How to write a good essay: Paraphrasing the question


Hi, there. My name is Emma, and in today's video I'm going to teach you something very

important for if you're taking any type of test that has a writing component. So, if

you are taking the IELTS, the TOEFL, the CELPIP, even just a university test, it can be any

type of test, but if you're asked to write something like an essay or a paragraph, this

video is for you. Okay? So I'm going to teach you a very important skill that will help

improve your marks when it comes to writing on tests. So, let's get started.

So, I have here an essay question. This question is actually... I've seen it on the IELTS.

You know, you have similar types of questions on the TOEFL, sometimes in university. The

question is this: "Education is the single most important factor in the development of

a country. Do you agree or disagree?" Or maybe: "To what extent do you agree or disagree?"

So, this is an example of a question you might be asked.

Now, a problem a lot of students have is in their answer to this question. They see this,

and they think: "Okay, education is the most important factor in the development of a country,

yes, I agree." So then they... Or: "I disagree", and they start writing. And what do they write?

Usually the very first thing students will write is this:

"I agree that education is the single most important factor in the development of a country because..." So, what is the problem

with this? Is there any problem to start off your essay with something like this, or to

start off your answer? There's a big problem. So I want you to take a moment and think:

"What could be the problem with starting your essay off with this sentence?"

Okay, well, if you noticed, you have here the word: "education, education, is, is, the single most important,

most important factor". If you notice, these are the same. They're the exact same, except

for: "I agree that" and "because". The student, here, has used the exact same wording that

is in the question. So, if you do this on the IELTS-and many students do this, same

with on the TOEFL-you actually will lose marks, and same with in university, because you're

not showing your abilities; you're just copying what somebody else has said or what the essay

question is.

So, in this video, I'm going to show you first off... First off, I'm going to tell you: Don't

do this, don't copy. And I'm going to teach you ways in order to improve yourself and

your answer by changing this wording. How can you change your introduction so it's different

than what the question is? Okay? So, let's look at how to make these changes.

Okay, so what we are going to do in order to change the question into a proper answer

that doesn't just copy the question, is we are going to paraphrase. So, the word here

is: "paraphrase". This might be a new word for you. What does it mean to paraphrase something?

Well, when we paraphrase, it means we take a sentence that, you know... We take somebody

else's sentence and we change it into our own words. Okay? So, we change the words of

a sentence, we also change maybe the sentence structure, but we keep all the same meaning.

Okay? So, the meaning from the sentence you copy, it stays the same, same meaning, but

different words and different sentence structure. Okay? So it's in your words, but this other

person's meaning.

So, we are going to paraphrase this example of a question into our own words. So, first

we're going to look at how to do that using vocabulary and synonyms. So, we have here

the same question: "Education is the single most important factor in the development of

a country." How can we put this into new words or our own words that keep the same meaning?

Well, we can use synonyms. So, this might be a new word for you, too. A "synonym". "Synonyms"

are words that have the same meaning, but are different words. So, for example: "big"

and "large", they have the same meaning, just like: "huge", "enormous", these are synonyms

of each other; same meaning, but they're different words. So, you need to use different synonyms

so you don't just copy these words. You use synonyms to have words that have the same

meaning, but are different words.

So, let's look at an example. Our first word, here, is: "education".

What's another word we can use instead of...? Instead of "education"? Well, there's different words we can use.

Maybe one could be: "schooling". Okay? So, we could change this word to "schooling".

"Schooling is the single most important factor in the development of a country." What's another

word we can change? Well, maybe "most important". Instead of using the word "most important",

maybe we could use: "most significant" or "most essential". Okay? So: "essential", "significant".

There are many words you can use. But the point here is: Find a word that has the same

meaning, but is a different word.

Okay, here's another word: "factor". Can you think of another word for "factor"? Well,

sometimes "factor", it can be an "aspect" or an "element". Okay? You can even say sometimes:

"a significant role". Okay? Or: "a part". So, there's different words we can use that

have similar meanings. In terms of the word "development", we can change the word "development"

to "advancement", "progression", "evolution". Okay? And in terms of the word "country",

another word for "country" is "nation". Okay?

So, these are all synonyms, and this is what you want to do. When you look at the question,

think about some new words you can use that have the same meaning. This is also important

throughout your essay, because one problem a lot of students have is they keep using

the same word again, and again, and again in every sentence. This does not help you

with your marks. It's better to use different words that have the same meaning. At the same

time, you have to be careful, here, because some students, they find a new word, they

think it's a great word, but there is a little bit of a difference in meaning. So, you need

to be really comfortable with the word you choose, and you need to know what it actually

means so it doesn't sound strange.

