Paraphrasing is an essential skill for both Academic IELTS Task 1 and 2.
In this tutorial you will learn:
- The essentials of paraphrasing
- A structure for your Academic Task report
- A complete list of phrases and terms to help you (over 14 terms)
- Resources of high level graphic descriptions
Paraphrasing involves manipulating the words in a sentence or phrase so that they read differently but convey the same meaning. It is also called re-writing, and you should learn to do it before taking your IELTS test. It can also help in listening and reading tests, though it’s mainly used in speaking and writing. Simply put, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your desired score if you know how to paraphrase.
Paraphrasing requires mental processes and can help you understand questions better; this is one reason why I encourage students to paraphrase test questions before answering them.
In Task 1, the first sentence must always be a paraphrased version of the question / title. Paraphrasing (or re-writing) can be done in a number of ways, but the easiest is to replace words with their synonyms.
You can prove to the examiner that you have a broad vocabulary and that you can use it effectively by paraphrasing the sentence using a few simple synonyms. This will score you more points in the test.
This should be your initial paragraph and you should let your examiner know you’re starting a new one by skipping a line.
An example description of a question from an IELTS Task 1 is shown below:
The proportion of the population aged 50 and above in three different states in the USA between 1920 and 2020 is shown in the graphs below.
I can quickly craft a good description by paraphrasing this description:
The line graphs compare the percentage of individuals aged 50 and above, as measured over a century in three U.S. states.
Information about the per-capita percentage of car ownership between 2000 and 2005 in the USA is given in the chart below.
Summarize the information by making comparisons where necessary and picking out and reporting on the main features.
The increase in car ownership between 2000 and 2005 in the USA is shown in the chart.
When should we paraphrase on IELTS?
You need to paraphrase a phrase, word or an idea in several ways in IELTS Writing Task 1 and 2.
For instance, if you use the word “school” in a paragraph, use words like “university”, “academic institution” or “college” in the rest of the essay.
How does a re-written sentence fit into the remaining part of my essay?
The second paragraph of an essay with four paragraphs should be the overview:
Paragraph 1- Paraphrased Sentence
Paragraph 2- Overview
Paragraph 3- Details
Paragraph 4- Details
Writing the overview before the details lets the examiner know that you understand the main features and helps you when you write out the details. That’s why I tell my students to do it. You simply take the points you stated in your overview and back them up with data in the details paragraphs.
Is a conclusion necessary?
Not at all. Conclusions are just a summary of your opinions or ideas. Writing a conclusion is not mandatory, because this is not an opinion essay. Save your conclusions for task 2.
Here are some common words/phrases and their paraphrased versions:
chart = bar chart (click here to learn how to describe a bar chart)
graph = line graph
shows = illustrates (or ‘compares’ if the graph is comparing)
diagram = figure
people in the UK = British
people in Australia = Australians
information = data
from 1997 to 2000 = between 1997 and 2000
the number of = the figure for
from 1997 to 2000 = over a period of 3 years = over three years
the proportion of = the figure for
how to produce = the process of producing
proportion = percentage (segment and fraction are also useful terms for describing a pie chart)
in three countries = in the UK, Australia and New Zealand (i.e., name the countries)
Here are practical ways to help you get the first sentence in task 1 completed correctly and more quickly:
- Look at the question and the title of the graph/chart. You’ll get to know what you need to write.
- Never copy all the words in the question -you can’t do this, because the examiner will not count those words when evaluating your work
- Don’t change all the words in the question. Instead, change some and keep others.
- You can’t repeat whole sentences and long phrases, but you can borrow words. Also, remember that some common or technical words cannot be easily replaced.
- Be sure to include the main ideas/points in the question, and write the main topic of the chart/graph.
- With practice, one sentence or maybe two shorter ones will be enough – don’t write too much here.
- Describe the topic in the first sentence – don’t try to write a summary of the entire chart’s details.
- Read a newspaper article and write a summary yourself. Show it to a friend. Here are some samples of academic task 1 essays. And here are some professional non-ielts sources written by experts: Economist Daily Chart , Guardian Data.
