Introduction to WASSCE Summary Ecourse

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Hello, I created this short WASSCE Summary ecourse with you in mind.

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I want to help you discover the essential steps that go into producing an excellent summary answer in the WASSCE English Language Summary or a related test paper.

Now let’s get to business. No time to waste.

Lesson #1: Why the Summary Test?

The moment you discover the answer to this question, you will then have taken the first step toward understanding summary writing.

So let’s find the answer straightaway.

The summary exercise is meant to do the following:

  • Test your ability to read and understand a reasonably short English text.

After all, you must have by now started entertaining the idea of pursuing further studies in a tertiary institution. It could even be that you are thinking of going straight into self-employment.

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Whichever way, if you lack the ability to read well and understand a text written in English, you can hardly find things easy there.

Because, from now on, you’ll have to do a lot of reading and understanding if you are to be successful as an undergraduate, self-employed businessman/woman etc

  • Test your ability to extract relevant information from any text you read.

Remember that there are two types of facts – the important and the unimportant.

“There are two types of facts – the important fact and the unimportant fact”. Click To Tweet

So you see, it is not everything that you see on the printed page that is important.

The summary exercise asks and helps you to separate the important from the unimportant. You have to show that you are capable of doing this.

Now let’s take a look at something else that is equally important.

Lesson #2: The Nature of the WASSCE Summary Passage – The Way Good Writers Write

Two major difficulties that confront the average WASSCE candidate in the summary section of the English Language paper are the following:

  • Many WASSCE candidates find it difficult to read in a way that will enable them to understand the passage.
  • Locating suitable answers to the summary questions, therefore, becomes a big challenge.

The cause of these difficulties is that these WASSCE candidates lack this all-important knowledge about the way every good writer writes.

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You should bear in mind that any passage that is given to you to work on is from the pen of a good writer.

Your awareness of the conventions of good writing will, therefore, greatly help you to tackle the questions easily.

Let’s look at some few points then.

The Thesis Statement

Every piece of good writing begins with a thesis statement..

Simply put, the thesis statement tells you what the whole passage is going to be about (i.e. its subject matter).

It tells you whether it is about religion, politics, teenage pregnancy or environmental pollution etc.

The thesis statement alerts you as to the particular aspect of the issue the writer is interested in.

So you quickly get to know if it is about causes, reasons, solutions (remedies), effects, advantages, benefits, disadvantages or features (attributes, characteristics) and so on

The thesis statement is usually found in a sentence or two in the first paragraph or at the early stages of the passage.

As soon as you are able to put a finger on this thesis statement, you can rest assured that you have sparked the engine of your success.

Subsequent Paragraphs

Subsequent paragraphs in your WASSCE Summary passage discuss different aspects of the subject matter hinted at earlier in the thesis statement.

Very often, each paragraph is devoted to one aspect introduced by a topic sentence.

Note that much of the paragraph (about two-thirds of it is purely an explanation of the topic sentence.

Illustrations such as examples and other details are some of the unimportant facts which should not be repeated in your summary answer; unless you are explicitly asked to do so.

Subsequent paragraphs in your WASSCE Summary passage discuss different aspects of the subject matter hinted at earlier in the thesis statement. Click To Tweet

Lesson #3: The Nature of the WASSCE Summary Question

Like the comprehension questions, the summary questions follow an order.

Usually, answers to the earliest ones are found in the early part of the passage and those to the last ones found in the last stages of the passage.

Bear this in mind and it will help you save precious time.

You need to obey the instructions in each question. Let’s look at some specimen questions for our purposes here:

Example One:

In five sentencesone for each, state the reasons why, according to the author, man needs the oceans.

This is a typical summary question. Those parts that are in bold lettering need your particular attention.

FIVE sentences:

Not one sentence, not three sentences but five sentences. And, please, you need to provide FIVE sentences.

Sentences

Note the following points. They will assist you to produce excellent sentences for your summary answers.

A sentence is different from a phrase. Some key features of the English sentence are.

i) a subject

ii) a verb

iii) an object (optional)

iv) an adverb (optional)

v) a complement (optional)

Can you identify any of the above parts in the sentence below?

  • She wrote a brilliant essay during the test.

A sentence normally starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.

Do not make the mistake of writing half, incomplete, structures and call them sentences.

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Unfortunately, many candidates take it that any group of words qualifies to be called a sentence. When you have a simple sentence structure like:

He/She/They/It/We/Noun / Noun Phrase + Verb …..

you will surely write a good, brief summary sentence.

One for each

This is clear enough. Decide to do your own thing and you are inviting failure.

So, if you are to write five sentences, it means you are supposed to provide five points, each in a separate sentence.

According to the author

The truth is, whether this is stated or not, you must remember that whatever you produce as your answer should never reflect your own way of thinking.

No one is interested in your opinion or judgment. At least not at this moment. So be objective, relying totally on only what is in the passage.

Example Two

In one sentence summarize how man misuses the oceans’ resources.

 ONE sentence

– only ONE sentence!

Summarize

This is how the Cambridge International Dictionary of English defines “summarize”:

To express the most important facts or characteristics about (something) in a short and clear form.

The parts in bold lettering in the above definition are intentionally marked out to help you grasp the real import of the word “summarize”

Under such circumstances, your creative use of conjunctions like hence, since, although, but, while etc. will come in handy.

It would help you express ideas/points (however numerous they might be) in just one sentence.

