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a.

SUMMARY WRITING

Section B of the SPM English Paper 2 presents a question on summary writing. You are advised to
spend forty-five minutes on this section.
For this section, a total of 3 marks are allocated. Of these, 20 are awarded for content and another 10
for language accuracy and style. Read the instructions carefully. By doing this, you ought to know very
clearly:
1.

Which part of the passage is supposed to be summarized (you may to be required to


summarize the WHOLE passage)

2.

What aspect of the content of the passage is to be summarized. (For instance, you may be
asked to summarize only the advantages or disadvantages, or certain reactions of people or
even the causes/outcomes of certain incident.

3.

The length of your summary i.e the number of words that you are allowed in your final
summary. If it is stated that your summary MUST not be longer than 160 words, please adhere
to this word limit. If you write more than 160 words, all the extra facts contained there are
NOT taken into account by the examiner.

4.

Take note of any starting words or phrases given and use them as instructed to begin your
summary. Dont forget the number of words in the starting line are included in counting the
total number of words in your summary.

Once you have understood the question clearly, only ten should you begin to read the passage. Try to
understand what the passage is all about what its message/theme is or what the story is about.
During the second reading, begin to underline the important ideas and relevant tails. Pick these out and
list them down. Do ensure that the points you are picking out are meeting the requirements of the
question given. Read the passage once more to ensure that you have not left out any pertinent points.
Now, begin summarizing. Ignore irrelevant explanations and superfluous examples. Focus on the main
ideas and those that support the theme of the passage. Generalize and convert lengthy sentences into
shorter ones. Use one, or shorter words that can substitute the meaning of a long phrase in the passage.
For example, "my mother, my father, my brother, and sister" can be rephrased as my family.
Group similar points together - for example the feelings of a person or the advantages of a certain
procedure/machine. Rather than use three or four sentences to convey all of it, you ca put it all in one
or two sentences. Use commas they help. You will need skill for this, and that is why you should
practice writing a lot of summaries before the real examination.

Many students grapple with summary writing because they get caught up with the words used in the
passage. They want to use all of them. The reason? They feel that the authors words are best and that
almost all that is contained within the original passage is important and necessary to be included in
their summary. As such, most students tend to copy the authors words as much as possible and try to
include almost everything from the original passage into the summary.
The result is a chop cut-and-paste version of the original. It has little meaning and relevance. It is NOT
even a summary and you get a few marks when you write a chopped summary like this.
Remember, you get more marks if you use your OWN WORDS. I know this is not easy, but you must
try. Dont be afraid to rearrange, reorganize and compound facts. The main issue here is whether you
have understood the meaning of the passage and whether you can faithfully translate it into a passage
that is made up mainly of your own words.
So, begin practicing writing a lot of summaries now. Every time you read a report in a newspaper or an
article in a magazine, ask yourself what is this repot/article all about? What is its message? Try to
summarize it in your mind. Imagine that someone younger is asking you what is it that you are reading,
and try to visualize the simplified answer/version that you are going to tell him/her. That is a summary.
Where marks are concerned, try to get as many as you can for CONTENT. Stick to the meaning of the
passage as much as possible but do it using your own words. Do not be lazy. Secure as many points as
you can by reading and scanning the passage carefully for relevant facts and details.
Jot all of these down diligently and try to incorporate them all in a simplified, summarized form. Try
not to leave out important fact. Each fact left out means one less mark for you.
As for language, do take the trouble to read through your final draft and make sure that your grammar,
punctuation and spelling are as accurate as you can possibly make them. Your error must be minimal
and the language you use must not make it difficult for the examiner to understand what you are trying
to say.