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Tips on Writing Summaries

We usually make summaries to study for a test or an exam. The purpose is to condense learning material so that it can be readily assimilated, thereby reducing study time.

When making summaries, the following factors should always be kept in mind:

1. The teacher/lecturer, when marking the examination paper, will look at it as an expert on the subject. He wants to see whether the way the learner has answered the questions will convince the teacher/lecturer that the learner has succeeded in acquiring adequate knowledge of the subject matter.

2. The teacher/lecturer will certainly not be willing to go on a hunting expedition to find evidence that the learner knows enough about the subject matter. He will only mark what he sees in front of him. The learner should therefore take pains to present his information in a logical and orderly fashion, so that the teacher will be able to follow his argument.

A common mistake, made by many learners, is that they think summaries should consist of one or two words only. In reality summaries should be done in two phases:

1. A provisional summary that will be used by the learner to study from. Until the learner has done sufficient repetition, the summary should contain enough information so that the learner can use it to study from. This summary must therefore consist of keywords from every important sentence.

2. The final summary that should be used for revision purposes and should only consist of the most important keywords. By this time the learner should have assimilated the subject matter to such an extent that, when he sees the keywords, he will be able to expand on them. The learner will use these keywords during the exam or test to help him organize his thoughts.

When making summaries, it is important to first read through the whole chapter, in order to gain a complete picture of the subject matter presented in the chapter. Only after that should one start making summaries.

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