Summary has become a dreadful subject to many students or candidates preparing for the G.C.E or the School Certificate English language exam. Dreadful I’m the sense that many of them don’t know how to go about summarizing a given passage with the result that they get little or no marks in the summary paper.
In the G.C.E and the School Certificate English language examinations summary carries not less than 40 marks. And, from my experience as an examiner, I know that very many candidates usually get nothing (yes, I mean zero!) out of 40 marks. Only the few intelligent ones usually score 20 and above. Now if a candidate gets zero in summary, it does not need a prophet to predict thathis/her chances of passing English Language very well or even passing it at all, are very remote.
However you don’t need to get scared at that rather frightening revelation. I am quiteconfident that if you go through these ‘Useful hints’ carefully, summary would cease to be the bugbear it was to you before. However, before we go into details, let us, as it were, begin from the beginning by asking ourselves the question: What is Summary?
1. What is Summary?
Summary can be defined as a brief account giving the chief points. When a story or an account of anything is shortened or abridged leaving only the relevant or important points, that story or account is said to be have been summarized.
Another word for Summary is Precis, (pronounced prei-siz). And the word precis is connected with another English word – ‘precise’, meaning ‘exact’. It is significant to bear in mind the meaning or definition because even though you are use your own words as much as possible in writing your summary you should never add your own fact or ideas to make it different from the original. Your summary should be a shortened version of the original. You must be brief and ‘precise’. Yes, you must be exact!
2. The importance of Summary
Summary is not an irrelevant academic jargon which a student would happily drop on leaving school. It is an exercise which is very useful or relevant in real life.
For instance, students in secondary schools, universities and other places of higher education normally take down note while the teacher is teaching it the lecturer is giving his/her lecture. They are not expected to put down every word that comes out of the teacher’s mouth. The fact that a teacher was his ‘yas’ while teaching should not and need not, appear in their notes! They are expected to put down only relevant points. And that, in effect, means they are summarizing!
Yes, even secretaries, lawyers, teachers, judges and many others will readily tell you that the art of writing summary has an excellent value in real life.
That apart, Summary is one of the best ways of testing the student’s command of English. It test both comprehension and expression – the ability to understand another person’s ideas and the ability to summarize them in good English.
From students point of view, the importance of summary lies in the fact that it stands between him and his certificate. As many students know, the G.C.E or the school Certificate may not be a passport to many heavenly places, such as the university update nice places of work with handsome pay-packets!
Now, my dear student, if you think summary is standing between you and your certificate why not become a Mohammed Ali academic wise, and give summary a ‘technical knockout’ by studying these ‘useful hints’ carefully!
3. Points to Note in Writing a Good Summary
Writing a good summary is an art which can be studied and acquired. It doesn’t come by magic but through practice. So, if you want to write a good summary that would earn you a good mark you should take note of the following points carefully.
(a) Read the rubric or the instructions on the question paper very carefully. This is very important because failure to do so might lead to ignoring some of the instructions given and
this, would in turn, lead to loss of valuable marks.
(b) Read quickly through the whole passage set for the Summary to know what it is all about.
(c) Read through the whole passage for the second time; this time, much more carefully, so as to obtain a thorough grasp of its exact meaning or it theme. You must bear in mind that understanding the passage is most important in Summary exercise.
(d) If it is the guided or directed type of summary you should read the questions set on the passage. Study the questions very carefully and know exactly what the examiner want you to do in each question.
(e) Go back to the passage and underline the key words, sentences or points which provides answers to the questions asked. If it the traditional type of summary where in you are asked to reduce the passage to one-third of its original length, you should at this stage, put down in skeleton form the essential or main point of the passage, paying special attention to the main clauses of complex sentences and the topic sentences of paragraphs.
(f) Using the Pont’s you have noted down or underlined, write a summary of the passage or of the relevant paragraphs in your own words. It may, of course, be necessary to repeat certain key words or phrases from the original passage. Don’t be afraid to repeat such key words or phrases if you think they make your summary shorter and cleaner.
(g) Be very careful to use the writer’s ideas. Do not add any ideas of your own. The fact that you are to use your own words as much as possible does not mean that you are at liberty to add your own ideas or facts which are not in the original passage. Don’t forget to be precise; you must be exact.
(h) Be brief. Don’t say in too many words what can be said in one or two words. Summary calls for brevity and not verbosity. It is not the place to show off your knowledge of colorful phrases, idioms, proverbs and all those high-sounding ‘isms’.
(I) Avoid grammatical and mechanical blunders. Do not reduce your marks by committing unpardonable grammatical and mechanical errors. If sentence are asked for, give your answers in good, well punctuated sentence and not in disjointed phrases which convey little or no meaning.
Be neat and make sure that the final version of your summary is logical, grammatical and coherent.
(k) Avoid trial details in your summary. By way of illustration, let me narrate the story of a certain secretary who was asked by his manager to put down the minutes of a Board meeting.
Among other things, the ever-faithful secretary wrote down the following:
This sound funny, but I think it is more ridiculous than funny. Such petty details must never be included in a serious report of a meeting which is intended for your busy manager to read. This means, in Summary, we must be able to distinguish between what is important and what is trivial.