraps from potential competitors. They took it from India, where it was grown, on camels through an overland route to the Mediterranean. Their journey ended when they arrived at Alexandria. European traders sailed there to buy their stock of cinnamon, then brought it back to Venice. The spice then travelled from that great trading city to markets all around Europe. Because the overland trade route allowed for only small amounts of the spice to reach Europe, and because Venice had a virtual cartel on the trade, the Venetians could set an excessively high cost. These prices, together with the increasing demand, prompted a search for new routes to Asia by Europeans keen to get involved in the spice trade.


Reformulating the text like I have done in my examples is a good way to practice paraphrasing.  Find a reading text and just start with a few sentences, rewrite them in your own words while keeping the same meaning.

Practice this skill regularly, but you will need to read a lot to develop your vocabulary for this to be effective.


Any questions?  leave a comment below.