Summary Writing for WAEC/GCE/NECO Candidates: How to Write a Good Summary
Summary writing is one of the most sensitive and delicate topics in English Language. Unfortunately, many candidates find this aspect of English Language very difficult and the bitter truth is, it is a regular feature of WAEC English and it has come to stay. So rather than dread summary writing, face it squarely and learn how to tackle it.
Actually, if you know your onions well you can claim all the 30 marks in summary and if you don’t you get zero. You have 50 minutes to summarize a given passage. In this lesson, you are going to learn how so share this time wisely between reading the summary passage and answering the questions. You will learn the dos and donts of a summary writing.
What is a summary?
A summary is an abridged passage which retains the essential points/ information of the original. It is a brief restatement of the content of the passage in your own words.
What is summary writing?
Summary writing is the ability to compress, compact, abridge or shorten a given passage. Why abridge a passage? When you abridge a passage you filter the distractions and bring out the main point. This is why summary writing is very important. It helps to distinguish between the most important points and the less important ones. Therefore, summary writing is meant to test your ability to identify the key sentence in a given passage.
One striking thing about summary writing is that you are expected to put the answers in your own words. You are to read the passage, understand it and put the answers in your own expression. This is what makes summary writing different from comprehension.
Features/Characteristics of Summary Writing
- Each paragraph must contain a topic sentence.
- Answers must be written in sentences.
- You must not lift your answers verbatim from the passage.
- Do not lump two points in a sentence.
In a given passage, every paragraph contains a topic sentence. And what is the topic sentence? The topic sentence is the most salient point. Your ability to pick out this salient point and write it down in your own words is summary writing. Note that sometimes a paragraph can contain two topic sentences. In this case, the candidate has to identify the two topic sentences and put them in two separate sentences.
Give your answers in sentences
In summary writing, your answers must be written in sentences and not phrases and clauses.
When you lift your answers verbatim from the passage, it is called mindless lifting. Mindless lifting occurs when a candidate lifts five words successfully from the passage. If you do this you have not summarizes, so, you get zero. If you must lift or borrow words from the passage, do it sensibly
Do not lump two points in one sentence
If you write two points in one sentence, you could get into trouble. Remember the questions usually go this way: eg “In six sentences, one for each…………………..” This means each point must be expressed in one sentence. If you lump two points in one sentence and the two points are right, you get 5 marks not 10. If one of the answers is wrong you get zero.
How to answer summary questions
Take the following steps to answer summary questions:
- Read the passage fairly quickly. During this time you are expected to get a general view of the passage.(5 mins)
- Read the questions (2 mins).
- Bearing the questions in mind, return to the passage and read it fairly slowly (8 mins).
- Read the questions again (2 mins).
- Read the passage again with a view to answering the questions This time, take note of the key points. (8 min).
- Answer the questions in your own words (20 mins)
- Read over your answers (5 mins).
Note:Some school of thoughts are of the opinion that the questions be read first before ever reading the passage. This is not a bad idea per se, but I recommend that you read the passage first because reading the questions first could make you nervous and curious. In fact, you could get distracted thinking about the question that you would hardly concentrate on the reading.
On the other hand, if you read the passage without the questions in mind, you are more likely to concentrate and get a general view of the passage. And when you know what the passage is about you can almost tell what kind of questions to expect such that when you eventually see the questions you are more confident.
Avoid adding extraneous material in forms of adjectives or similes. You are not told to describe but to summarize. In other words, make it as brief as possible but retain the essential points.