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! .

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How to Answer IELTS Writing Task 1 General

Hi, I’m Justin. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you can learn how to answer task one of the IELTS general writing exam. In the general IELTS writing exam, task one involves writing a letter. Usually, you have to do three things in your letter. You have 20 minutes and you need to write at least 150 words. In this lesson, you’ll see how to plan and write an effective general task 1 IELTS answer. You’ll learn simple strategies you can use to write a better answer and improve your IELTS writing score.

Let’s start by looking at a sample question: Your neighbour has been making a lot of noise recently. This has been causing you problems, and you want to ask them to stop. Write a letter to your neighbour. In your letter: – ask for an explanation for the noise – explain the problems this has caused for you – say what will happen if the problem is not solved Pause the video if you want more time to look at the question. Let’s begin by looking at what you need to think about before you write. Planning for IELTS general task one answers is easier than for other IELTS writing tasks. All general task one questions have the same structure. This means that your answer can have the same structure every time.

The question asks you to do three things. Each point can go in its own paragraph. So, your answer will have three short paragraphs, like this: Then, you need a short introduction. For this question, you can just write a single sentence to explain why you’re writing, like this: I am writing to complain about the noise levels coming from your apartment in recent weeks. The introduction might be different in other tasks. For example, if you’re writing to a friend, you’d write something much simpler. There is one more thing you need to think about when planning: tone. When we say ‘tone’, we mean how formal or informal your letter should be. Task one of the general IELTS writing exam is the only place where tone is clearly mentioned in the scoring scheme.

You need to write in an appropriate tone, and your tone needs to be consistent. What tone do you think you need here? Should your letter be formal, neutral, or informal? Probably, your letter will be somewhere between neutral and formal. You’re writing to your neighbour, so you don’t need to be incredibly formal, but you’re also writing to complain, which adds formality. In our experience, one of the most common mistakes with task one answers is not getting the tone right. Either candidates choose an inappropriate level of formality, or they mix different levels in the same answer. Both of these mistakes will hurt your score. So, before you write anything, think about how formal your letter should be. Now, you have a plan; let’s write our first paragraph! Look at the beginning of a letter: Dear Emily, How’s it going? I’m actually writing because I have some issues with noise coming from your apartment. I would like to demand an explanation for the noise levels.

I mean, what on earth are you doing that’s so noisy? I can hardly have a conversation with someone sitting next to me, because it’s so loud. Please inform me what is occurring. Pause the video if you want more time to look at the answer. Think about whether this is good, or whether it needs some work. There’s a problem with this beginning. Do you know what it is? The problem is tone. As you heard before, it’s a common mistake to mix formal and informal language. Here, you can see very formal sentences, like: I would like to demand an explanation for the noise levels. You can also see more informal language, like: I mean, what on earth are you doing that’s so noisy? The start of the letter also mixes different levels of formality. Writing how’s it going? is a more informal way to start a letter or an email, but if you’re writing to complain, you would almost certainly need to use a more neutral or formal tone.

To get a high score in the general IELTS writing exam, you need to write in a consistent tone. If you want to practice, think about how you could improve the answer you saw before. You can pause the video, and start again when you’re ready. Let’s see how you could improve this answer: Pause the video if you need more time to read. You can see that we’ve got rid of some of the more informal language, like how’s it going? This is also better because it’s consistent without being too formal.

Our original answer included very formal language, like Please inform me what is occurring. You don’t get more points for being more formal; you get a high score by writing in an appropriate and consistent tone. Next, let’s continue by thinking about use of language in your answer. Task one of the general IELTS writing exam is the simplest of all the IELTS writing tasks. This is an advantage, but it also means you need to think carefully about using a wide range of language. Let’s look at this by adding another paragraph to our model answer: This situation is having a bad effect on my entire family. I have been unable to sleep, because of the loud noises even late at night. My son complains that he cannot do his homework. Even our dog has been behaving oddly; she is not eating well and has no energy. This is a good paragraph, and the use of language is already good. However, to get higher scores, you would need to use a wider range of language.

Let’s do two things here. First, look at the five underlined words and phrases. Can you change these words and phrases to make them more detailed and more specific? Think about it—you’ll see some possible answers in a minute. Your second job is to take two sentences and combine them into a more complex sentence. There’s more than one way you could do this, so find an idea which makes sense to you. Think about your answers now. Pause the video if you need more time. Ready? Let’s look: You can see that you don’t need to make big changes. A lot of students think that you need to use a lot of very academic language to get high scores in IELTS. You don’t. To get high scores—even band 9—you need to use a range of language with flexibility and precision. That might include academic language in some cases, but for a letter, that wouldn’t be appropriate. Collocations are very important for your IELTS vocabulary score.

Using collocations like sleep properly, noise levels, lose your appetite, or focus on your homework will boost your vocabulary score. For grammar, we simply connected two sentences with the conjunction while. This adds variety to the sentence structures, which will also help your score. At this point, you need to write one more paragraph. Here, you’re going to see how you can connect your ideas more effectively. There’s a common problem we see with IELTS writing in our students. Students often plan each paragraph separately. Then, they write each paragraph as a separate unit, and the paragraphs don’t have much connection to each other. This will hurt your score; 25 per cent of your score is for coherence and cohesion.

To get a higher score for coherence and cohesion, your writing needs to have a clear progression. That means it needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Let’s look at a final paragraph which doesn’t handle this well: I must ask you to reduce the amount of noise you make, and try to keep quiet during the evening when we are at home. If you continue making noise at these levels, I will have no choice but to make a noise complaint to the police and/or to the city council. Regards, Samira Pause the video if you want more time to read the paragraph.

This is not bad, but it doesn’t include any links or references to the other points you’ve made in the letter. It also lacks a concluding phrase, which could provide a strong, clear end to your letter. Let’s see how you could improve this: Can you see what’s changed? Pause the video to read. There are four changes. First, we made a reference to the first paragraph, then we added a reference to the second paragraph. We also avoided repetition by adding a reference to ‘this situation’, instead of talking about noise levels again. Finally, we added a concluding phrase. And you’ve finished! Practice these steps and ideas and you should be able to get a high score in task one of the general IELTS exam.

Here’s a question for you: what do you find most difficult in task one of the general IELTS writing exam? Please let us know in the comments. You can see the full text of the model answer on our website: Oxford Online English dot com. Look for a link in the video description if you’re watching on YouTube. Thanks for watching! See you next time! .

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