Paraphrasing means saying the same thing in a different way. I’m guessing you already knew that. Many students think they need to paraphrase the question in their IELTS essay introduction. But they don’t even know how to do it. There is a lot of bad or inaccurate advice about paraphrasing, and many students have the wrong idea about what paraphrasing is and how they should use it in their IELTS essay.
So in this article, you can learn:
- The truth about Paraphrasing in your IELTS essay.
- Mistakes made by the IELTS Students in paraphrasing.
- How to use paraphrase effectively in your IELTS Writing exam.
The Truth about Paraphrasing
There is a lot of IELTS advice out there that says, “paraphrase the question in your introduction.” But if you pay attention to the official IELTS Scoring Schema you won’t be able to find the word ‘paraphrase’. Remember, this is the official scoring system, which the examiners use to mark your IELTS writing exam. The writing mark scheme doesn’t talk about paraphrase at all. So why not? That’s because you don’t have to paraphrase the question in your introduction. Now you may think, How do you start your essay? And paraphrasing the question is better than writing nothing?
Mistakes Made by IELTS Students
Here’s how a lot of students approach paraphrasing. See if this is familiar to you. Let’s take a question:
Robots, computers, and machines are becoming more advanced and can perform many jobs which used to be done by people. What problems does this cause, and how can these problems be solved?
Now let’s practice bad paraphrasing! So we need to change the words by synonyms. So the synonyms are:
- robot = automaton
- advanced = cutting edge
- machine = apparatus
- job = assignment
- people = folks
Now let’s plug them into the sentence to create a bad paraphrase. So, the paraphrased sentence is:
Automata, computers, and apparatus are more and more cutting-edge and can do many assignments which were done by folks in the past.
Do you think this is a great paraphrase for IELTS Writing? No, this is terrible, and it will only hurt your IELTS score. Don’t do this. This is what many IELTS students do, but it’s a bad idea.
Let’s see why sometimes paraphrasing doesn’t work.
Firstly you should know what is a synonym? You probably say something like, “a word with the same meaning as another word.” That’s more or less true. However, a true synonym is a word that can replace another word in any sentence. So, imagine you have two words, A and B. If word A can be replaced with word B in any sentence, they’re synonyms. If word A can be replaced with word B sometimes, but not always, they’re not true synonyms. Maybe they have a similar meaning, but they aren’t the same. Now there are very few true synonyms in English. or any language.
Just because two words have the same meaning doesn’t mean they can be used in the same way. The words, people and folks have the same basic meaning, but that doesn’t mean that you can folks any time you say, people. Vocabulary usage depends on more than just meaning. Register and collocation are equally important. So, when you use words that you think are synonyms, they probably aren’t true synonyms. That means you’re changing the meaning, which is dangerous. Also, you are making language mistakes, which can hurt your vocabulary score.
Secondly, It is an unnatural thing to do. Imagine someone asks you a question. Do you repeat the question back, using different words? This is weird. When someone asks you a question, you answer the question. Your IELTS essay is the same. The writing task asks you a question, and your essay should answer the question. Where your answer starts from your first sentence. A bad paraphrase adds nothing to your answer. So no paraphrase is better than a bad paraphrase.
How to start your essay with effective paraphrasing?
Here, you have two options, and it depends on your target score. Firstly we’ll talk about the candidates who are targeting bands 5.5 to 6.5, then for those candidates who are targeting bands 7 to 9.
For IELTS Writing Band 5.5 to 6.5
If your target score is band 5.5 or maybe 6.5, and you don’t know how to start your essay, then you can write an introduction which is one sentence. Write a thesis statement. That means you explain what you’re going to talk about what you’re trying to prove with your essay. For example:
In this essay, I will discuss possible solutions to the problems caused by robots and computers taking people’s jobs.
I intend to show that the problems caused by robots and computers taking people’s jobs are serious, but also possible to solve.
Robots and computers are replacing people at work. This is a serious problem, and I will discuss how we can solve it.
That’s all you need. Now you may think isn’t that too short for an introduction? No, not at all. Your introduction can be any length. Your introduction can be one sentence. You can get a good score with a very simple introduction. This is good advice if you are targeting band 6 or 6.5, but what if you targeting a higher score?
For IELTS Writing Band 7 to 9
Now if you are targeting band 7 to 9, your essay needs to be one coherent, connected piece. What does that mean practically? And what does it have to do with paraphrasing?
Your first sentence should be connected to everything else in your essay. That means you need to know exactly where your essay is going before you start writing. Before you put one word on the page you need to know all the important things you want to say. Practically, that means you need to know what your conclusion is going to be before you start writing. You also need to know exactly how many body paragraphs you are going to have, and what you are going to put in each one.
An effective paraphrasing shows the examiners where your essay is going. Effective paraphrasing shows how you understand the key ideas in the question, and what conclusion your essay is trying to reach. For example:
Advances in technology have led to the automation of many jobs, especially low-level or manual positions. This has led to many serious problems, including unemployment and increasing rates of poverty and inequality.
This is what a good paraphrase looks like. So which way do you think this essay is going? Do you think the writer is positive, negative or neutral about the effects of automation? Well, it sounds negative. You can guess that the essay will conclude that automation causes serious problems which are not easy to solve. Someone who reads the first sentence of your introduction should be able to do the same thing. They should be able to guess where your essay is going.
To write an effective paraphrase, you need to do 3 things. These are:
1) Have a clear plan in your head, with a clear conclusion, which should be obvious to your reader from the first sentence of your essay.
2) Don’t try to stick too closely to the sentence structure in the question. Paraphrasing is about ideas, not just words.
3) Interpret and develop the ideas in the task, so that you replace general ideas in the task with your own more specific ones.
So the main thing is, paraphrasing depends on planning. It’s not a simple thing, it’s not just taking some words and replacing them with other words. It is connected to other parts of your essay. It’s connected to your ideas and opinions. If you don’t know the conclusion of your essay then you can’t write a good introduction.