Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What makes a good summary


BY JENNY TAN

LESSON 9: Writing a summary

LAST week, we looked at how to tackle the summary question. We learnt how to select and retrieve relevant information from a passage. We also looked at some examples on how to present the information smoothly and accurately.Let us look at some answers for the question I gave on summary writing last week. The question required you to summarise the steps taken by the mother to ensure that her children succeeded in life. The sample answers have been given a rating of poor, average and excellent to give you an idea of what examiners look for.

Model summary A: Poor
My mother took several steps from the beginning. Firstly, she made sure we attended the English-medium school. We needed money for transport, food and school fees but somehow she always managed. She made sure we attended school every day and no television was allowed after dinner. She also made sure we took opportunities of the various co-curricular activities organised by the school. She listened to us practise our story-telling competitions endlessly. We went on trips to various cities and organisations. She became friends with the teachers and made presents for them. She would never tolerate a single complaint of ours concerning the teachers. She allowed us to play and roam freely. She taught us to make do with what we have. She always reminded us that we deserve a better life and never give up.
(135 words)

Comments: This student has lifted whole sentences straight from the passage. However, these sentences have not been properly linked. Be careful that you do not resort to wholesale copying as you might miss out on some points or exceed the word limit.

Model summary B: Average
My mother took several steps from the beginning. Firstly, she sent us to the English-medium school instead of the Chinese school as many students failed to do well there. Then, she ensured that we attended school every day and revised our work at home. She also sent us to any co-curricular activities organised by the school and paid for the trips by borrowing from our uncle. She made friends with our teachers and was also active in the Parent Teacher Association. She allowed us to roam freely so that we could enjoy our childhood. We learnt to make do with what we had. She taught us not to give up. She believed that we would do great things and this motivated us to improve ourselves. (130 words)

Comments: This student has lifted some phrases form the original text and reorganised some of the points. However, there is only a limited attempt to rephrase.

Model summary C: Excellent
My mother took several steps from the beginning. Firstly, she sent us to the English-medium school instead of the Chinese school as many students failed to do well there. Then, she ensured that we attended school daily and saw to our revision at home. Besides that, she encouraged us to attend the school’s co-curricular activities and paid for trips with borrowed money. She also made friends with the teachers and showed appreciation to them. She was also actively involved in the Parent Teacher Association. Unlike other parents, she allowed us to roam freely or pursue our own interests. She taught us to be contented with what we had and to be persistent, never giving up when we failed. Her belief in us made us strive and succeed in our lives.
(130 words)

Comments: This student has made a sustained attempt to rephrase the original text in his or her own words. Some phrases are retained.

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