Summary Writing: Understanding and Analysing

Summary Writing

Summary Writing has always been a bugbear for many students — either they cannot find the points or are unable to express the ideas in their own words. In the next few posts, we are going to explain how to ace the summary question in secondary school.

I. Summary Writing: Understanding ‘O’ level marking rubrics

For summary writing, there is a total of 15 marks. Eight marks are assigned for content and the other seven marks are assigned for language use.

Content marks are gained by identifying relevant points. To score full marks (eight marks), you need to identify eight points as one point represents one mark. However, it is possible that there can be up to 10 points in the marking scheme. If you think about it, the more points there are, the easier the summary is, then you can still leave out one or two points and still score eight marks. To ensure that you score eight marks, it is also important to ensure that the full meaning of the point is expressed. Thus, you need to be careful not to include irrelevant information. 

The language use section is a test of language. The criteria is found in the table below. To score well for language use, it is important to use your own words and write a piece of summary that is error-free (spelling, grammar, etc). 

  • There is a sustained and successful attempt to re-phrase the text language.
  • The summary is free from lifting except for phrases from the text which are difficult to substitute.
  • Apart from occasional slips, the language is accurate.

Please take note that there is a maximum of 80 words. Please do not write over the word limit as teachers will count each summary.

II. Summary Writing: Analysing the Question

While many summary questions have only one part to the question, some of them have a few parts. Thus, once you have read the question, you should note the number of parts required by the question and also identify which paragraphs contain the information.

For example:

“Summarise the symptoms of measles and how to treat it. Use only information from paragraphs 1 to 3.”

This summary is asking for two parts – symptoms and treatment of measles. You also need to look for the information from paragraphs 1 to 3 only. We encourage our students to indicate the paragraphs by drawing lines or putting big brackets and you should too. This helps the student to clearly mark out the relevant paragraphs for the summary. Identify the first part as ‘A’ and the second part as ‘B’. 

At the same time, you should analyse the question to understand what is required by underlining key words. In the example above, you should have underlined ‘symptoms’, ‘how’ and ‘treat’. In other words, when you read paragraphs 1 to 3, you should look out for symptoms and treatments only. Other information is to be ignored. Other than key words that identify the topic, you should also take note of question words like “why” (reasons) and “how” (a procedure or a method). 

For example:

Summarise how the culinary achievements of Asian cities have been recognised and what is the impact of this.

When you look for information in the relevant paragraphs, you should concentrate on the ways chefs and restaurants have been recognised (part A) AND the outcome of this recognition (part B).

Now that you understand the requirements of the summary question and how to analyse the question, let us go through some strategies on how to find the correct points. You can find the next post here.

PSLE Listening Comprehension Examination

Listening Comprehension

Listening Comprehension Skills

With the PSLE Listening Comprehension Examination just around the corner, here are some tips to take note of:

#1 Glance through the questions before each passage is being read.

This allows you to get a rough idea of what the passage is going to be about and frames your mind to look out for whatever information is required.


#2 Look at the questions while the passage is being read to you.

A common mistake people make is to stare blankly into space while listening to what is being read. If you do this, there is a tendency for your mind to drift off and your thoughts to wander causing you to miss out on vital information. A good strategy is to look at the questions as the passage is being read. This helps your mind to focus better. You may circle the answer on the answer booklet during the first reading, as soon as the information is being read to you (otherwise you might forget what was being read all too soon.)

You may then choose to shade the OAS later during the second reading when you are sure that the answer you have selected is correct.

#3 Avoid dreaming when the passage is being read the second time.

Even if you are certain that you have chosen the correct answer after the first reading, always pay close attention to what is being read the second time. Think critically about what is being read and ask yourself, “Does what I have just heard answer this particular question?”


Listen with a CALM state of mind. If you feel nervous, always take deep breaths. Listen calmly to what is being read. When you panic, nothing you listen to will make sense so it is important to keep your nerves in check. Tell yourself, this is just another listening comprehension exam and if you do not get a perfect score, it’s okay. We all make mistakes. Just do your best and be happy with whatever your best is.

Preparing for the End of Year Exams

Term three is ending and the dreaded end-of-year examination is closing in. While most students do not view examinations with glee, there are probably two group of students that are close to panicking now – the PSLE and the ‘N’/’O’ Levels students.

How can students approach these major examinations calmly? Read More…

Open-Ended Comprehension – Part 1

In the previous article, we discussed Comprehension Cloze. In this edition, we are going to discuss the Open-Ended Comprehension component of the exams.

These two sections are actually very closely related to each other. It is no surprise that a student weak in one will find doing the other difficult as well. Like Comprehension Cloze, it assesses the overall English skill level. Read More…

Comprehension Cloze – Part 1

In the previous two weeks, we shared some tips on how your child can do well for continuous writing in Paper 1.

Now we will turn our attention to Paper 2. We will concentrate on two sections that many students find difficulty in – Comprehension Cloze and Open-ended Comprehension. We will discuss Comprehension Cloze first and move on the Open-ended Comprehension in next weeks article. Read More…

Final PSLE Preparation Tips

You will realise that our tips, while focusing on a section of the English paper, actually targets multiple assessment objectives of the PSLE English paper. Many people do not see it this way, but Paper 1 and Paper 2 are actually opposites of each other.

Paper 1 focuses on construction – writing words and linking them to create ideas to write essays. On the other hand, Paper 2 focuses on de-construction – breaking down the writing to get a deeper understanding of the author’s ideas and intention. This is why whatever tips we provide, are inevitably linked to each other. Read More…