Essential Skills for the IELTS: Paraphrasing Effectively and Demonstrating Vocabulary Range 

 May 27, 2024

By  Jonathan

A common challenge for IELTS candidates is demonstrating a wide vocabulary and the ability to communicate ideas without excessive repetition. Paraphrasing – restating a text passage or a prompt in your own words – is an essential skill here, and it becomes even more powerful when combined with strategies to avoid overusing the same words.

What is Paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing involves rephrasing a statement to express its meaning using different words and sentence structures. This is NOT simply swapping in synonyms or changing word order slightly. Effective paraphrasing shows you fully understand the original text and can convey the information accurately.

Why Paraphrasing Matters for IELTS

  • Reading and Listening: Test questions often require you to paraphrase information from the passages or recordings. Being able to do so shows comprehension.
  • Writing: Effective paraphrasing of source material or task prompts demonstrates your ability to process information and incorporate it into your own writing with clarity.
  • Speaking: The ability to paraphrase is crucial for tasks where you need to restate an opinion you’ve heard, or rephrase instructions to show your understanding.

How to Paraphrase Effectively

  1. Understand Fully: Before paraphrasing, ensure you grasp the core meaning of the original text.
  2. Identify Keywords: Pick out essential words and phrases that cannot be changed and plan alternatives for the less essential ones.
  3. Change Structure: Don’t just change a few words; restructure the entire sentence. You might change verbs to nouns, or active voice to passive.
  4. Check the Result: Does your paraphrase retain the original meaning? Does it sound natural and fluent?


  • Original Prompt: “Technology has transformed the way we communicate.”
  • Weak Paraphrase: “Technology has changed the way we interact.” (Too minor a change)
  • Effective Paraphrase: “Advances in technology have revolutionized human communication methods.” (Stronger word choices, altered structure)

Paraphrasing and Vocabulary Range

Paraphrasing effectively requires you to know synonyms for common words and phrases. Here’s where those vocabulary lists come in, but with a strategic approach:

  • Word Groups: Learn synonyms in context, grouped by common IELTS topics (environment, education, etc.)
  • Part of Speech Variation: Find synonyms that function as different parts of speech (e.g., “innovate” [verb] vs. “innovation” [noun]). This gives you flexibility.

Strategies to Avoid Repetition

Even with a diverse vocabulary, sometimes the most precise word will need to be used repeatedly. Here’s how to minimize this:

  • Pronouns: Use pronouns (“it”, “this”, “these”) where possible to refer back to something already mentioned without repeating the full noun.
  • Generalizing Nouns: Replace overused specific nouns with broader category words. Instead of repeating “book”, try “publication” or “reading material”.
  • Defining Phrases: If you must use a word several times, try adding a brief defining phrase the first time to provide variety later on. Example: “Social media, specifically platforms that promote image sharing…”

Additional Tips

  • Practice Regularly: Dedicate time to paraphrasing prompts and short texts related to IELTS topics.
  • Don’t Over-Paraphrase: Sometimes using the original words is perfectly acceptable, especially for highly technical terms.
  • Read Aloud: Paraphrasing aloud helps identify unnatural-sounding changes and ensure your version still flows smoothly.

Paraphrasing in Action on the IELTS

Here are some scenarios where your paraphrasing skills will be tested:

  • Writing – Integrated Task: You’ll need to paraphrase data from charts, graphs, or diagrams, using vocabulary appropriate for describing trends.
  • Writing – Essay Tasks: Using your own words to restate a key argument from source material shows critical thinking skills.
  • Speaking Part 2/3: Describing a complex idea may require you to paraphrase and simplify it for clarity as your talk progresses.

Final Note

Paraphrasing and avoiding repetition are not about using the most complex words possible. It’s about demonstrating your command of the English language and your ability to communicate effectively, even when dealing with challenging source material. Start developing these skills as part of your regular IELTS practice, and you’ll see the results reflected in your scores.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.