Paraphrasing made easy!

In this post, I am exploring paraphrasing as it is an essential skill for international exams in English.

With English being the language of international communication, there are now plenty of tests of English for non-native speakers  – IELTS, TOEFL, KET-CPE, to name but a few. Seemingly different, such tests often assess pretty much the same skills and abilities. Paraphrasing is one of them. The ability to paraphrase is vital in Speaking and Writing parts of any test of English. Why? Because it shows that you actually understand the information you are given and, more importantly, it allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of English! Many people struggle with paraphrasing. Yet, it’s not rocket science and in this post I am going to talk about very simple paraphrasing techniques. Bear with me…

First, a word of warning: Don’t get too obsessed! There are words you don’t have to and shouldn’t paraphrase! There is no need to say conventional words in a different way, like chair or passport. Nor should you try to rephrase specialized or scientific vocabulary, like genetically-modified food or greenhouse gases.

When you do need to paraphrase, here are the techniques that will help you:

1 Use synonyms.

It will have a negative effect on the economy. / It will have a harmful effect on the economy.

This looks pretty straightforward. However, you have to be careful and keep in mind that very few words in a language are completely interchangeable and the synonym you find might not suit your sentence as well as you think.

2 Use antonyms.

It is hard. / It is not easy. It’s the cheapest. / It’s the least expensive.

3 Explain a word.

Violators will be ticketed. / People who break the law will receive a ticket.

Obviously, it only works with words that can be explained in a short way.

4 Change word forms.

Many words have several grammatical forms, for example, compete (v) – competition (n) – competitor (n) –competitive (adj) – competitively (adv). Use a different one when you paraphrase.

Competition for quality jobs at postgraduate level is fierce. / Postgraduate students have to compete hard for quality jobs.

This approach is useful not only because it helps to avoid copying the original word, but also because it involves changing sentence structure and thus helps you to create a completely different sentence.

5 Change sentence structure.

This one includes several sub-techniques:

– Change the grammar.

Active / Passive: Trained scientists performed this research. / This research was performed by trained scientists.

Infinitive / Gerund: It’s easy to use it. / Using it is easy.

Subject + verb / Participle: After he left the company, he couldn’t find a job for moths. / After leaving the company, he couldn’t find a job for moths.

– Change sentence connectors.

Although the scientist spent years studying gorillas, their behavior would still surprise her.

Despite years spent studying gorillas, their behavior would still surprise the scientist.

/ The scientist spent years studying gorillas; however, their behavior would still surprise her.

– Change the order of ideas.

The spread of GM trials led to a series of protests. / A series of protests resulted from the spread of GM trials.

Ideally, in order to create top-notch paraphrases, you should use a variety of techniques and combine them.

Now let me try a little paraphrasing. Here is an essay topic (IELTS Writing Task 2) and below is my introduction for this essay.

Lutsenko_paraprasing

At present there is no doubt that smoking is detrimental to people’s health and causes a range of diseases, including terminal. In an effort to reduce the harmful effects of this bad habit, some countries have prohibited smoking in public places. Some people believe that this approach should be implemented worldwide. I completely agree with this opinion and shall argue that smoking should not be allowed anywhere on public premises except a number of designated areas.

You see, paraphrasing is a piece of cake. By the way, which techniques did I use?

Before I finish another word of warning: Don’t get too excited and don’t forget that your sentence must retain its original meaning!

Now paraphrase to your heart’s content.

 

Main sources used to write this post:
The Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test
Oxford Grammar for EAP
Express to the TOEFL iBT Test

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The Beast or how to write essays

When I was on holiday this summer, I went to my hometown to visit my parents. They asked me to sort out my old papers and books and get rid of the ones that I didn’t use any more. As I was doing that, I found one great picture illustrating the core of essay writing. It’s from a writing workshop I took part in about 10 years ago when I was working at school. Here it is:

the-beast

This picture, called “The Beast,” shows the structure and the essential parts of an essay in a very simple way. Now, this cute beast has 3 parts – the head, the body, and the tail. Similarly, any essay has 3 parts – the introduction, the main body and the conclusion.

