Explainer Video

Tutor: Kat


Summarising a text

​​In a nutshell

When reading and understanding a text, it is useful to be able to summarise it, especially if you are answering reading comprehension questions. What this means is that you are able to take all the key information from a piece of literature and retrieve it from the text in order to answer questions about it. In this summary, you will learn how to properly summarise a text.


One of the main skills you will need to learn in order to summarise a text is called retrieval. This is when you read through a text, and retrieve or take away the important facts and pieces of information in the writing. In order to do this, you need to skim through the text and scan it for information.

  • If a question asks 'Who?', you should look out for names or professions (such as 'the butcher'). 
  • If a question asks 'Where?', you should look out for places and locations. 
  • If a question asks 'When?', you should look out for times or dates
  • If a question asks 'Why?', you should look out for reasons.

Skimming and scanning

Skimming is when you read through a text or a section of a text quickly, and scanning is when you look over each sentence to find specific information or key words. It can also be helpful to use your finger to follow the words you are reading, so you can read quickly without losing your place.


Look at this extract from a short story. The information you might find through skimming and scanning has been put in bold. By skimming and scanning, you can use retrieval to answer questions about the story like 'What was stolen?', 'Where does the son live?', 'Where did the landlord cure and smoke his salamis?', or 'Where was the landlord from?'.

My son’s Italian landlord in Brooklyn kept a shed out back in which he cured and smoked salamis. One night, in the midst of a wave of petty vandalism and theft, the shed was broken into and the salamis were taken.

(A Story of Stolen Salamis by Lydia Davis)

Tip: Once you have read through a text, you can go back and skim through it while scanning for information as many times as you need. The more often you skim and scan, the better you will get at noticing important bits of information without having to reread the entire text from start to finish. This will make it easier to summarise texts, and answer questions based on the things you read.


Look at the short story below, and then look at the summary beneath it to see how the key information of the text can be ​condensed:


There was once a young man by the name of Jasper, who fell deeply in love with a woman from a faraway land. The name of this young woman was Bea, and she had hair as crimson as pomegranate seeds. Her job was to help the local artists sell their paintings to galleries and host grand exhibitions.


There was once a young man named Jasper who fell in love with Bea, a red-haired woman from a faraway land whose job was hosting art exhibitions and selling paintings.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

What is retrieval?

What is scanning?

What is skimming?


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