Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tips on summary writing


By JUGDEEP KAUR GILL

TODAY, we will take a look at Section C of the SPM 1119 paper. This section, which carries a substantial 25 marks, is divided into two parts, reading comprehension and summary writing. Ten marks are allocated for reading comprehension and 15 for summary writing.

READING COMPREHENSION

General guidelines

1. Read the whole passage through once to get a general idea of what it is about. Do not worry if you come across unfamiliar words. Sometimes, it is not necessary to understand every word you read.

2. Do read the passage a second time, if necessary. The second reading helps you take in the details and improve your understanding.

3. Read the questions carefully. Use cue words in the questions to help you answer them. These can be the “wh” words (what, when, where, why, who, whose, how) and action verbs (identify, find, list).

4. Questions sometimes contain words found in the passage. Use these words to help you identify the part of the passage where the answer can be found.

5. You do not have to answer questions in complete sentences (look at the sample answers given).

6. You can lift words, clauses or sentences from the passage to answer questions. You do not have to use your own words unless you are told to do so. Be careful not to alter/distort the meaning expressed in the passage and hence lose precious marks.

7. For questions on vocabulary, if you are asked for a word, then give only ONE word and

nothing else. Make sure you spell the word correctly. If you are asked for a phrase, then give the relevant phrase. If you copy the sentence where the word or phrase are found, you must indicate the chosen word or phrase by underlining it or putting it within quotation marks.

8. Some questions require you to use your own words and you must do so.

9. Do pay attention to the tense (and sometimes, pronoun) used in the questions when formulating your answers.

Pitfalls to avoid

1. Do not give more than the required information. Sometimes, students copy chunks from a passage. This only highlights their weakness — failure to understand the question and/or text.

2. Do not give two or more answers to a question. Some students write down all the possible answers to a question, just to be on the safe side.

3. Do not waste time paraphrasing answers unless you are asked to do so.

SUMMARY WRITING

The question on summary writing is based on the same text used for reading comprehension. This should be a boon as you would be familiar with the text after several readings. Despite this, many students are not comfortable with summary writing. Their fears stem from their inability to identify information relevant to the answer. Some are also worried that they may not be able to put the information together into a coherent paragraph. Weak students have an additional problem to grapple with — language. While these concerns are genuine, there is no reason to fret as these problems can be easily overcome with proper guidance and help from teachers.

Remember that summary writing, in the context of this paper, is largely a reading skill (as you are required to select relevant information in the text), with a bit of writing thrown in (as you have to string the points together into a unified text).

The task is made easier for you as you do not need to summarise the whole text, only certain aspects. Therefore, it is crucial that you read the question carefully and consider what information is relevant.

The allocation of marks for summary writing is as follows: 10 for content and five for language. Usually, there are more than 10 content points but you should be able to identify at least 10. Do not worry too much about paraphrasing. Instead, focus on getting marks for content, not language.

General guidelines

1. Read the question carefully. Ask yourself: “What am I required to summarise?”

2. Mark the first and last lines of the passage you are asked to refer to.

3. Then select information that is relevant to your answer. To do this, underline the relevant lines or ideas as you read the text. Always ask yourself: “Is this ...” (For the summary below, you would ask: “Is this a reason tigers have become extinct?” or “Is this a measure that should be implemented?”

4. Look through the lines/ideas you have underlined. Sometimes, an idea is repeated in

another line. Ask yourself: Is this idea a repetition?

5. Summarise the ideas. You can combine ideas by joining phrases or sentences, or you may want to paraphrase ideas/sentences. However, make sure your sentences are complete sentences and not fractured bits and pieces.

6. If you cannot paraphrase, see if there are words in the text that you can replace without affecting the meaning. For example, you can use a pronoun to replace a noun.

7. If you are a weak student, copy the entire sentence. This way, you will not lose marks for content or language.

8. Begin the summary with the 10 words given and remember that the three dots after the 10th word mean you have to complete the sentence with some relevant information from the text.

