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  • Vanita Pal

Secondary 4 English Singapore: How to practice for O-level summary writing

The main idea in this blog is to assert the importance of the summary question for your secondary 4 comprehension paper. It is worth a solid 15 marks and it means that you will have to be prepared to learn the strategies needed to get all of those 15 marks.

I have explained the strategies in my previous blogs but I would like to add some tips which I have never mentioned before.

The Summary Question

1. The summary question in Text C.

This only appears in the descriptive or non-fiction comprehension passage known as Text C.

What this means -

This means that all your points gathered are based mainly on data, statistics or heavy content. Text C is a non-fiction text and all the information are based on facts. You need to assimilate and glean only what is necessary when you write.

Of course, you already know this.

But what I should point out is that you cannot possibly paraphrase all the data or evidence in the text. So, what do you do?

2. How to summarise data.

This is purely subjective but I can give you a clear guideline on what you should retain and what you should discard when selecting your 8 points.

Only retain data when it is interlinked with your point. It should be a titular type of evidence where it is impossible to write the point without it.

What about the rest of the statistics?

What if the entire paragraph were to be about the Andalusian mountains and reveals a narrowed down description of the glaciers, permafrost and percentage residual thawing at the peak? What if the entire paragraph consisted of percentages of thawing, seasonal changes and temperature recordings?

What if the data is …. simply overwhelming?

Ok. Sometimes the entire paragraph may be full of data but you should only look out for The Point.

If the summary question were to be about example, the difficulties encountered when climbing, then you need to take only that portion for your answer.

Your answer may mention that the temperature changes leading to freezing levels caused difficulties. Only mention data where the freezing level temperature is concerned.

Simply leave out the rest.

You need to be discerning when you write and practice this. Knowing what to leave out is just as necessary as knowing what to select.

3. Why is it difficult to get the word count to 80?

Ok. This is a common factor. Many of my students write well over 100 words.

And why is that?

They go through the selection process and identify the 8 or so points correctly.

Step 1 is always straightforward.

Step 2 is to paraphrase and edit.

Most of my students paraphrase and edit by simply copying and pasting the summary answer portions. This is clearly the wrong method to use.

Of course, the word count reaches an amazing number, sometimes exceeding 140.

Paraphrasing and editing is essential to getting the word count down to 80.

You may try another way.

4. Another way if you do not want to Paraphrase

This is a fail-safe method. Simply select Only the main portions of the text. For example, select only the necessary nouns, dates, actions. The verbs should be limited. Cross out the unnecessary words and only underline the nouns, dates (data), limited verbs.

You can actually get the 80 limit word count this way. Paraphrasing will be limited but you will have to use connectors to link the phrases.

I have noticed many of my students try this method and it works!

Ok. We have come to the end of my tiny blog about preparing for your O level summary. I know my Number 4 advice is a bit of a surprise but it works for students who have a limited vocabulary. Please email me if you do not really understand this and I will be happy to reply.

If you cannot try the conventional way there is always another way. The fail-safe way has helped students score 15 marks and I cannot emphasise enough that summary is an easy way to get a high total score.

Now, it is time for you to find a method which is comfortable for you. Which one do you want? Try my tips and you will understand what I mean. In the meanwhile, Good Luck!


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