Paraphrasing in IELTS Speaking

IELTS speakingThe key to a higher score in IELTS speaking is paraphrasing.

You are probably aware that paraphrasing is a crucial skill to master in IELTS writing and is important for a Band score of 7 or more, but what about in Speaking?

In the IELTS speaking Band descriptors for Band 7 lexical resource, it says: ‘uses paraphrase effectively’ and for Band 4 lexical resource it mentions: ‘rarely attempts to paraphrase’. So clearly this is important to consider when in the speaking exam.

When the examiner asks you a question if you just ‘parrot’ it or copy the words he or she has used, it can lower your score in vocabulary. Lets see a bad example for IELTS speaking part 1 questions.


Topic: Food (part 1 of the speaking test)

What kind of food do you like?
The kinds of food I like are spicy such as thai food and I like Indian food too.

Are there any foods you dislike?
Yes I dislike bland food such as tofu or white bread, they are too bland.

What food did you like to eat as a child?
As a child I liked to eat spaghetti and hamburgers, I sometimes ate cakes as a child too.

Do you prefer to eat alone or with other people?
I prefer to eat with other people because I can talk to them while I eat.

So what’s the problem here? can you spot it? It seems to be grammatically correct anyway. See the analysis below.

You will notice that the candidate has used the same words as the examiner from the questions.

What kind of food do you like?
The kinds of food I like are spicy such as Thai food and I like Indian food too.

Are there any foods you dislike?
Yes, I dislike bland food such as tofu or white bread, they are too bland.

What food did you like to eat as a child?
As a child I liked to eat spaghetti and hamburgers, I sometimes ate cakes as a child too.

Do you prefer to eat alone or with other people?
I prefer to eat with other people because I can talk to them while I eat.

The words In blue are copied from the question. Although the answers are clear and grammatically seem to be correct, the vocabulary is limited and too simple.

 

Let’s take a look at a good example now with the same questions.

What kind of food do you like?
I’m very keen on spicy dishes such as Thai curries, soups and spicy Thai salads. I’m also into Indian cuisine, in particular, spinach curry with chicken.

Are there any foods you dislike?
Bland cuisine is not my cup of tea, such as tofu, soba noodles or white bread .. They just don’t stimulate my taste buds.

What food did you like to eat as a child?
When I was a kid I was mad about spaghetti and hamburgers.  I remember how excited I used to get when we went to Wimpy to get a quarter pounder. I also had a sweet tooth, so I was pretty keen on cakes.

Do you prefer to eat alone or with other people?
I would rather have dinner or lunch with someone, like my classmates or friends, as I find it more sociable and we can chat about various things. I feel uncomfortable eating on my own.

What can you see that is different here?

You will notice that the responses use the same words as the questions.

What kind of food do you like?
I’m very keen on spicy dishes such as Thai curries, soups and spicy Thai salads. I’m also into Indian cuisine, in particular, spinach curry with chicken.

  • Here I do not use the word ‘food’.  I say ‘dishes’ and ‘cuisine’ and instead of saying ‘I like’ I used the phrase ‘I’m very keen on’ and ‘I’m also into…’  I also gave examples of the types of food I like as it is much more specific.

Are there any foods you dislike?
Bland cuisine is not my cup of tea, such as tofu, soba noodles or white bread. They just don’t stimulate my taste buds.

  • I didn’t use the word food but I used ‘cuisine’ again and the idiom ‘it’s not my cup of tea’ meaning that I don’t like it. I gave an example of the types of food I don’t like and there is a phrase related to bland food. ‘They don’t stimulate my taste buds.’

What food did you like to eat as a child?
When I was a kid I was crazy about spaghetti and hamburgers.  I remember how excited I used to get when we went to Wimpy to get a quarter pounder. I also had a sweet tooth, so I was pretty keen on cakes.

  • I paraphrased ‘as a child’ to  ‘when I was a kid‘ and the phrase ‘crazy about’ meaning ‘I loved it’. I use ‘used to’ grammar here to refer to the past and ‘ I was pretty keen on’ also meaning ‘I liked’

Do you prefer to eat alone or with other people?
I would rather have dinner or lunch with someone, like my classmates or friends, as I find it more sociable and we can chat about various things. I feel uncomfortable eating on my own.

  • ‘would rather’ is a paraphrase of ‘prefer’ and notice how I didn’t use the word ‘eat’. Instead, I used the phrase ‘have lunch or dinner’ and I gave an example of the types of ‘people’ i want to eat with and ‘on my own’ to paraphrase ‘alone’


Do I have to paraphrase in all parts of the speaking test?

Yes, in speaking part 2 and part 3 it is the same. Paraphrase where possible but don’t obsess about it. Sometimes you have no choice but to answer the question directly and be very specific, not all answers have to be long.

For example, in part 1 you will most likely get asked:

  • Do you work or study?

  • I am studying economics at the moment at Leeds University.

This answer is fine, and notice how I have used the word ‘study’ in a present continuous form. Keep your answers concise in part 1,  but in part 3 you need to support your views with an example so the answer will be longer.

Example part 3 question

Question: What are the pros and cons of living in a large city?

Response:  Well, I’d say that the advantages of residing in a large urban area are that salaries tend to be much higher than in smaller towns,  and transport infrastructure is more efficient and developed. For example, when I lived in London my yearly income was at least 5000 pounds more than when I was living in Hereford. I could also use the extensive tube and bus network to get anywhere in London quickly.

For the downsides, I reckon it’s the stress of commuting to work every day and the high cost of rents. Although salaries are higher, living costs are exorbitant, particularly in London. I also remember the rush hour in London it was awful, everyone was packed into the trains like sardines.

So you are probably thinking that it’s a really long answer. This is because the question is asking me 2 things: the pros and the cons, so I tried to cover the question in more detail, notice the example I gave too. I also used an idiom ‘packed like sardines’ .Be careful when using idioms as they could lower your score if you don’t know how to use them correctly.

In some cases, the answer will not be this long, but most importantly you can see I have avoided using the words in the question.


Is the speaking test formal in IELTS?

No, you can speak freely in an informal manner (no slang and be careful of using idioms). It is the writing part of IELTS which needs formal language, except IELTS general informal letters in writing task 1.


Any questions? Leave a comment below.

Don`t copy text!