essay paraphrasing ielts guide

Paraphrasing helps to achieve high lexical resource band score in  IELTS Speaking and Writing module. This guide shows what paraphrasing is and how to best use it in your essays, letters, reports and cue-cards.

1. What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is when you express a written or spoken text in a different way whilst maintaining the same meaning.

Simply put, this means that you need to rephrase a given text in your own words, without changing the overall meaning. This helps you to avoid plagiarism which is when you repeat information that someone has produced as if it is your own work.

Paraphrasing not only shows that you understand the meaning  of an IELTS topic, but also allows you to demonstrate your command of the English language.

2. Why is paraphrasing important in IELTS writing?

Paraphrasing is an essential skill if you want to score high IELTS band score and is important for each section of the exam (reading, listening and speaking), but especially  important for writing.

In IELTS writing tasks 1 and 2 you will always be given an IELTS statement which you need to paraphrase in your introduction. This is demonstrating to the examiner that you have understood the meaning of the statement, and that you have the English language skills to put the statement in your own words.

You will also need to paraphrase yourself at points in the essay to avoid repetition, for example, when you are restating the main ideas of your essay in your writing task 2 conclusion.

Test takers that simply copy the IELTS statement or repeat their ideas in the same way will likely receive a lower score in the written component of the exam.

As paraphrasing is a skill, it needs to be practised so read on for some common mistakes to avoid and tips to follow to paraphrase effectively.

IELTS writing correction

3. Common paraphrasing mistakes made in IELTS writing

3.1 Over-paraphrasing

One major mistake made by candidates is that they try to change every word of a given statement. You should never change every word as you will likely lose the overall meaning of the statement. In fact, there are some words that may not have a suitable synonym and should remain the same. If you over paraphrase, your writing will sound forced and unnatural. You are also more likely to produce mistakes in your writing.

3.2. Sentence length

Test takers that paraphrase unsuccessfully often create very long and overly wordy sentences. If your sentence becomes too long, think about how you can break it up by using punctuation, starting a new sentence, or by creating a new clause. Imagine that you are the reader and read your paraphrase back to yourself to check if it is an appropriate length and flows nicely.

4. How to paraphrase effectively

4.1. Using synonyms and antonyms

A synonym is a word or phrase that has the same meaning (or a very similar meaning) to another word or phrase (like happy and cheerful).

An antonym is a word or phrase with the opposite meaning of another, for example, good and bad.

Using synonyms and antonyms is one way to create your paraphrase.

Here are some examples of synonyms:

Original:
Art is considered an essential part of all cultures around the world.

Paraphrase:
Art is considered a fundamental part for civilisations around the globe.

And some examples of antonyms:

Original:
With the development of modern society is the loss of traditional ways of life.

Paraphrase:
With the decline of modern society is the improvement of traditional ways of life.

Sometimes test takers make the mistake of trying to use synonyms for every word. This will make your paraphrase sound unnatural and forced. Take a look at this (bad) example:

Original:
Art is considered an essential part of all cultures around the world.

Paraphrase:
Craft is treated as an imperative element of entire civilisations over the globe.

Take a look at our guide on the importance of paraphrasing in IELTS writing for even more tips and examples!

4.2. Modifying the sentence structure

In addition to using synonyms/antonyms, you could also change the sentence structure in some way. This is a bit more tricky than using synonyms as it not only requires you to use your lexical (vocabulary) knowledge, but also your grammatical knowledge.

You have to make sure that your paraphrase is grammatically accurate after you make any changes.

Take a look at what we’ve done here:

Original:
As computers translate quickly and accurately, learning languages is a waste of time.

Paraphrase:
Some people now consider language learning irrelevant since computers are able to translate language so efficiently.

In this example we have changed the subject of the sentence, used a range of synonyms and added a linking device ‘since’ to create a compound sentence.

IELTS writing correction

4.3. Using the active or passive voice

Changing a sentence from the active to passive or the passive to active can increase your score in Grammatical range and accuracy while you paraphrase.

Using the passive voice allows you to shift the focus from the ‘do-er’ of the sentence to the object. It also allows you to avoid overusing the first person ‘I’ which should be completely avoided in writing task 1 and kept to a minimum in task 2.

