Attempting the Summary Question in the O’Level English Paper (Part 1)

24 Jun 2016

The summary question is actually a comprehension question that requires you to derive 8 points for your answers from a specified section of the passage, and to phrase the answer in your own words, within a specified word limit. Let's get started on the planning

Summary writing techniques

  1. Analyse the Summary Question

    The first step to answering the summary question is to analyse it and study its demands. Read the question and underline (or highlight, if you wish) the keywords and phrases in it. S should be looking out for:

    (i) Your task, for example, decide if you are required to write a summary, an account or a report

    (ii) The point of view, i.e.: who should you be writing as – whether it is yourself, one of the people referred to in the text or someone else. This is important as the point of view will affect the use of your language

    (iii) Topics that need to be summarised. The question may require you to summarise one, two, or even three topics. Make sure you cover all the required topics in your summary.


    No. Summary Question No. of Topics to Be Summarised
    1 Write a summary of the attractions that Mount Fuji has to offer tourists1 1
    2 Write a summary of the advantages1 and disadvnatages2 of using television as a 'babysitter' 2
    3 Write a report, giving the factors that led to the uprising1, the steps taken by the government to put down the revolt2, and the factors that led to the success of the revolt3 3

    iv) The source of your points. Usually he questions specifies the section of the text your points should be taken from. If this is not given, then the answers can be taken from anywhere in the text.

    (v) The word limit, which is 80 words. Remember that the word limit does not include the number of words given to help you begin your summary.

    Take note that you are required to write in continuous writing, not in note form.

  2. Searching for Main Points

    (i) Mark out the relevant parts of the text – draw a line just before and just after this section to ensure that you do not derive any points from irrelevant parts of the text.

    (ii) Read the relevant section of the text, and as you read it, underline (or highlight) each main point you find, then immediately rephrase it along the margin, in note form, in your words. Repeat this process as you read through the rest of the section.

    (iii) Include only the main points in your answer. Leave out the following:

    • Details
    • Examples/Illustrations
    • Elaborations
    • Repetitions
    • Quotations

    If, however, the question specifically asks you to summarise details and/or examples, then you will have to decide which details or examples qualify as main points.

    (iv) As 8 marks are allocated to content, you should have 8 main points in your summary.

  3. Organising Your Points

    Number the points you have written along the margin in the order that you will present them in your summary (unless you are presenting them in the order that you found them in the text).

    For example, if you are required to summarise the advantages and disadvantages of say, our transport system, it would be good to write about the advantages first, then the disadvantages (or vice versa).

    The next instalment will delve into the use of language when writing the summary and final drafts.

The above information is extracted from Distinction in English O'Level Comprehension.

Share this on your network:

Ask the Experts