The introduction leads the reader into the topic and has a clear thesis statement. A thesis is the main idea or opinion of the speaker or writer who then attempts to prove it. Just like this cute beast has a very visible blue horn, your introduction must have a very clear and direct statement of what you are going to talk about in your essay.

The main body of an essay, which is usually 2-4 paragraphs long, explains and proves your thesis. Just like the body of this cute beast is separated into segments, the body of an essay must be separated into paragraphs.  And just like this cute beast’s body has smaller yellow horns, each of your paragraphs must have a clear topic sentence. The topic sentence, as its name implies, introduces the topic of the paragraph, which you then develop / explain and exemplify.

The conclusion goes over the same ground as the whole essay. In your conclusion you must restate your thesis and summarize your main points.

Ok, that’s theory. Now look at how I put it into practice. This is an essay I wrote one week before I took IELTS last year and got 8.5 for Writing. It’s on one of my pet topics =).

languages_task

Lutsenko_languages_essay

This is an essay I wrote for IELTS that’s why it only has 2 body paragraphs. I usually write 2 body paragraphs for IELTS and 3 for TOEFL. The word count is 259 words. I try not to go more than 10-30 words over the word limit.

Now that you have “The Beast” and my essay, essay writing should be easy-peasy!

Oh, by the way, it’s totally wrong about 70 words for “snow”, but I didn’t know it at the time of writing this essay. The truth is in this Wikipedia article.

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How public speaking is similar to essay writing

The world is full of opportunities to learn.

During the winter holiday, when I had a lot of free time, I discovered an incredible learning tool called MOOC, which stands for “massive open online course”. It turned out, to my surprise, that nowadays many leading universities offer their courses online free of charge. They do it on different platforms; the one I started from is edx.org.

In an amazing stroke of luck, the very first time I opened the “courses” page, the very first course I saw was Introduction to Public Speaking which, coincidentally, was to start in a week! I thought “Great! It never hurts to practice speaking!” and registered. I’m now glad I did! The course turned out to be excellent. It would take me a lot of time and effort to write about how useful the course was, so I’m not going to do it. Just take the course, I promise, you won’t regret it. There is, however, one task we did which I simply have to tell you about.

In this course we studied and prepared different types of speeches – Introductory, Impromptu, Informative,Persuasive. All of them fascinating and useful, but the most valuable one for those who are preparing for international exams is the impromptu speech.

Impromptu means “not planned or prepared”. So the impromptu speech is a type of speech you must be able to make without preparing beforehand. And the goal the teacher set for us went like this “My main goal for this speech is that you are able to quickly arrange and deliver a clear and well-supported argument. Your speech must be clear, which requires you to include previews, reviews, and transitions. Your speech needs to have, at its heart, a well-organized and solid argument.” What’s so special about this goal? Well, the thing is, it is almost word-for-word one of the assessment criteria for essays in all international exams!

Now look at the structure of the impromptu speech

What does it look like? Correct. It looks like an essay structure.
Or, in more detail:

Introduction

State your thesis

Preview of your main points

First main point

Statement of your first main point

Provide and explain two pieces of support illustrating the first main point

Conclude your first main point

Second main point

Statement of your second main point

Provide and explain two pieces of support illustrating the second main point

Conclude your second main point

Conclusion

Restate the your thesis statement and review your two main points

Conclude your speech

This structure helps you to quickly and spontaneously generate and express your ideas in a way that makes it easy for the listener / reader (for example, the examiner) to understand what you are trying to get across and why. Of course, you can change this structure a little and adapt it to your needs and time frame, but on the whole, it’s a great foundation not only for a speech, but also for an essay.

On top of all that, the instructor – Matt McGarrity – is outstanding! If you ever see this MOOC on any platform, register immediately!

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