IELTS Essay – How to Write an Introduction (Using Paraphrasing)

Hi, I’m Daniel. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you can learn about paraphrasing in IELTS essays. First question: what’s paraphrasing? Paraphrasing means saying the same thing in a different way. But, I’m guessing you already knew that. Probably, you’re watching this video because you think you need to paraphrase the question in your IELTS essay introduction, and you aren’t sure how to do it. We’re making this video because there’s a lot of bad or inaccurate advice about paraphrasing around, and many IELTS students have the wrong idea about what paraphrasing is and how they should use it in their IELTS essay. With our IELTS students, we often have to spend time breaking down bad habits and bad ideas which students have about this. So, in this lesson, you can learn the truth about paraphrasing in your IELTS essay. You’ll see the number one mistake that IELTS students make with paraphrasing, and you’ll learn how to use paraphrase effectively in your IELTS writing exam.

Let’s start with something that might surprise you: What? But wait, I saw this video, and it said I should paraphrase the question in my introduction. But wait, I read this article, and it said I should paraphrase the question in my introduction. But wait, my teacher told me I should paraphrase the question in my introduction. Okay, we know. There’s a lot of IELTS advice out there that says, ‘paraphrase the question in your introduction.’ Why should you listen when we say you don’t need to? Don’t pay attention to us; pay attention to the official IELTS scoring scheme. To save you time, we’ve added links to the official scoring scheme under the video.

You can read it right now! Go ahead; read the scoring scheme and find the word ‘paraphrase’. We can save you some time: it isn’t there. Remember, this is the official scoring system, which the examiners use to mark your IELTS writing exam. The writing mark scheme does not talk about paraphrase AT ALL. Why not? Because you don’t have to paraphrase the question in your introduction. Okay, you think, so how do I start my essay? Surely paraphrasing the question is better than nothing? I don’t know what else to do… Here’s how a lot of students approach paraphrasing.

See if this looks 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? So, let’s practice bad paraphrasing! Let’s see now, we need to change the words. Let’s find some synonyms: robot = automaton advanced = cutting-edge machine = apparatus job = assignment people = folks Wow, great synonyms, right? Let’s plug them into our sentence to create a bad paraphrase: Automata, computers, and apparatus are becoming more cutting-edge, and can perform many assignments which used to be done by folks. Let’s change a couple of small things so it’s not so close to the original: Automata, computers, and apparatus are more and more cutting-edge, and can do many assignments which were done by folks in the past. Finished! What a great paraphrase! No, no, 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 this doesn’t work.

First, a question: what’s a synonym? You probably said something like, “a word with the same meaning as another word.” That’s more or less true. However, a true synonym is a word which 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. What’s the point of all this? The point is that there are very few true synonyms in English, or any language. Just because two words have the same meaning does not 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 say folks any time you say people.

They aren’t true synonyms. Why not? Because vocabulary usage depends on more than just meaning. Register and collocation are equally important. Also, many words which have a similar meaning don’t have exactly the same meaning. Machine and apparatus are similar, but they aren’t the same. Job and assignment are similar, but they aren’t the same. So, that’s problem number one. 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—and also making language mistakes, which can hurt your vocabulary score. There’s a second problem: this is a really weird and unnatural thing to do. Imagine someone asks you a question. What do you do? Do you repeat the question back, using different words? Hey! How was your weekend? Ah… You wish to enquire about my recent non-working days? How’s the weather in the US? So… You want to know about the climatic conditions in North America? No! This is weird! When someone asks you a question, you answer the question.

Your IELTS essay is the same. The task asks you a question. Your essay should answer the question. Your answer starts from your first sentence. Bad paraphrase adds nothing to your answer. No paraphrase is better than bad paraphrase. A bad paraphrase is only an empty sentence with language mistakes. That’s all the examiner will see. For your IELTS score, this is only negative.

