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How to write a great summary

Writing a summary
Knowing how to write useful and effective summaries is a key skill when studying and revising for exams. Writing summaries about a topic is a good exercise because rewriting a text in your own words makes it easier to remember and helps consolidate what you’ve learned.

What is a summary?

A summary is a condensed and shorter version of topic, a lesson or a text. A summary should group together the important and essential information and remove unnecessary information. The aim of a summary is to simplify a lesson or text in your own words. Writing a summary checks whether or not you’ve actually understood the content, but once you’ve written it it’s also a tool which can make your revision a lot easier in the future.

Get organised

The first step is to gather all the materials you need for the topic you are going to summarise and read the whole text, chapter or your own notes. Read everything through once to understand what you are talking about and then a second time to pick out the important and essential information to be noted in the summary. During the second or third reading, you can highlight the main idea as well as the additional information in each paragraph or chapter. Be careful not to highlight repeated or unnecessary information.
  • The summary should also be written using key words so the sentences aren’t too long to remember.
  • In a summary, the emphasis is on clarity and simplicity.
  • If there is an unknown word or concept, look it up in the dictionary or on the internet to find out if it’s essential information or not.

Format of a summary

There are several ways to create an summary. You can try:
  • A mind map: You start with a circle in the middle of a piece of paper where you write the main idea. Then then draw lines coming from this circle and write the secondary ideas using key words.
  • A table or bulleted list: Write down the main information of each chapter and then the additional information underneath.
  • Flashcards: Take small cards on which you write the main information on the front, then any extra information on the back.

Depending on the topic or text which you are summarising, it is important to choose the method best suited to both you and the content you need to cover!

Summarising makes it easier to understand a topic and gives you an overview of what you need to remember to use in the future. By writing q summary, your brain will retain the information better than it would if you were just passively reading information. Summarising is a great way to revise in an efficient and productive way. Since there are so many different ways to go about making a summary, there's sure to be one (or more) that suits you!
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