9. Organise the ideas/points in the manner in which they are found in the text. Do not waste time trying to rearrange ideas.

10. Adhere to the word limit. Writing more than the required number of words will not get you extra marks. Anything short of the word limit means you lack content.

11. Pay attention to the tense (and sometimes, pronoun) used in the given 10 words.

12. Write the summary in one paragraph. Some students are in the habit of drawing columns to facilitate counting of words. This is fine but write your final draft in one paragraph.

Pitfalls to avoid

1. Do not include information not found in the text.

2. Do not include your own ideas or opinions.

3. Do not spend too much time paraphrasing as you might end up losing marks for content unless you can do so without altering/distorting meaning.

4. Do not repeat ideas. Sometimes, an idea is repeated in the text and you may not notice it as it may have been paraphrased.

5. Do not include material from other lines in the text.

Here is a sample reading passage. See if you can answer questions 26 to 31, which are based on the following passage.

1. The tiger, the largest cat in the world, is one of the most majestic animals on land and is found only in Asia. It is also one of the most powerful mammals, yet it is on the brink of extinction. In the 1900s, the tiger population was more than 100,000. Today, the number has dwindled to less than 10,000 worldwide. Nepal has only 200 tigers, India has about 4,000, while Malaysia has less than 500. The reason for the decline in numbers is poaching.

2. Tigers are hunted not only by human beings but also by other predators such as elephants, bears and large buffaloes. The only defence tigers have against their enemies are their razor-sharp claws, their strong teeth and their sheer weight. The weight of a tiger, which can range between 200 and 300 kilogrammes, can kill an 10 average sized human being.

3. Tigers have fascinated human beings for several reasons. For instance, marks on their forehead resemble the Chinese character wang, which means king. Furthermore, the markings on a tiger’s forehead and the stripes all over its body are like finger prints. Experts can tell individual tigers apart by observing the markings and stripes closely. This is because no two tigers have identical markings. The patterns of their stripes vary immensely, especially from one sub-species to another. The Sumatran tiger has the most stripes and markings while the Siberian tiger has the fewest. The stripes of a tiger always run at right angles to its body and not along its bodyline. Otherwise, it would be very conspicuous and find it impossible to camouflage itself.

4. These carnivorous beasts thrive well in areas of dense vegetation with ample sources of water and large populations of hoofed animals. They instinctively avoid human beings and only attack people if they are provoked, injured or unable to hunt for their usual food.

5. Despite their prowess, tigers are unable to protect themselves from their greatest threat – human beings. These magnificent creatures have been hunted for hundreds of years for sport as proof of one’s strength and manliness, and for their skin. They have also been trapped and poisoned by farmers to protect their livestock. As a result, the Caspian, Javan and Bali tigers have become extinct. In many Asian countries, tigers are killed for their precious claws. It is believed that wearing a talisman made of a 30 tiger’s claw can protect its wearer. It is almost impossible to ascertain whether a tiger’s claw has any supernatural powers, but what is certain is that many a tiger will lose its life so that someone can profit from it.

6. Other than that, tigers have been hunted for their body organs, which are believed to be a cure for many ailments. This superstition may have resulted from the connection 35 made with their masculinity and strength. This has resulted in massive poaching of tigers for their whiskers, eyes, teeth, penises, liver and fat.

7. Hunting of tiger prey has also caused the number of tigers to dwindle. Tigers usually feed on hoofed animals such as deer, wild boar and buffaloes. The hunting of these animals by human beings has caused tigers to starve to death.

8. Serious action has to be taken to ensure the survival of this majestic creature. Although the tiger has been labelled an endangered species and the sale of tigerrelated products has been banned in many countries, these measures have backfired, with illegal poaching of tigers for their fur, bones and other organs becoming rampant. Some countries, such as India, have allocated millions of dollars to set up tiger reserves to protect these animals but even these are not safe. Poachers completely wiped out wild tigers in the Sariska Tiger Reserve in India. To ensure the survival of the tiger, conservation efforts need to be improved to reduce threats to tigers. Efforts must also be made to improve tiger habitats and to increase tiger prey populations so that they will not starve to death in the wild. There must be more stringent controls on the demand for tiger parts. When there is no demand, there will be no supply. To drive the message home, poachers should be punished severely. Otherwise, they will not stop their illegal activities.

