Paraphrasing the essay topic

20 Aug 2017

How to Paraphrase the IELTS Essay Topic


Paraphrasing the topic and providing an appropriate introduction consisting of a general statement and the correct specific statement is an ongoing problematic area.  The biggest issue that students seem to have difficulty with is the paraphrasing and a frustrating propensity to continually include background statements which invariably end up off topic.  I thought I would take the opportunity to share a recent submission and my feedback to the student in relation to this area.

Task Undertaken:

It’s generally believed that success in fields such as art and sport can only be achieved if a person has natural talent. However, it’s sometimes claimed that any child can be taught to become a good person or artist.

Discuss both these views and give your opinion.

Introduction submitted with my corrections:

Generally speaking, famous artists and sports players have accomplished plenty of successes all over the world.  There is a widespread view the performances of famous performers are due completely to their inherited genetic abilities genius, while children learn that all of them will be a competent person the opposite side of the coin is that talent can be developed through training.  This essay discusses both sides of this argument, and then I will give my own perspective.

My Feedback to the student:

Now to focus on your introduction.  The general statement needs to be one sentence long and succinct without introducing elements that are not part of the topic.  Being creative here and adding components is doing your essay more harm than good.  You need to consider that an inaccurate paraphrase reduces your score for vocabulary as it is viewed as not displaying sufficient lexical resources if you do not accurately paraphrase.  You also can lose marks for going off topic.  This is the first impression the examiner will get of your work.  It is an idea to make it a good one.

My point is how do you impress the examiner?  The answer is by being succinct, to the point, accurate and showing command as well as control of the language. You showcase your talent in the introduction with accuracy and precision. The attempt to use background statements, be creative or provide additional information is, quite frankly something the examiner will be bored of seeing and even worse you risk changing the topic.  The effort is better off being used to improve the body.  That is where you will get your marks.

Most students find paraphrasing difficult and the favoured method is to go through and try to find synonyms for the key words and then to try and rewrite the general statement using these synonyms in a similarly structured sentence.  The problem with this method is that it is very hard to actually get a nice succinct paraphrased summation of the topic and by not changing the grammar of the original sentence the level of paraphrasing will be fairly minimal.

Another method which I advocate is to review the topic and identify the key words.  At the same time ensure you have a thorough understanding of the topic.  Then write a general statement down in your plan using your own words or interpretation of the meaning of the topic. Also, by changing the form of words; for instance, from nouns to verbs you will end up with a grammatical different sentence.   Then go back and compare your sentence with the original one to make sure that the meaning remains the same.  You can then write it into your essay.  As you get better at this and more confident, you will find it is much easier to paraphrase this way and it produces a far superior result.

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