- The phrase “figures for/the figure for” is a good one that most people don’t use. For example, ‘figures for unemployment in 5 countries are shown on the graph’.
- You’ll be able to write the introduction for task 1 swiftly and start the test confidently if you practice this strategy.
Now that we understand the exam’s marking system, we can prevent common errors that reduce scores and give the examiners exactly what they want.
You can download or listen to the audio version here:
READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Female Voice: You are now listening to the IELTS podcast. Learn from tutors and ex-examiners who are masters of IELTS preparation. Your host, Ben Worthington.
Ben: Paraphrasing for Academic Task 1. My name is Ben Worthington and you’re listening to ieltspodcast.com. We’ve been producing tutorials now for almost five years– no, pretty much for more than five years. We were the first to do podcasts about IELTS and we will continue. We are the leaders. There’s nobody with more downloads than us. So, you’re in the right place for your IELTS preparation.
Now, as you probably know from previous tutorials with Kate and myself, we covered paraphrasing and Kate emphasized that paraphrasing and the ability to paraphrase is absolutely essential for passing English tests. She has done courses about writing tests– English language tests and paraphrasing is a useful skill, not only for the reading and listening where they convey or communicate the same information but with different words but you also need this for the speaking and for the writing.
For the speaking, for example, it can buy you extra time when you’re formulating your answer. You can just rephrase the question and then start– rephrase the question into an affirmative and then start talking. For example, do you think music is important? Yes, I honestly do think music is important.
So, a Task 3 typical abstract question there and not only did we give it back to the examiner in the correct tense but we also embellished it a little bit. That’s also like a form of paraphrasing. With the writing, you definitely need to paraphrase for IELTS Writing Task 2 as part of your introduction and clearly for Academic Task 1.
|WHAT IS PARAPHRASING?|
Now, let’s just get into the definition. So, paraphrasing is manipulating the words in a sentence or phrase so that they read differently, but convey the same meaning. We can also call this rewriting. As I said before, it’s useful for all four sections and you definitely need to master this before taking the test. It requires a mental process so that you can understand the questions better, okay? This is an additional reason why it is definitely important.
Now, this can be done in a number of ways, but perhaps the easiest or most straightforward is to replace words with their synonyms. This shows to the examiner that you’ve got a broad vocabulary and that you can use it effectively by paraphrasing some of the sentences and using a few simple synonymous. Also, using the synonyms is a good opportunity to upgrade the vocabulary initially used just to show the examiner you’ve got some chops– you got some skills.
|LET’S LOOK AT SOME EXAMPLES|
Let’s have a look at some examples related to IELTS Academic Test Task 1. Typical question prompt: the proportion of the population aged 50 and above in three different states in the USA between 1920 and 2020 is shown in the graphs below. Now, a quick paraphrasing of this could produce the line graphs compared the percentage of individuals aged 50 and above as measured over a century in three U.S. states.
So, just as a side note, it’s probably good to look out for opportunities where we can use time frames such as a century, a decade, or half a century. We could also say over a hundred-year period starting in 1920. Then it’s obvious to the reader that it finishes in 2020.
What I also liked about this paraphrasing is that it gets straight to the point. The line graphs, yes? It’s a subject first. This is the most important part of the sentence and good writers push it to the front of the sentence, push it to the beginning of the sentence. This way, there’s less chance of reader strain.
Let’s paraphrase again. Information about the per-capita percentage of car ownership between 2000 and 2005 in the USA is given in the chart below. Summarize the information by making comparisons where necessary and picking out and reporting on the main features. So, your first sentence could be: The increasing car ownership between 2000 2005 in the USA is shown in the chart.
So, this goes against the tip that I mentioned before, which is leading with the subject. So, if we were to do it leading with the subject, we could say the chart shows the increase in car ownership between 2000 and 2005 in the USA. I mean it’s not a massive difference. Personally, I prefer it at the front. However, variety is always good for your sentences, okay?
|WHEN DO YOU NEED TO PARAPHRASE?|
So, when should you paraphrase with your IELTS essay? Well, you need to paraphrase, obviously, for Task 1 as we’ve just done and for Task 2. Now, a straightforward way, as we’ve mentioned before is the word school, for example, could be substituted for academic institution, perhaps college depending on what point of view you’re writing for.