26. From paragraph 1:

a) In which continent are tigers found?

___________________________________________ (1 mark)



b) Why is it surprising that the tiger is on the verge of extinction?

____________________________________________ (1 mark)

27. a) From paragraph 2: How do tigers protect themselves against their enemies?

___________________________________________ (1 mark)

b) From paragraph 3: Why are the markings on a tiger important?

___________________________________________(1 mark)

28. a) From paragraph 4: Provide evidence to show that tigers are only dangerous when their well-being is at risk.

___________________________________________ (1 mark)

b) From paragraph 5: Find a word which means “valuable”.

___________________________________________(1 mark)

29. From paragraph 8: List two measures that have failed to protect the tiger from being hunted.



a) _________________________________________(1 mark)



b) ________________________________________ (1 mark)

30. Do you think punishing poachers severely is a good measure to prevent the hunting of tigers? Give a reason.

_____________________________ (2 marks)

31. Based on the passage given, write a summary on:

> the reasons tigers are becoming extinct.

> the measures that should be taken to protect them.

Credit will be given for use of own words but care must be taken not to change the original meaning. Your summary must:

> be in continuous writing form (not note form)

> use materials from lines 26 to 54

> not be longer than 130 words including the 10 words given below.

Begin your summary as follows:

The tiger population has suffered a serious decline because tigers ...

Answers to reading comprehension

26. a) Asia.

b) Because it is one of the most powerful mammals.

27. a) They use their razor-sharp claws, their strong teeth and their sheer weight.

b) They enable experts to tell individual tigers apart / Experts can tell individual tigers apart by observing the markings and stripes closely.

28. a) They only attack people if they are provoked, injured or unable to hunt for their usual food.

b) precious.

29. a) The tiger has been labelled an endangered species.

b) The sale of tiger-related products has been banned in many countries.

30. Any logical answer is acceptable. Example: Yes, I believe severe punishment will deter them as they will not want to take such a risk. Or: No, I don’t think severe punishment will deter them. They would not mind taking risks as they stand to gain a lot from the sale of tiger body parts.

Answers to summary writing

Below are the sentences taken from the passage; the summary points are in italics and have been numbered.

> These magnificent creatures have been hunted for hundreds of years for sport as proof of one’s strength and manliness (point 1) and for their skin (point 2).

> They have also been trapped and poisoned by farmers to protect their livestock (point 3).

> In many Asian countries, tigers are killed for their precious claws. It is believed that wearing a talisman made of a tiger’s claw can protect its wearer (point 4).

> Other than that, tigers have been hunted for their body organs which are believed to be a cure for many ailments (point 5).

> The hunting of these animals (tiger prey) by human beings has caused tigers to starve to death (point 6).

> To ensure the survival of the tiger, conservation efforts need to be improved to reduce threats to tigers (point 7).

> Efforts must also be made to improve tiger habitats (point 8) and to increase tiger prey populations so that they will not starve to death in the wild (point 9).

> There must be more stringent controls on the demand for tiger parts (point 10).

> To drive the message home, poachers should be punished severely (point 11).

Here is a sample summary using phrases and sentences from the passage.

The tiger population has suffered a serious decline because tigers have been hunted for sport as proof of one’s strength and manliness and for their skin. Besides, tigers have been killed by farmers to protect their livestock. These beasts have also been killed for their claws which are believed to protect the wearer. Worse still, tigers are killed for their body organs, which are believed to cure many ailments. Moreover, hunting of tiger prey has caused tigers to starve to death. Stern measures must be taken to protect them. For instance, conservation efforts and tiger habitats must be improved. To prevent tigers from starving, tiger prey populations must be increased. Most importantly, there must be more stringent controls on the demand.

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