3 tips for tackling the summary Question



3 tips for tackling the summary Question


This is Teacher Rachel’s follow-up post on Tackling summary questions for lower secondary students. Click here to read her first post on How to identify points in summary.


The Summary question might seem like a test of your vocabulary skills, and with the time limit pressing on you, it is just too time-consuming to find the right words to use. Worse still, you try so hard to paraphrase (ie. use your own words) and it turns out you had misrepresented the points.

Let me share with you 3 tips for tackling the Summary question.



1. Check that the 8 to 10 points identified are relevant

This starts from studying the question carefully and noting what you are to summarise.

A:

Using your own words as far as possible, summarise the suggestions for greater inclusive practices for people with special needs. Use only information from Paragraphs 3, 4 and 6.

B:

Using your own words as far as possible, summarise the pros and cons of using social media to aid people suffering from eating disorders. Use only information from Paragraphs 5 and 6.


In question A, you are the find points related to “suggestions” for more inclusivity for people with special needs, whereas for question B, there are two parts which your points must address – the “pros” and the “cons” of using social media as a means to help people with eating disorders. It might help to paraphrase these key words so you have a clearer idea of what they mean. For example, “suggestions” mean “tips”, “strategies”, “recommendations” or “ideas”. “Pros” refer to “advantages” and “benefits”, while “cons” refer to “disadvantages” and “shortcomings”. By putting these key words in your own words, you can double check that the points you have identified are relevant, i.e. address the question and is a valid benefit or recommendation, for example.


Relevance of points are a very important first step and identifying at least 8 correct ones will earn you the full 8 Content marks. Paraphrasing is, in a way, secondary, because it hinges on whether you have correctly identified the points. Moreover, if you paraphrase inappropriately, it is going to alter the meaning of the point and lose you the Content mark.



2. “First line of attack” in paraphrasing: Reorder the sentence

If you are not so confident about paraphrasing and afraid of misparaphrasing, I recommend that you do some simple modification by reordering the sentence.

Example A:

Original:

The number of people in Singapore seeking help for eating disorders has reportedly increased in recent years, and women make up the bulk of the cases.

Paraphrase:

In recent years, those seeking help for eating disorders has increased in Singapore, with women making up the bulk.

Example B:

Original:

Nutritionists and public health experts have mixed views about whether social media is more of a help or hindrance for people recovering from eating disorders.

Paraphrase:

For people recovering from eating disorders, whether social media is more of a help or hindrance leaves nutritionists and public health experts with mixed views.

* For both examples, I have colour coded corresponding expressions which have changed positions in the sentence, and underlined words that I have replaced. For example B, I had to add “leaves” (in bold) so the sentence flows after reordering.

Try this strategy if you are unable to find good substitutes, especially if you are short of time and cannot determine the suitability of potential substitutes. Reordering the sentence is a good way to reword the sentence so it doesn’t look like you blindly lifted from the passage! Credit will be given for some attempt at modifying the original. Afterall, you don’t want to risk wrongly paraphrasing!



3. Substitute words only when you are very sure it is suitable

As mentioned, you don’t want to misparaphrase and lose the Content mark, so the bottom line is to preserve the original meaning as much as possible. Hence, you should only substitute words if you know they are suitable replacements. Taking the above examples in #2, you can go one step further by substituting some words (see the last column).

Example A:

Original:

The number of people in Singapore seeking help for eating disorders has reportedly increased in recent years, and women make up the bulk of the cases.

Paraphrase by reordering sentence

In recent years, those seeking help for eating disorders have increased in Singapore, with women making up the bulk.

Paraphrase by substituting suitable words

Recently, those pursuing assistance* seeking help for eating disorders have risen in Singapore, with women constituting the majority.

*awkward expression

Example B:

Original:

Nutritionists and public health experts have mixed views about whether social media is more of a help or hindrance for people recovering from eating disorders.

Paraphrase by reordering sentence

For people recovering from eating disorders, whether social media is more of a help or hindrance leaves nutritionists and public health experts with mixed views.

Paraphrase by substituting suitable words

For people recovering from eating disorders, whether social media is more of a support or obstacle* boon or bane leaves nutritionists and public health experts with diverse views / divided.

*clumsy expression


As you can see, word substitution can really help to reduce your word count, but the catch is in finding appropriate ones that are not awkward or clumsy, as this will affect your Language mark (which make up the other half of your score).


And so if you are keen to learn how to paraphrase, I bring to you this series of lessons on Paraphrasing in Summary, where we will learn what makes effective paraphrasing and how you can use a variety of techniques to paraphrase.

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