I know that in the U.S., college has a different age range from the UK. In the UK, it’s between 16 and 18. Also, university in the UK is roughly between 18 and 21, so be careful. Although you can sometimes switch out synonyms, do do it with precaution. However, academic institution is much more broad. It can be a good synonym for college, university, or school.
When we are using these paraphrased sentences, it’s typically best to use them at the beginning kind of like your introduction. Then following the Academic Task 1, we’re going to give an overview of what we can see. As I’ve said in previous tutorials, some tutors prefer that you put the overview at the beginning just in case you run out of time. Personally, I prefer it at the end because it kind of just makes sense. It’s almost like a summary. [Unintelligible 00:09:12.27] is kind of like a summary. Then paragraph 3 could be your details or paragraph 2 depending on which model you go for and paragraph 4 can be the details or it could be the overview.
|A SUMMARY OF PARAPHRASING|
So, just to give you a quick summary: two different ways to do this. Paragraph 1: paraphrase sentence, your introduction. Paragraph 2: your overview if you’re worried about time management. Paragraph 3: details. Paragraph 4: details. Or the way I prefer paragraph 1: paraphrase sentence and your introduction. Paragraph 2: details. Paragraph 3: details and paragraph 4: the overview.
Also, when you get into this, be careful. Before you get into this, just remember to make a note of the main features, okay? Also, remember to follow the task instruction which in most cases– practically in all the cases is to make comparisons. This is why the language of comparisons I think is incredibly important. As I’ve said in previous tutorials, also a strong understanding of superlatives will also undoubtedly boost your score. This is absolutely critical. In fact, superlatives and comparatives– sorry and comparisons, using just those two will– using those two language structures will force you to fulfill a big chunk of the points requirement for at least band 7, yes?
|SOME COMMON PHRASES TO USE FOR TASK 1|
Now then, let’s have a look at some more common phrases that we can use for IELTS Writing Task 1. So, chart; we can say bar chart. Graph; we can say line graph or line chart as well. A common one is the graph below shows, yes? We can also say the graph below illustrates or if we’ve got one or two graphs there and it’s maybe two different years or two different points, we could say the graph compares the difference in rainfall between Wales and England in 2020, for example. Instead of diagram, we could say figure.
This next one is very useful. When I was correcting essays, I always used to encourage the students to say this. It’s a good way to boost your score. For example, instead of saying people in the UK, we can say British people or if you want to be really– if you want to be more advanced, you can say Britons, but that’s got some certain nuances to it.
Likewise, if we’re talking about people in Australia, we can increase the variety of our language by using the nationalities. We can say Australians, yes? Just as a side note, we don’t say Aussies which is the colloquial informal way of referring to Australians. You just say– we could say people in Australia or Australians.
For example, maybe you’ve written in your essay already or in your report from 1997 to 2000. In this case, we can always just change it to between 1997 and 2000. As we were saying before, we could say people in the USA, people in the U.S. or Americans. Most people understand Americans as those people living in the USA. If you want to include Canadians and– people from Canada and from the USA, then we can say North Americans. That usually covers both of them.
If we wanted to say the number of, for example, the number of people in the USA, we could also say the figure for the people in the USA is 12 or 350 million or whatever it is. Another useful one: if we’ve got from 1997 to 2000, we could instead say over a period of three years. This goes back to what I said right at the beginning. A good opportunity to enrich your report is using phrases like a decade, a century, yes? This is higher-level language. Also, we could just say over three years. Instead of saying specific points, we just give the duration.
Also, we could say the proportion of or you can say the figure for, yes? So, the proportion of people buying Sony PlayStations this year rose to 50%. The figure for people buying Sony PlayStations rose 50% this year, yes?
