THE UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN IELTS AND PARAPHRASING
‘The examinee has to write an essay in task number two,’ or ‘The exam taker tends to pen down one essay in the second task.’ Both these sentences mean the same thing. However, you need to understand why the words are altered in the latter sentence (although the meaning does not change), or in other words—why has the statement been “paraphrased”?
Wondering why? For the IELTS exam, the candidate must possess paraphrasing skills as a test of their language abilities. Paraphrasing refers to the ability to rewrite something using different words while not changing the original meaning. This reveals the extent of vocabulary and grammatical accuracy of language that the test taker possesses. These two parameters—known as ‘lexical resource’ and ‘grammatical range’— carry almost half of the weightage out of the overall exam evaluation parameters in the speaking and writing sections.
Even though this technique is widely used in all four modules of IELTS, the importance of rewriting is not taught to students in most of the IELTS coaching institutes. Paraphrasing or rephrasing is a trick to show one’s language knowledge by simply playing with words. IELTS coaches don’t focus on this aspect of paraphrasing; instead, they simply restrict themselves to providing lists of vocabulary along with synonyms and antonyms. Students are taught how to paraphrase the essay statement in task 2, but it is important to know how to paraphrase in the speaking module as well.
So, what is the solution for this gap in learning? While answering questions in all three rounds of the speaking test, the examinees must ensure that they are rephrasing the questions while putting across their answers. For instance, when the examiner asks, “Which is your favorite place in the house?” rather than answering “My favorite place in the house is my grandfather’s room,” a more appropriate answer would be, “The location I love the most in my home is the bedroom of my grandfather.” Do you see the difference between the two answers? The first one feels mechanical and repetitive, whereas the second one conveys an interesting, conversational feel. Therefore, the ultimate goal is to change the wording and phrasing while keeping the original meaning—and with no grammatical errors, of course!
In the reading and listening modules of the IELTS exam, additional rephrasing skills are required. Let’s look at an example from the listening section. The person explaining the map in the audio track might mention that there are bookshelves containing ‘novels and short stories.’ The test taker knows that he or she has to focus on the word 'fiction’ in this context. However, the candidates who do not know that novels and short stories are also known as fiction do not just miss this answer—they also miss the forthcoming information as they are already lost and are trying to listen to the information that they have just heard but could not relate to. Missing one answer results in missing many more answers from the track. Similarly, in the reading section, the question may ask, “What was the reason behind people’s illness?” The information from the passage would mention, “The virus caused serious health issues among the residents.” Unless and until the meaning of the question and the information from the text is understood, it’s not easy to find the right answer, which again requires learning everything about rephrasing.
A person good at paraphrasing scores better in the IELTS. But what does it take to learn this technique? It’s just practice, practice and practice under the guidance of a good teacher. Moreover, you can learn this skill on your own using many online grammar checking tools. For example, you can pick any piece of text of any length or genre as per your convenience and rewrite the same by altering the words and checking the grammar with the help of any grammatical error detecting tool like Grammarly.
Remember, it is ultimately practice that makes a man perfect. Mastering the techniques of rephrasing will contribute greatly to improving your band score.
Since 2014, Tejbeer Kaur has been working as a passionate language coach after completing her Master’s degree in English. She has taught language skills to leaners of all ages from different nations at leading institutes. Currently, she is working remotely as a freelance trainer. Apart from being a teacher, she is a sentimentalist, poetess, and loves to weave words in all form of texts.