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How to Write a Summary

Learn how to write a summary.
© Griffith University

Summarising written text is an integrated writing item type that assesses both writing and reading skills in an academic environment.

You will be scored based on the quality of your writing and how well your summary presents the key points in the passage.

The reading passages for this item are about academic subjects in humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. Even though you may not be familiar with the topic presented, all the information you need for your response is in the passage.

How to Summarise

The following outlines the three stages and steps for summarising.

Before writing:

  • Quickly scan the passage to identify the topic and purpose.
  • Read the passage carefully to understand the content. Try to infer the meaning of any unknown words and phrases.
  • Re-read the passage and note down the topic sentences and key words on your erasable noteboard.

While writing:

  • Stick to the topic and purpose of the text. Keep the meaning and degree of certainty the same as the original writing.
  • Focus on the key words and the main ideas only. Key points in the text will usually be repeated, developed and highlighted; include these in your writing.
  • Write your summary without referring to the original, making sure to include all the main points. Do not include examples or supporting evidence in your summary.
  • Use vocabulary that is relevant to the passage and appropriate for an academic environment. The best test responses use words from the passage appropriately and use synonyms effectively to show variety and range in language use.
  • Do not add anything to the summary that was not present in the original and you should not include your opinion.

After writing

  • Check the content of your summary to make sure it conveys the main ideas in the passage.
  • Check that the basic structure of the sentence is correct. The best test responses are usually complex sentences that consist of a main clause and subordinate clause.
  • Check punctuation and spelling. Make sure your sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.
  • Check the length of your summary. Make sure you write only one sentence that is no more than 75 words long. Check your word count after you have typed your response.

Your task

Let’s look at the example Summarize Written Text question below and compare the responses of three different test takers.

Response 1: Teachers’ reluctance to implement new methods of teaching reading to adults is regrettable. By holding onto their old belief systems, they are not making the most of their training and thereby disadvantaging their students. Studies all support this assertion. (39 words)
Response 2: Studies prove that all preservice teachers find it impossible to change their approach to teaching reading to adults because despite being trained in alternative methods after their practicum they always return to the practices they personally believe are best. (39 words)
Response 3: Research into experienced and preservice teachers concludes that even when they have received training in methods of teaching reading that differ from their existing instructional practices, they often revert to their old approach after training is completed indicating the influence and endurance of previously held beliefs. (46 words)

Evaluate each of the responses against the following criteria using the summary evaluation worksheet in the Downloads section.

Which response:

Misinterprets the author’s purpose and changes the meaning? Changes the degree of certainty by overstating the case? Expresses the student’s own opinion?
Is more than one sentence? Includes all the main points and does not present anything that was not in the original text? Uses key words from the passage appropriately and uses synonyms effectively?

Now follow the How to Summarise steps and write your own sentence summarising the text. Evaluate your answer then post your sentence in the comments.

For more information about the Summarize Written Text item type, watch the video tutorial in the SEE ALSO section below.


Dell, F. (2013). Pearson Test of English Academic Practice Tests Plus and CD-ROM without key pack (2nd ed.). Pearson.

Pearson. (2009). Official Guide to Pearson Test of English Academic (with CD-ROM) (1st ed.). Pearson Education ESL.

Disclaimer: The question prompts are for practice purposes only and are not official PTE Test materials.

© Griffith University
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