Here’s a brief overview of how to form the passive:

4.4. Changing word forms

Being able to change the form of a word is another skill you can use to paraphrase. You can change a word class in the following ways:

  1. Adding a prefix to the stem of a word: expense (n) – inexpensive (v)
  2. Adding a suffix to the stem of a word: employ (v) – employer (n)
  3. Conversion ( change a word class from one to another without any changes to spelling or pronunciation) : an email (n) – to email (v)
  4. Compounding (linking two or more bases to create a new word): car + park = carpark

Here are some more examples:

Prefix
  • agree – disagree
  • usual – unusual
  • direct – indirect
  • responsible – irresponsible
  • happy – unhappy
  • patient – impatient
  • legal- illegal
  • read – reread
  • order- preorder
  • president – ex-president
Suffix
  • maintain – maintenance
  • free – freedom
  • refuse – refusal
  • protect – protector
  • argue – argument
  • lead – leadership
  • private – privacy
ConversionNoun to verb:

  • I had access to the building.
  • I had to access the building.

Verb to noun:

  • The alarm allerted the guests.
  • There was an alarm at 6am.

Adjective to verb:

  • The pressure to perform was intense.
  • The pressure onboard the ship intensified.
Compounding
  • Well-produced
  • Time-consuming
  • High-performing
  • User-friendly
  • Tech-savvy
  • widely -recognised

5. Paraphrasing practice

IELTS Writing Paraphrasing Guide

Excercise
  1. The graph gives information about the visitors to Cardiff and Dublin from 2010 to 2020.
    1. The graph information about how many people visited Cardiff and Dublin over a 10-year between 2010 and 2020.
  1. The pie charts provide data about the 10 most popular university subjects at a New York university in 2000 and 2010.
    1. The pie charts show about the percentage of people who ten selected university subjects at a university in New York between 2000 and 2010.
  1. The pictures below show how tea is produced and then illustrate the process of making a cup of tea.
    1. The shows information about the process tea and the steps involved a cup of tea.
  1. The diagram shows the procedure for successful high school graduates to enrol at university.
    1. The flowchart the for students who have graduated from high school should follow to enter higher education.
  1. In the past, when students did a university degree, they tended to study in their own country. Nowadays, they have the opportunity to study abroad.
    1. In years, it has become much for students to complete their degree instead of their home country. Many people believe that there are significant benefits of doing this, while others argue that there are also drawbacks connected to studying abroad.
  1. Some people think that environmental problems should be solved on a global scale while others believe it is better to deal with them nationally.
    1. There is no that the modern world is facing many serious environmental , such as climate change, an increase in natural and air pollution. It is often argued that these environmental issues should be tackled globally.
  1. Some people think that more money should be spent on protecting endangered species while others think it is a waste of valuable money.
    1. These , the number of species facing extinction , and as a result, a larger number of people are becoming involved in environmental issues. It is argued by some that of endangered animals is wasteful.
  1. Some people think that children nowadays are spending an excessive amount of time watching TV or using a computer or mobile phone.
    1. Nowadays, governments and health experts around the world have become concerned about the general health of children. They are worried about problems too much time spent in front of a TV, computer or mobile.
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5.1 Sample Paraphrasing Guide

  1. The graph gives information about the visitors to Cardiff and Dublin from 2010 to 2020.
    1. The graph shows information about how many people visited Cardiff and Dublin over a 10-year period between 2010 and 2020.
  1. The pie charts provide data about the 10 most popular university subjects at a New York university in 2000 and 2010.
    1. The pie charts show information about the percentage of people who studied ten selected university subjects at a university in New York between 2000 and 2010.
  1. The pictures below show how tea is produced and then illustrate the process of making a cup of tea.
    1. The diagram shows information about the process of growing tea and the steps involved in making a cup of tea.
  1. The diagram shows the procedure for successful high school graduates to enrol at university.
    1. The flowchart illustrates the procedure for students who have graduated from high school should follow when applying to enter higher education.
  1. In the past, when students did a university degree, they tended to study in their own country. Nowadays, they have the opportunity to study abroad.
    1. In recent years, it has become much more common for students to complete their degree overseas instead of their home country. Many people believe that there are significant benefits of doing this, while others argue that there are also drawbacks connected to studying abroad.
  1. Some people think that environmental problems should be solved on a global scale while others believe it is better to deal with them nationally.
    1. There is no doubt that the modern world is facing many serious environmental problems, such as climate change, an increase in natural disasters and air pollution. It is often argued that these environmental issues should be tackled globally.
  1. Some people think that more money should be spent on protecting endangered species while others think it is a waste of valuable money.
    1. These days, the number of species facing extinction is growing, and as a result, a larger number of people are becoming involved in environmental issues. It is argued by some that the protection of endangered animals is wasteful.
  1. Some people think that children nowadays are spending an excessive amount of time watching TV or using a computer or mobile phone.
    1. Nowadays, governments and health experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about the general health of children. They are particularly worried about problems caused by too much time spent in front of a TV, computer or mobile.

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