Braemar College – Year 12 Study Tips – Summarising For Exams


The 8 Step Plan

Summarising is the ability to take long paragraphs/chapters/articles of text and reduce them into short manageable portions that you can memorise.

The summary needs to include the main purpose of the piece, and a list of major supporting points.

It needs to give an accurate sense of the original piece of writing, but in a much shorter form.

Being able to summarise effectively is an invaluable study skill. It increases your understanding of the content of the piece and makes it easier for you to identify and remember the most important parts.


STEP 1 – The Main Concept

Look at the first paragraph of the piece. This will usually contain the main idea. It will tell you what the piece is about and what the author is trying to achieve. If this information is not contained in the first paragraph, it should be at least on the first page. Read on until you find it.

Tip:  The introduction and conclusion of a piece of writing usually provide a good overview of content. 

STEP 2 – An Overview

Skim through the article, glancing at any headings or pictures. This will give you an overview of what’s contained in the piece.

STEP 3 – Read for meaning 

Go back and read the original text carefully for meaning.

While you are reading, highlight important points with a highlighter pen or by underlining them. You can also make notes at the same time.

Notes should be in point form, using keywords.

Tip:  The first sentence (topic sentence) of each paragraph usually tells you/summarises what that paragraph is about.

Extra Tip:  If you are struggling to identify the main idea in a long paragraph or passage of text, look for words, sentences and ideas that are repeated. These will usually lead you to the main idea of the paragraph.

STEP 4 – Identify viewpoint and central idea

Write down what you think the central idea of the piece is and the author’s reasons for holding this viewpoint.

A good way to do this is to pretend that you have 10 or 15 words to tell someone what the piece is about.

After you have identified the central idea, list any supporting points the author uses to explain or back up their information/claim.

Tip: Watch for opportunities to list things, even though they might appear as lists in the test. For example, the text might say, “There were three major reasons for this”, and yet the ‘reasons’ might be separated by paragraphs or pages of text. In a situation like this you would identify the three major reasons and these would become one of your ‘lists’. 

STEP 5 – Develop your outline 

Make an outline of the piece, including the main idea and listing the supporting details.

Arrange your information in what you consider to be most to least important. Your order of things doesn’t have to be the same as the original.

Look at how the supporting points relate to each other.

This outline might be something you will use later to write your own essay on the topic.

STEP 6 – Write the summary 

Write the summary entirely from your notes.

It should include:

  1. The main idea
  2. The supporting points
  3. Conclusions

STEP 7 – Check for information gaps 

Go back over your notes and highlighted points to make sure you have included everything you need to.

STEP 8 – Check for true meaning 

Compare your summary to the original piece to check that it has captured the true meaning.



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