Learning to Paraphrase for TOEFL: 4 Steps to the Goal

The ability to paraphrase is an extremely useful skill for those preparing to pass the TOEFL. Thanks to this article, you will learn the importance of this skill for each of the sections of the test and in 4 simple steps you will learn paraphrase.

Reading section:

As you work on the Reading phase of the TOEFL iBT exam, you will be asked to select the option that most successfully paraphrases the original statement. To give the right answer, you will need certain strategies. In addition, understanding the rules for changing the wording will help you improve your score for reading on the test.

Speaking section:

In the TOEFL test, you will find tasks for integrated reasoning of three types, implying just a retelling. Performing each of them, you need, using your own grammatical constructions and vocabulary, to give a new interpretation of the main points of the passages read and heard. And the more accurately you can rephrase the sentences, the higher your score for this section of the test will be.

Writing Section:

When completing the task on the integrated letter, you will have to retell the fragments read and heard. Therefore, as in the case of oral speech, you will need to convey the information received in a different way. Moreover, your goal will be to demonstrate the connection between the questions from the audio recording and the proposed text. And the better your new wording sounds, the higher the score for the section you’ll get.

How is paraphrase different from summaries and quotes?

A brief retelling “compresses” a large text to the main meaning. The quotes reproduce accurate excerpts from the source. But the paraphrase completely changes the sentence, using other words and grammar, but preserving the volume of the statement.

How can the sentence be reformulated?

There are no strict rules for this. However, following the steps here will help you 1) accurately convey the meaning of the phrase using your own vocabulary and structure, and 2) avoid losing any meaningful information. The more often you train, the better chance you’ll have of creating your own unique style of retelling.

The proposal we will be working on: Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy that they use as a food.

1. Break the statement into smaller grammatical units.

Our offer can be divided into 3 parts: one main and two subordinate:

  • main: photosynthesis is the process;
  • first accessory: plants convert sunlight into energy by this process;
  • the second adnexal: the plants use the energy as a food.

2. Change the order of words in the sentence.

So, breaking the phrase into 3 small parts, choose a different order for the resulting fragments. Again, there are no clear recommendations here. So just stir the pieces.

  • Plants convert sunlight into energy by this process. + The plants use the energy as a food. + Photosynthesis is the process.

3. Choose synonyms for nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs.

You’ve broken down the original phrase into smaller parts. What’s more, you swapped them. Now use synonyms for some adjectives, verbs, nouns, and adverbs.

  • Plants convert (change) sunlight into energy by this process (procedure). + The plants use the energy as a food. + Photosynthesis is the process (procedure).

4. Rewrite the sentence without looking at the original.

Finally, connect the sentences you’ve already written without going back to the source. Compare both options.

  • New sentence (14 words): Plants change sunlight into energy to be used as a food through a procedure called photosynthesis.
  • Original phrase (16 words): Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy that they use as a food.

Latest Paraphrase Tips for TOEFL

  • Your version should contain about as many words as the original one.
  • Check to see if you have changed the meaning of the original statement.
  • Don’t discard important information.


We wish you success on the exam!

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