Okay, so if we wanted to change this now, instead of saying:

"Education is the single most important factor in the development of a country",

our paraphrase... Our first step

in our paraphrase could be changing these words to:

"Schooling is the single most significant element in the advancement of a nation."

Okay? So that's just one example. So, now, let's

look at another thing you can do in order to paraphrase the question on a test or exam.

Okay, another way we can paraphrase is by changing the structure of the sentence. So,

for example, you might have a verb and, you know, which is an action, and you might change

that into its noun form. So, for example, if your verb is "developing", you might change

that into "development". You might change, similarly, a noun into a verb. Okay? So, for

example, we just said "development" is the noun, it can turn into: "develop" or "developing".

You can also change things into adjectives. So, if, for example, you're talking about

"technology", which is a noun, you can change this into the adjective form which is "technological".

So, changing the form of the word can help you with paraphrasing.

Also changing placement of the words can help you out. So, for example, in our original

sentence or the question was:

"Education is the single most important factor in the development of a country."

So, I've now changed some of the wording, as well as the order. Okay? So,

here: "Education" is at the beginning. In my sentence:

"The most essential element of a nation's development is education."

I've changed the order of the sentence, so now

"education" is at the end, instead of at the beginning. I've also started out with:

"The most essential", as my beginning; whereas here, it was in the middle. You'll also notice

we have, here: "in the development of a country", I've changed this to: "nation's development".

I could also change this to: "country's development", instead of "the development of a country".

So, changing the order of the sentence and changing some of the structures can really

help you in terms of paraphrasing. Now let's learn one other way in which we can improve

our marks by paraphrasing.

Okay, so the last tip I have about paraphrasing a question is using concessions. So, what

is a concession? Well, I want you to look at what the question actually says and my

new answer to it. The question, again, same question as before:

"Education is the single most important factor in the development of a country."

My answer... Okay, so I've changed some words and I've also changed the structure a bit, but there's one other thing I've added.

"Although many would argue that the economy is the most important factor in nation-building,

I think education has a far greater impact." So, what I've done here is I've added a concession.

A concession is where you say what the opposite opinion is, and then you say what your opinion

is. So, you're giving two opinions; you're giving your opinion and also what other people

might think. This is a great thing to do, especially in essays, and this is something

you can do at the beginning of your answer.

So, we use here the key word: "Although". Okay? And you'll notice that this has two

clauses. I don't want to get too technical with grammar on you today, but what I mean

is: If you see, we have the red part: "Although many would argue that the economy is the most

important factor in nation-building," and then we have a second part. So, we have two

parts to this sentence. "...I think education has a far greater impact." So, the first part

of the sentence is in red and it's the "Although" part, and the second part of the sentence

is in purple-okay?-and that's: "I think education has a far greater impact."

And they're separated by a comma. So, a concession has two parts to it. You say what the other people think

first, in this case: "Although many", "many" meaning people, we could also say: "many people".

"Although many would argue that the economy is the most important factor in nation-building,"

okay? So, this is what some people would say. Now I'm going to say what I think.

"I think education has a far greater impact."

So, why is this a good idea? Well, one reason is because when you write a concession, when

you're showing what the opposite opinion of yours is, you're showing that you've thought

about the issue. Okay? You're looking at both sides. You're not just looking at your opinion.

You're looking at both sides, and then you're making a judgment. So this shows that you're

thinking about the question, and you're really giving it some thought. And by representing

both sides, you're really showing critical thinking. So this is a very good idea to do.

Okay, so the three things we've talked about today in terms of paraphrasing the question

is: Changing the words using synonyms, we've talked about changing the sentence structure,

and we've also talked about adding the other perspective using concessions. Okay? So, these

are three things you can do in order to change the question so you're not just copying what

is on your test paper. Again, great thing to do if you're writing a high school essay,

university essay, TOEFL, IELTS, CELPIP, all of these things - this skill will really come

in handy for you.

Now, you might be wondering: "Okay, this is great, but I don't know any synonyms. Or I...

You know, I don't know much about this." Well, what you can do is you can come check out

our website at There, you can find a lot of other resources, including

improving your vocabulary, we even have a video on how to make concessions, you know,

we have videos on sentence structure, too. So, there's a lot of videos you can check

out and a lot of resources. You can also come visit our website where you will find a quiz,

and by taking that quiz, you can actually practice your paraphrasing skills so you can

see, you know: "Am I doing this right? Is this...? You know, is this the right way to

do this?" and get more practice.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this video.

And until next time, take care.