The best way to answer questions on Summary writing as a candidate

By | March 5, 2022

Welcome to This presentation is very useful to students who have to answer questions on Summary writing during examination. However, it helps any user of the English language to summarise long narratives or passage into simple points for easy reference.



A summary is a reduced or a shortened version or account of a text, an event or any piece of writing, stating the salient points and some specific information in accordance with the demands of the questions on it.


  1. Answers must be in simple sentences. Unless otherwise stated, you are usually required to state their answers in sentences. A sentence is into two(2)  parts- a subject and a predicate.  A subject consists of the word or the words that indicate what or who we are talking about or that which is doing something in the sentence. A predicate on the other hand (which must contain a verb) consists of the words which say something about the subject. A sentence must end with a period or full stop.

Example: In one sentence, state the duty of soldiers.

  • A SENTENCE: Soldiers (subject) protect citizens (predicate)
  • NOT A SENTENCE: Protecting citizens OR to protect citizens.


2. Summary must be very brief (note that a summary is a shortened form of a piece of writing). Therefore, your summary should have no room for elaboration of points.

Example: In one sentence, state the duty of soldiers.

ANSWER: Soldiers protect citizens [so that they can have their peace). “so that they have their peace” can be considered an elaboration. Simply avoid it.

3. Your summary must capture only the facts or points in the passage i.e. candidates must stick to the material in the passage. They should not bring their own ideas outside the passage. Anything you include which is not found in the original passage is considered extraneous-which attracts deduction of marks by the examiner. The point being stressed here is relevance (what is needed or important).

4. Your summary must capture all the salient points needed i.e. do not exclude any essential point. Where a question is made up of two parts, make sure your answer covers the two parts. The main concern is to ensure satisfactory coverage.

5. Your summary must be in simple, straightforward and precise language, devoid of ambiguities devoid of ambiguities. In other words, your summary must state exactly what the author’s view is in very clear of language. The point here is clarity of thought.


  1. Your summary must be presented in simple plain language and not in figurative language/expression. A figurative expression is a group of words or a word that conveys a deeper meaning more than it appears on the surface. Proverbs and idioms are examples of figurative expressions. Thus, instead of saying “Cynthia smelt a rat”, say “Cynthia was/became suspicious”.
  2. Do not lump (put) more than one point in a sentence.

Example: In two sentences, state the duties of teachers.

  • CORRECT: Teachers must teach students.
  • CORRECT: Teachers must advise students.
  • INCORRECT: Teachers must teach and advise students.


  1. Do not include in your summary, details, examples, illustrations, figures, facts, statistics (embellishment). However, if they are to be included in the summary, a general word should be found for them. For example, instead of saying, “The lady bought cabbage, carrot, pepper, lettuce and tomatoes”, generalize them by saying, “The lady bought vegetables”.
  2. Avoid using flowery language or words/expressions which merely add colour to ideas (windy statements). For example, instead of simply and directly saying, Birds of the same feathers fly together”, or Like “Birds fly together”, it is unacceptable in summary to say, “Animals with feathers of identical and similar plumage would never get tired of congregating to even the nearest proximity”.
  3. Avoid unnecessary modifiers such as adjectives, adverbs etc. For example, “Mr. Daniel, the renowned English Language teacher and journalist, is my uncle”. It should rather be, “Mr. Daniel is my uncle”. The reason is that, in summary, we are to present only the main idea and avoid details which merely throw light on the main idea. So by taking away the adjectival phrase “renowned English Language teacher and journalist” from the sentence, the main idea still stands.

Note that any word or a group of words included in your summary (final answer) but which taken away would not affect the main idea is considered extraneous, redundant or irrelevant material. This attracts penalty or marks deduction.

However, there are instances where a modifier or modifiers would be needed to retain the main idea in your summary or to avoid ambiguities. In such instances, the modifier may be used.

Example: The African National Congress (ANC) constructed five new stadia in the country.

The question will be: Which of the ANC administrations? Is it the first, second, third, or fourth? So you see, a modifier is needed to resolve the ambiguity.

