Now, it gets hard!

Exercise 4 of ESL paper, is summary writing. A passage will be given, on which you are required to write a summary.

What is a summary? The formal definition is: a brief statement or account of the main points of something. And that’s exactly what you have to do. Identify the main, relevant points and write them in your own words in an organized manner.

This is the part of the paper I, personally, had the most trouble with. It is not as easy as it looks. So, let’s get to it.

  • Read the question properly.
    What exactly do you have to write a summary on. In the question, they could specify one or more detail. So you need to write the summary on just those details. Leave out the rest.

    ex 5.1
    w17_qp22. See the emboldened part? That”s what you have to focus on.
  • Read the passage.
    As you go, underline the points that you need to include in your summary, that are relevant and important to the question.
    ex 5.2
  • Write the summary.
    That’s easier said than done. You have got all your points, now you need to collate and organise it into one write-up using your own words.
    • Write a one-line introduction that tells the examiner what you’re writing a summary on. Keep it short. In the example above, you could start the summary by writing : Poon Lim, a ship-wreck victim, managed to survive an astounding 133 days on an island all alone.
    • Start organising the points. You could do it chronologically, advantage-disadvantage format or problem-solution format- whatever works for the task at hand. In the example above, writing points in their chronological order seems to be the right choice since it’s a narrative type of article.
    • Use connectives, lots of them, to organise your points and add a sense of continuity. Some examples are: Firstly/Secondly/Thirdly, In Addition/Also/Furthermore, Consequently/As a result, Thus/Hence etc.
    • Use your own words. Use synonyms of word in the passage, if possible. In the example above, the phrase ‘invented ways to find food and water’ can be changed to ‘came up with a system to obtain food and water’.
    • You don’t have to write a conclusion. If the question asked you to write the summary on the entire passage, then maybe a conclusion would be fitting. But in questions like the one above, it is irrelevant to the question.
    • Stick to the word limit. For the extended paper you have to write at least 100 word but not more than 120 words. For the core paper you need to write at least 70 word but not more than 80 words. Don’t write too much; scrap unnecessary points not relevant to the question; cut short words.


That’s all about Exercise 4! The best way to get better at it, is to keep practicing past paper questions, nothing more. Polishing up your vocabulary skills might be helpful in using your own words.

Time Management

The summary writing exercise in the core paper 1 is too easy, so it should only take about 5 minutes to attempt it.

Spend about 15 minutes on this exercise, in the extended paper 2. Reading the passage should take about 5 minutes and the rest 10 minutes should be used to write your summary.



Notes submitted by Lintha

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30 thoughts on “Reading & Writing: Exercise 4 (Summary writing)

    1. It’s definitely not obligatory, and you can split it into 2 paragraphs if you wish,
      we just recommended one paragraph as this is the method that worked best for us when writing those exams!


  1. I think this helped me a bit, we’ll see in the exams today. I got how taking notes work. But summary for me is a bit more difficult than it seems…i hope I’ll ve okay…and by the way this year, which was our last, we just did once or twice exercises for notes and summaries..but that’s it…it was something new for us…i hope it’ll be okay…


  2. I am an overseas student and is currently preparing for an English equivalency Test for an ITT programme in UK, can you suggest me how should I prepare?


    1. I’m afraid none of us have any experience with that test so we’re not qualified to provide advice. If you are looking to improve your general English fluency, though, my top tips would be:
      1. Read English books (this is really good for picking up good spelling and grammar)
      2. Watch English movies (this is good for picking up slang, phrases, expressions, learning natives talk, and working on your listening skills)
      3. Make a friend who is a native English speaker and practise with them – this could be an online friendship, a pen pal, or an in person friendship


  3. Ohh i just love your website… is so helpful…thank you so much….can you also upload notes on writer’s effect, I struggle in that topic a lot…


  4. it was really helpful, tomorrow is my second term mock exam and it really helped me a lot!!
    i appreciate your hard work and time consumed to prepare these all for us.


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