Ok, you think, so how do I start my essay? You have two options, and it depends on your target score. Let’s look. This is going to be a short section. If your target score is 6 or maybe 6.5, and you don’t know how to start your essay, here’s what you do: Write an introduction which is one sentence. Write a thesis statement. That means you explain what you’re going to talk about and 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. Or: I intend to show that the problems caused by robots and computers taking people’s jobs are serious, but also possible to solve. Or even: 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. But, you say, isn’t that too short? No—not at all. First of all, your introduction can be any length. Your introduction can be one sentence. Here’s an important point: your introduction is the least important part of your IELTS essay. Are the example introductions you saw above great? No. They’re not great, but they are easily good enough. Your conclusion is super-important. How you organise your ideas into paragraphs is very important.

How you support and connect your ideas is extremely important. Your introduction is not that important. You can get a high score with a very basic introduction. So, here’s a simple solution: if you don’t know what to write in your IELTS essay introduction, don’t write much at all. Write a short thesis statement, and then start the body of your essay. This is good advice if your target is 6 or 6.5, but what if you’re aiming for a higher score? So, what does effective paraphrase look like? Remember, you’re thinking about writing a strong IELTS essay here. That means an essay which scores between seven and nine. Here’s the thing: when you write a strong essay, you can’t think about it as lots of separate things. Lots of IELTS students write essays in this way: “Ok, first I have to paraphrase the question, then I need to write a thesis statement. Ok, first body paragraph: I need a topic sentence, then a supporting example, then a linking phrase, then a second supporting example… et cetera.” That can work for intermediate IELTS scores: to 6.5, but it’s not a good approach for higher scores.

For higher scores, your essay needs to be one coherent, connected piece. What does that mean, practically? And what does it have to do with paraphrasing? First point: 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’re going to have, and what you’re going to put in each one.

To be clear, that means when you write your first sentence, you aren’t just thinking, “How can I find a synonym for this word?” Good paraphrasing isn’t about that. You already know the conclusion you want to reach, and you know the ideas you want to discuss. Effective paraphrasing includes this. It shows your reader—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. So, the main point: paraphrasing depends on planning. It’s not a simple thing; it’s not just taking some words and replacing them with other words—it’s 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, you can’t write a good introduction. To write a good introduction, you need to know exactly where you’re trying to go. Let’s see how this can work in practice. To paraphrase effectively, you need to take the ideas in the question and add your own interpretation. Here’s the question you saw before: Some questions: The question talks about robots, computers, and machines. What do these words mean in this context? Can you think of specific examples? What exactly does advanced mean? Advanced in what way? The question mentions jobs which used to be done by people. Like what? The question asks: what problems does this cause? Are these problems serious, or not? Why or why not? Pause the video and think about these. If you want to write a good introduction, you need to have clear answers to all of these questions! Now, let’s see how you could effectively paraphrase this question: 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. Here’s a question: which way do you think this essay is going? Do you think the writer will be positive, negative or neutral about the effects of automation? 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. Remember: this starts in your head. Everything needs to be clear in your head before you write anything. Another point to notice: our paraphrase doesn’t have the same sentence structure as the task. The paraphrase is two sentences, while the task is just one. The task asks a question: “What problems does this cause?” Our paraphrase replaces this with a statement: “This has led to many serious problems.” Also, our paraphrase replaces general ideas in the question with more specific ideas. The question mentions “many jobs,” but our paraphrase talks about “low-level or manual positions.” The question mentions “problems,” but our paraphrase talks about “serious problems, including unemployment and inequality.” To review, to write an effective paraphrase, you need to do three things: One: 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.

Two: don’t try to stick too closely to the sentence structure in the question. Paraphrasing is about ideas, not just words. Three: interpret and develop the ideas in the task, so that you replace general ideas in the task with your own more specific ones. Now, you should understand more about how to paraphrase in your IELTS essay. Good luck if you have an IELTS exam coming up soon! You can find more free English lessons, including IELTS preparation lessons, on our website: Oxford Online English dot com. Thanks for watching! See you next time! .

As found on Youtube

How Crystal Achieved Band 8 After Failing her IELTS Test Many Times

– Okay, so, this is a very special video that I’m gonna make today with one of my students, who I’m very very proud of. I’m proud of all my students, but even more of proud of Crystal because she did the test many many many times before she came to me and she showed huge determination to get the score that she needed, so I thought we’d make this video today just for some of you who might be struggling, might have failed the test a few times. Just to give you some inspiration, some motivation to keep going. So Crystal, thank you very much for doing this today. And can you just give some background information about you so people can get to know you a little bit? – Yeah, sure. Well, I’m working in Hong Kong as a nurse for the government. And recently I’d like to move to a foreign country, and work abroad with my husband, so I need to take the IELTS. So the reason I chose IELTS, and not the other Occupational English Test because it applies to many western countries.