  1. Try and reduce clauses and phrases to single words so as to achieve brevity.

Example: The man was charged for the crime of telling a lie after promising to tell the truth in a court of law.

This can be reduced to: The man was charged for perjury.

12 Avoid the unnecessary use of the conjunction “and”. This is because in summary, we are not supposed to lump (put) more than one point in a sentence. However, in a situation where there are two complementary ideas or points that cannot be replaced with a single word and if which separated or one of them is left out could lead to loss of marks, then the student is permitted to connect the two ideas or points with the conjunction “and”, to score full marks.

For example, in the summary test of 2019 May/June WASSCE, one of the questions was in three sentences: “State what attracts birds to airport areas”. One of the answers according to WAEC’S marking scheme was: “Food and water attract birds to airport areas”. According to WAEC, it was imperative to connect the two words because each of them carried 2 and half% marks. And because the two words would not be replaced with a single word, stating only one of them would mean loss of 2 and half % marks.

  1.   Avoid the use of ambiguous pronouns or pronouns entirely. To be on the safer side, maintain the actual noun as subject or all the three sentences.
  2. Where you meet questions on contrast (to show difference between things, places or persons), use while but and or comma(,).

Example: In one sentence, contrast the behaviour of boys and girls in schools.


  • Boys are careless but girls are careful. OR
  • Boys are careless while girls are careful. OR
  • While boys are careless, Birds are careful.


NOTE: The question demands two sentences, one for each, contrast the behaviour of boys with girls in schools, then you will need a second Sentence containing two contrasting words. Thus in all, you will have two pairs or contrasting words with each pair forming one sentence.

Example: (i) While boys are careless, girls are careful.

(ii) Boys are interested in the Science subjects but girls like the Arts.

  1. Avoid wholesale, mindless or direct lifting i.e. copying out word-for-word a whole sentence from the passage as your answer. It is even not advisable to lift more than two words in succession from the passage to form part of your answer, unless it is a noun in which case cannot be changed.

Therefore, as much as possible, use your own words in presenting your answers. If it becomes necessary to borrow or lift words or phrases from the passage, this must be done intelligently.


  • FROM A PASSAGE: Police officers put on uniforms to be recognized easily.
  • QUESTION: In one sentence, state the reason why police officers put on uniforms.
  • ANSWER: Police officers wear uniforms for recognition.
READ ALSO:  Old Mutual Student Loans

NOTE: The candidate made the following changes:

  • “put on” to  “wear”
  • “to be recognized” to  “recognition” 

This is an intelligent borrowing. The adverb (a modifier) “easily” has not been included in the candidate’s answer because it is merely throwing light on the phrase “to be recognized”, and does not take any meaning from the answer.

  1. Avoid repetitions. They just throw light on main points.
  2. Use familiar and simple words instead of words that are likely to pose some difficulty.
  3. Do not repeat part of the question in your answer.

Example: In one sentence, state the reason why the man was arrested.

UNACCEPTABLE ANSWER: The reason why the man was arrested was because he was drunk.

ACCEPTABLE ANSWER: The man was drunk.


NOTE: The underlined words are redundant and therefore considered extraneous material because without them, the main idea still stands in the simple sentence.

  1. The use of preamble.

It is acceptable to form an answer with a preamble, provided the preamble together with a correct answer forms a simple sentence.


Example: In two sentences, one for each, summarize the causes of rape.

  • Rape is caused by:
  1. Indecent dressing on the part of girls.
  2. Lack of proper parental control.



  • The causes of rape are as follows:
  1. Indecent dressing on the part of girls.
  2. Lack of proper parental control.

NOTE: The causes above do not form correct simple sentences with the preamble.


  1. Do not write more than the required number of sentences (usually six Sentences in all). The notion by candidates that examiners select the correct answers, mark for candidates and leave the rest if the number of sentences the candidate has written is more than what the question enquiries, Is not correct. The rule is that examiners are to mark for the required number only starting from the first without necessarily selecting. Candidates must avoid this to save time.
  2. Do not use connectives or transitional words e.g. furthermore…, in addition.., moreover.., as they do not add any meaning to the sentence but just make the sentence long.
  3. Avoid the intrusion (i.e. bringing in) of your own ideas in your answers. Your answers should cover only the information that has been presented in the passage. Under no circumstances should you add ideas, opinions, digressions, illustrations or examples of your own; restrict yourself solely to the ideas of the writer. To ensure this, do not be emotional and try not to alter the balance of the argument, for example to try to ensure fairness or equality in the ensuing argument.




