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.


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