Like, the Occupational English Test, which is specific to, say, Australia or Canada. . – So if I can pass the IELTS with the score I need, then I don’t need to take two or three tests, which is quite advantageous. – So I started to study all the materials on the IELTS since last year, it was a long time ago. So, I first began with some online material, I tried IELTS and think I got a six overall, which is far from what I need, and then I enrolled in a face-to-face course. It was a regular course, that includes speaking, listening, writing and everything, but after course I still couldn’t get the score I need so. And I found the five day challenge, and I was amazed by how simple is the idea. And then I was determined to enroll into the course. And, can you tell people how many times you did the test before you got the score that you needed? – Oh, I’m sure I have did the test with British council seven times, cause there’s this record online.

And then two or three times with IDP. – So I have experienced eight or nine times of failure. So I’m actually quite experienced in IELTS. – Yeah, you’re an IELTS expert. And can you tell people what scores you got on your last attempt? – On my last attempt, I got an overall eight, with nine in listening, eight in reading, and then both seven in writing and speaking. – Yeah, excellent and we’re really happy that you got that score because you didn’t get that score the first time and we were kind of like why is this, we couldn’t figure out why, and you couldn’t get it, but we figured it out and we helped you get the score that you needed.

So, if you were to give someone some advice, someone in a similar situation to you, someone who wants to move to a different country and has maybe done the test a few times and failed. What advice would you give them? – Hmm, well from my experience, I think you really need to know your strengths and weaknesses. So, like me, I know I have no problem with listening and reading, and I focus on writing and speaking. So for writing I think the writing correction stuff is really good. Once you submit your essay, you know your weakness is in task achievement or grammar, vocabulary, then you focus on correcting it. For my case, sometimes I misunderstand the question, so I really need to understand exactly what to answer.

And then I also improved my grammar, minimized my mistakes and also I tried to remember as many synonyms and tried to write the vocabularies so that you can achieve seven in every criteria. – Oh Crystal, I think we’ve lost you there. (chuckles) Hopefully it’ll come back. Yep, you’re back now, okay. So that’s great advice for writing. Anything for speaking, because I know that we worked a lot on your speaking, and you know a lot about the speaking test but what would you suggest to someone who is maybe where you were, you were getting for speaking, and you needed the seven.

What advice would you give someone there? – Yes, actually there is a real gap between and seven, so if you need a seven in speaking, you really need to work on every aspect so that you achieve pronunciation seven, grammar seven, and then you can get overall seven. So for my case, I studied all the materials in Chris’ course and so I familiarized with the format and I know the content is not important, so that I can focus on talking and elaborating my answer. But that is not enough, that is actually the basic. You really need to speak and talk if you want to improve. Because listening and reading is not equivalent to speaking. So what you need is to really speak. So previously I talked to a speaking partner, then he became quite busy and so we can’t talk really frequent and then I enrolled in another plan and I talked to a native English speaker every day, 30 minutes, during my lunchtime.

– But it takes time, the miracle will not happen in a day, but as long as you keep talking, we try to mimic the intonation and where a rest was. Which we tried to speak in a more native way, and you learn some phrase and verbs and idioms from them, and keep improving your grammar. Because I found that I made a lot of mistakes on tenses, and sometimes the agreements on nouns and verbs. – Just do your best and one day I believe you’ll be there. I mean, just listening to you, your grammar is excellent, but you still are making little small mistakes and I think that’s something that people need to realize, is that in order to get above a seven for speaking your grammar doesn’t need to be perfect. Your vocabulary doesn’t need to be perfect, your fluency doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be at the standard where it needs to be. I think people put a lot of pressure on themselves in the speaking test that, you know, every sentence needs to be exactly correct when that really doesn’t help you, because you put yourself under too much pressure and then that can affect your fluency, affect your confidence, and then you know everything can kind of spin out out of control, would you agree with that? – Yeah, yeah, so see, my English is not perfect, but I think I can communicate with an English speaker, like you, you gave me so much confidence.

So just keep talking. I think that’s really, really good advice. You talked about that you used a different service than mine to find a native English speaker so that you could talk to them every day, what was that, just if anybody wanted to use that, or do you have a range of different services that you tried? – Okay, well actually, so remember you posted on your wall on Facebook and you asked if anyone used online resources that is useful, so one of our buddies talk about Cambly, C-A-M-B-L-Y.

– And well it provides a platform to talk with a native English speaker, in case if you don’t have anyone to talk with. – Yeah, yeah I’ve heard of Cambly before, I’ve heard it’s really good, and I know there’s a number of different things but one of the big requests that we get from people is just like ‘I live in a non-english speaking country, where do I find people to talk to?’ So, there are so many different resources these days that you can find on the internet, but yeah, that’s great advice.

So Crystal, you got a perfect nine in listening? – A nine in listening, yeah. – A 9 in listening, so people will probably want me to ask you, any tips for listening, because if you’re getting a nine you’re obviously doing something right so, anything that you can suggest to people for listening? – Well, in my usual time I used to switch to English channel so I haven’t listened to Cantonese news for a long time, since I started preparing for IELTS, so try to listen to everything and keep each channel English and one tip during the test is to write down what you listen but without changing any words.

So if you hear that is S at the end, remember to put an S, so just write down exactly what you hear in the test. – Actually I think British Council’s listening is more straightforward because, so this time when I had got a nine in the listening, I found that I need to fill in sometimes one or the maximum three words in fill in the blanks, which is quite easy compared to IDP, I’m sorry.

(laughs) But I’m comparing the two tests, because you know I’m quite experienced. (laughs) – Yeah, I don’t have any experience with IDP, I’ve only worked for the British Council, so — – Exactly. – You would know more about that than me, to be honest. – Okay, and so if you have more vocabulary in your mind, then it will be easier for you. Because I think some people are struggling with listening because they haven’t heard of the vocabulary before. – Mmmhmm. – So, expand your vocabulary. Keep listening to English, and just keep practicing, and remember to check your grammar at the end. – Mmmhmm, excellent. Good, good advice.

A lot of people think that they have a listening problem or a reading problem when I reality they have a vocabulary problem, and because a lot of the answers to the reading questions and the listening questions will be synonyms, or require you to know the meaning of the word so, vocabulary is a huge part of preparing for the reading test, listening test, speaking test, writing test, it’s all a lot about vocabulary, so if you were to give people some quick advice about how to improve their vocabulary, what would you suggest? – Well I think vocabulary cannot be improved suddenly, magically.

– So you pay attention to the words that you don’t know in your real life, and you check every word you don’t know, and if there is some interesting word or some new word, just jot it down. For writing, actually I almost write an essay every day. – Mmmhmm. – And often I compare with the model essay you gave to me and then I learned new vocabularies from your essay. – Mmmhmm. – And then I will categorize and write synonyms together, in Google Documents. – Mmmhmm. – And then one day when I have more synonyms to the same word and that I search it and I can refresh my memory. – Excellent, you should send me that Google document, that’d be interesting to see all of the different words and everything that you picked up, it would be really interesting to see.

(laughs) So Crystal, thank you very much for, for sharing that information, that’s great. Just, what happens now in your future now, what difference is IELTS gonna make to your future? – Well after I got the score I need I plan to start my registration in several countries to see which one works first and then I will work abroad. So in the meantime I will start my study in Canada next year. – I’ll study a nursing course that help me to get my nursing license. So basically I’m one step forward and I can relax for a few days. – Yeah. – Because I don’t need to focus on writing and listening anymore. – You never have to worry about this, any testing, this is great. And you gave me some excellent nursing advice about my son, which was really nice of you too, so. There we go. (laughs) Thank you very much, Crystal, thank you, that should be a great help to a lot of people, and if you need anything in the future just let me know. – Yeah, sure, hope I can help other people as well. Thank you for your hard work in helping other people.

– Thank you very much, Crystal. See you again, bye bye. .

As found on Youtube