  1. THE FIRST STAGE: Be fully prepared psychologically for the task ahead.
  2. THE SECOND STAGE: Identify the subject matter i.e. what the passage is talking about. Is it about passage maternal mortality, illegal mining, or learning problems? To achieve this, read through the passage quickly (skimming) to have a fair idea of what the entire passage is about. The candidate must ensure that he has understood the passage.
  3. THE THIRD STAGE: Analyse the questions. Having understood the passage and identified the subject matter, have a critical look at the questions which follow the passage. Understand the questions and keep them in mind. This will help you to identity the main points in your next reading of the passage.
  4. THE FOURTH STAGE: Locate the main ideas or points that will eventually make up your answers. To gather the main points, read the passage again, but this time, a bit slowly. With the questions in mind, underline areas or sections in the passage where your answers are likely to come from. However, do not write them directly into your answer booklet because you will have to consider all the requirements of a good summary, as discussed earlier. To be able to gather your main points, pay attention to the following:
READ ALSO:  Finding the Best Home Loan in South Africa




These should be looked for and taken seriously as they contain the main points or the controlling ideas in the paragraphs. The sentence may be found at the beginning, middle or at the end of a paragraph. In some situations, the topic sentence may not be stated directly and so the reader has to infer or deduce based on the information provided.

The reader therefore has to read the passage paragraph by paragraph because a good writer endeavours to discuss one main idea in one paragraph. This is obviously helps the reader to know when one point has ended and another one is to be introduced. In certain situations, some paragraphs may not have any bearing on the questions asked and in such a case, the reader should avoid reading such paragraphs after answers have been located. It is therefore imperative that students become conversant with the three types of paragraphs. BELOW ARE SOME TYPES OF PARAGRAPHS TO CONSIDER.


  (i). LOOSE PARAGRAPH: It is the commonest of the three. In this type, the topic sentence is expressed in the very first sentence before the writer goes on to expand it through explanations and illustrations.

  (ii). PERIODIC PARAGRAPH: In this type, the writer keeps the reader in suspense because he brings the topic sentence at the very last sentence in the paragraph. This means that what he says right from the beginning of the paragraph up to when he releases the topic sentence are mere explanations and illustrations of it. Students are therefore advised to be patient so that they do not take these explanations and illustrations to be the main points/ideas.


Note that explanations and illustrations as well as modifiers help us to get a vivid and clearer picture of the passage but they are not to be used as answers since they are considered extraneous materials that are penalized by examiner.

  (iii). MIXED PARAGRAPH: This is the type in which the topic sentence comes midway between the beginning and the end of the paragraph covered by illustrations and elaborations.



Extraneous or irrelevant materials which are seen in the form of illustrations (examples, facts, figures), details (elaborations/explanations, repetitions) and modifiers (adverbs, adjectives). These help us to understand the passage well. They should therefore ignored and not come in our answers because in summary, only the main points are written as answers.



Examples are: in the same way, likewise, similarly (showing comparison), as a result, hence, consequently (showing result), because, so (giving reasons), however, nonetheless, notwithstanding, on the other hand, on the contrary (showing contrast), furthermore, moreover, and, also, again, in addition, first, second etc.

Attention must be paid to these because they help in locating the main point

The main points needed to answer the questions may be scattered here and there in the passage or maybe limited to only a section of it and the connectives may help to locate the points.


  1. THE FIFTH AND LAST STAGE: Write out your final answers. Having gathered all the required main points after a thorough reading, analysis and application of all the skills, you can now present your final answers bearing in mind all the requirements of a good summary.

Pay particular attention to grammatical, mechanical and expressional errors as these are penalized by deduction of marks. Also note that legible handwriting (i.e. clear and bold) is admired by all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *