Build your “Automatic Paraphrasing Brain”

Paraphrasing is possibly one of the most important skills you need for IELTS. It helps you understand Reading and Listening questions better, hence better answers. It is also required in Writing and Speaking

In this article, I want to help you take paraphrasing to another level. I know you are familiar with paraphrasing the task prompt in IELTS Writing and the questions in IELTS Speaking. But did you know that you can also paraphrase your own sentences?

Did you know you can paraphrase your own sentences?

Self-paraphrasing is more complicated than paraphrasing someone else’s as it requires you to understand what you want to say and dig deep into your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar.

What is “paraphrasing”?

Paraphrasing, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is to “repeat something written or spoken using different words, often in a humorous form or in a simpler and shorter form that makes the original meaning clearer.” (Cambridge Dictionary, “Paraphrase“)

There are 3 important factors in Paraphrasing:

  1. Repeat something using different words: This indicates that you should make use of the synonyms of the keywords in the original sentence. You can either change the words and/or change the grammatical structures.
  2. Keep the same meaning: The paraphrased sentence must be with the same meaning as the original sentence.
  3. Make the original sentence clearer: The paraphrased sentence must be clearer than the original sentence.

So, in other words, Paraphrasing a sentence is rewriting/restating it with different words, and different grammar and making sure the new sentence delivers the same but clearer message than the original sentence.

It is a misconception that the more complicated a paraphrased sentence is, the better. This cannot be further from the truth. You should make sure your sentence is clear whether or not you are using advanced words and grammar.

“Automatic Paraphrasing Brain”

I use this term to refer to the tendency to paraphrase what I just thought of before writing it down or saying it.

Note: This doesn’t apply in my daily conversations. Only used for IELTS and exams.

So, when you think about it, this is a tendency, which is a fancier way to say that I have a habit of paraphrasing what I want to write/say before actually doing it.

This habit didn’t happen overnight but over practice. So, if you start building it today, you will master it in time for your actual IELTS exam.

The principle of the “Automatic Paraphrasing Brain” lies in 3 whats – or 3 steps. I will explain these whats in detail below with example for practice.

3 whats in
"Automatic Paraphrasing Brain"

What 1

What is the topic?

What 2

What do you want to say?

What 3

What are the key details?

STEP TWO – What do you want to say?

Self-paraphrasing is more difficult than paraphrasing someone else’s sentences because you need to know what you want to say. In other words, you need to draw an outline for your sentence (what do you mean by this sentence?).

This is the main idea of your sentence. What do you want to say now? What is the first thing that came to your mind when I mentioned “the importance of education”?

To me, the first thing I thought of was

  • education versus poverty
  • education helps reduce poverty
  • education makes it easier to fight poverty

Keep in mind that I have not written down or spoken out loud these sentences. The whole thing happened in my mind. And I won’t write them down or speak them out loud because, remember… I have a habit of paraphrasing what I want to say before actually doing it. This brings me to the 3rd What.

STEP ONE: What is the topic?

Example: Topic “the importance of education”

Vocabulary collection topic “Education”.

It’s crucial that you know what you are talking about. The topic can be easily identified by reading the task prompt and listening to the question the examiner is giving you.

Keep in mind that you should never go off-topic because it is probably the biggest sin you can commit in IELTS Writing and IELTS Speaking.

The topic helps you narrow down the scope of your sentence, making it concise.

So, the topic in the example is “education” and you should not talk about anything else but “education”. More specifically, you need to talk about the importance of education. Some questions I ask myself about this topic:

  • Why is education important?
  • What can education do for people/children/the words/ect.?
  • With education, what can be reduced/removed?

STEP THREE – What are the key details?

Now, you already know what you need to talk about and what you want to say. It’s like you already have a goal and an outline for what you need to do. It’s time you looked into the details. 

The details may include some or all of the following points.

  • Keywords
  • Key grammar
  • Key meaning (This is the outline you created in Step 2)

The meaning, of course, is not changeable unless you want to change what you want to say. In that case, you need to go back to Step 2 to make a new outline.

Keywords play the most important role here because they bring your idea to life. Grammar in many cases is not the most important part and it will be automatically changed when the keywords are changed.

Based on the outline I made above, I now can write down some of the words I want to use in my sentence that represent my idea and their synonyms.

  • Help, assist, aid, contribute
  • Reduce, alleviate, mitigate, diminish, combat
  • Important, crucial, essential, fundamental, powerful tool (noun phrase)
  • Poverty, impoverishment, poverty levels

Note: How extensive this list is depends on your vocabulary bank. Notice that I only have vocabulary about what I want to say (education versus poverty). 

Presenting the sentence

So, even before my sentence exists, I already have everything I need to make it better. Naturally, I would write/say: “Education helps reduce poverty.” But with my “automatic paraphrasing brain”, I always look for a better (in my opinion) way to say this.

After 3 steps above, I now have several options and here are some of my sentences.

  • Education aids in diminishing poverty.
  • Education contributes to alleviating poverty.
  • Education is instrumental in lowering poverty levels.
  • Education serves as a powerful tool for combating poverty.
Now, it’s your turn. Put your sentences in the comment section and I will help you correct them (if needed).

I can continue paraphrasing my sentence even after I have produced one until I am satisfied. However, it doesn’t work well in IELTS Speaking because it would be counted as idea repetitions. So, the best option I have now is to make sure I have an “Automatic Paraphrasing Brain” that allows me to self-paraphrase even before I say something.
The paraphrasing technique is powerful and it is used extensively in IELTS. By self-paraphrasing, you can elevate your vocabulary and grammar scores, which will for sure improve your overall score.
You will learn everything about the IELTS exam for free when joining any of Practice9’s Everything IELTS packages. See details below.

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Huyen Nguyen

Founder of Practice9, creator of IELTS with Huyen. Huyen has 10 years of experience with IELTS, overall 8.5.

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