We are focusing a lot on graphs and charts. So, imagine we’ve got a flow diagram and we could– you could say the chart shows how to produce tea or how tea is produced. That could be changed for the chart shows the process of producing tea, yes? Then these ones are very important and should be mastered because there’s a reasonable chance that you get a pie chart. If you get a pie chart, then– if you’ve managed– if you’ve learned the following phrases, then you are definitely on to a winner.
We’ve got proportion, percentage, fragment, segments, and then we combine these with the superlative. So, we’ve got the largest proportion is 50%, yes? The smallest percentage is corn mainly produced in the UK or whatever, yes? As I’ve said before, but I’ll just mention it now. I won’t go into details, but there are two more tips that I want to give you.
1) Grouping: so, if we’ve got– for example, in paragraph one we’ve said something like in the three largest countries, there is a drop of 60% or for the three largest countries, there’s a drop of 5% or whatever it was. Well, we can switch from grouping to mentioning the details. This also shows the examiner you’ve got skills in grouping the information, selecting the information.
Also, if you’re worried that you’re not reaching the word count, then you can always list the details and list every specific country, but be careful though. Be careful because if you are listing every single data point, then you’re not going to be able to pick up points for selecting information. So, just be careful with that. The best way to test that is to get some feedback and just see if you’re on the right track.
The other point that I want to mention is we’ve got grouping, we’ve got comparisons, we’ve got superlatives and we’ve should also learn a good proportion of the language, all right? Now, some final tips just to help you prepare, obviously.
|SOME FINAL TIPS|
Now then 1) Never copy all the words in the question. You can’t get points, okay? The examiner will not add any of the points from that sentence if it’s directly from the question, okay? 2) Get into the habit of sort of like seeing the graph and then instantly being able to pull the main details. A good test to see if you’ve got this ability is– a good exercise actually is to describe the graph that you’re looking at. Describe it to somebody and if they can reproduce that graph from what you’ve said, then you’re on the right track, okay?
Also, I’ve seen a lot of essays– a lot of reports where every single data point has been written. This is why it’s very important to be able to group it, okay? It’s very important that you can select the right information and then just put them into different groups and then ideally as we said, start comparing those groups, okay?
Another good resource where they do this fantastically well where you’re not going to see it any better than this is economist.com. If you just put into Google Economist Daily Chart, you’ll see the best of the best there. Not only does The Economist hire extremely talented writers– I mean they’ve got to. They’ve got to make this subject of economics interesting so they need really skilled writers, but also the people who do this they’ve been doing it forever. Not only were they highly skilled when they came into this but they’ve been doing it pretty much every day for the last five or ten years. So, they know exactly what they’re doing. You’ll just be able to get a good feel for the best way of doing this.
That’s it, of course, apart from the generic normal advice which is check your work afterwards and try and get some feedback from it. So, that’s about it for me in this tutorial. If you do need more help with your Academic Task 1 Writing, we have a specific course on this where we go into details and we give you the structures you need for comparisons, the structures you need for superlatives. Also, other very useful structures such as the fancy phrases like almost double that of the year before; all of these phrases that I’ve mentioned in previous tutorials.
What we do there is just pull it all together so it’s in one easy-to-follow course and you work through the course, you watch a few videos, watch a few tutorials, then you send in your essay. You implement what you learn. You send in your essay along with your Task 2 then you’ll get some feedback. You get it sent back. You review that feedback, update your error correction sheet and then watch some more tutorials and then write another essay and send them in.
This is how we work. It’s quite straightforward. It’s quite effective. You can complete the course within about 10 days if you’re working hard or you can just– if you’re not in a rush, it can take anywhere between 15-30 days. It’s totally your call. You’ve got 90 days of access and during those 90 days, you can work through the whole course.
So, yes. Have a look at that. It’s probably going to fast-track your improvement and on our team, we only hire native English speakers and ex-IELTS examiners, so you can be sure you’re in the right hands. If you’re not ready for the course yet, then maybe you can just sign up for the newsletter and we’ll send you a big chunky PDF with lots of sample essays and lots of tips in there, too.
That’s it for me for today. Hope your IELTS preparation is going well and I hope you’re more than ready for passing IELTS in 2020. Take care and have a good day.
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