One more piece of advice:

Take a cue from the way a broadcast journalist summarizes their lengthy news bulletins in the form of “headlines” or “top stories”

You will hear them doing this at both the beginning and the end of every news bulletin. This is just about what you will be expected to do.

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Remember also that your first work can hardly be the best answer that you can produce. It is necessary for you to revise the sentence you have written once or twice.

This way, you would have corrected any mistakes – grammatical or mechanical – and cancelled out any unnecessary words or phrases.

The best sentence as a summary of a number of sentences should exclude adjectives, adverbs and other modifiers as much as possible.

All said and done, the best way you can pass the summary paper (just like any other one) excellently is through a lot of practice during your revision weeks or days.

It is for this reason that some passages are provided as part of this WASSCE Summary Writing Tutorial series.

It would do you a lot of good if you provided your own answers first and then compared them with the recommended ones.

This way, you test yourself objectively as to your preparedness for the examination.

Lesson #4: 4 Signposts to High-Grade WASSCE Summary Answers

Now is the time for you to take what is the most important step of all. Are you ready to give the right answers that will earn you the highest score possible?

I’m about to help you to get it just right. I will give you a checklist of the things you need to get right in order to get answer your summary questions excellently.

Recommended for You:

1. A clear understanding of the passage is a basic prerequisite for providing excellent answers.

Let the following points guide you.

  • As you read, do not point to words. If you are fond of pointing to words, learn to forget it before you enter examination room. Why? Because reading by pointing to words does not facilitate fast reading.
  • Concentrate on the passage with every bit of your mind. Read silently rather than reading in a way that will let next person hear your voice. Silent reading ensures greater concentration. This, in turn, enables you to avoid the time – wasting habit of going back to read a single line over and over again.
  • Focus on language chunks i.e. groups of words like fixed phrases and whole sentences . Look for ideas in the passage rather than looking for the meaning of individual (and sometimes difficult unfamiliar) words.

2.   Exact location of answers:

Again, bear in mind that separate points are often stated in topic sentences in separate paragraphs.

Take a look at these signposting words or expressions: firstly, in the first place, also, to begin with, another, the causes, to add to that, one major factor responsible, not only ….. but also, this accounts for, short –  comings, far-reaching effects, one of the most important, however, indeed, clearly, secondly, thirdly, last but not least, as a result, the benefits of …., One consequence of

They can guide you to locate points for your answers.

In all cases, the question itself will give you enough information to enable you to locate the points you need.

Look out for them to point you in the right direction. This way, you will give a good answer to all the summary questions.

For instance:

In six sentences, one for each, summarize the actual roles of booksellers in the book industry (WASSCE NOV/DEC 2008)

The word, ROLES in this WASSCE Summary question clearly shows which words you should be looking for in the passage to direct you to the answer points.

Synonyms of “role” or expressions meaning the same as or pointing to “role” in the passage include benefit, contribute, significant, provide, give, vital, collect.

In fact, many of the words above point directly to the exact location of your answer for the question above.

3. Reading the questions first before reading the passage:

This approach has three important benefits for the candidate in the examination room.

The three benefits of reading the questions first

i) It helps you to have a fair idea about the subject matter of the passage before you even begin to read it. This aids you in your understanding of the passage.

ii) It give you clues as to the important areas of the passage you need to focus on for easy location of answers and the areas you may have to ignore since they have nothing to do with the questions you have read.

iii) The overall advantage is that, it helps you to save precious examination room time since you will focus only on relevant areas and could even answer your questions by reading the passage just once.

4. Finally: Answering the questions:

Make sure you understand the actual demands of each question before you begin to answer it. If you rush or are careless here, you may deviate and lose all the marks or obtain very little.

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For instance, a question about “effect” is different from one about “causes” or “roles”. “Effects” relates to consequences, results, outcomes etc. while “causes” is about factors which “bring about” a particular situation.

Again, effects” could be positive or negative. “Causes” may sometimes relate to “reasons” and so on.

Lesson #5: The 5 Essential Features of a Great Summary Answer

1. Required number of sentences.

Write the exact number of sentences you have been asked to write. Two means two, three means three and four means four.

2. Observe all grammatical rules:

i) Let the tense of your answers correspond to the tense of the question or passage. e.g.

 In three sentences, one for each, state what governments use taxes for.

 (NOV/DEC WASSCE 2007)

Since the underlined verb is in the habitual present tense it means your sentence must also be in the present tense:

eg. They provide social amenities with tax revenue.

ii) You must avoid spelling errors as much as possible.

3. Make sure your sentences are as brief as possible.

As said earlier avoid details, illustrations and avoidable conjunctions.

4. Avoid this at all cost: Direct lifting from the passage:

You will be awarded zero for this.

5. Above all, make sure to label your answers to correspond with the labeling used for the questions.

Do not, for example, write 1) instead of a), 2) instead of b) and so on.

Lesson #6: Conclusion

A SUMMARY OF POINTS TO NOTE

1. To summarize means to say something again but in fewer words.

2. Many of these few words must be your own words.

3. In the examination, you will need to put a finger on exactly what you must summarize.

4. To use your own words means finding ways to get some simple nouns and verbs (in particular) of your own.

5. To write fewer words you must:

i) Replace very long noun phrases with pronouns or key nouns.

ii) Cut out as many qualifiers or modifiers as possible.

Example:

EXTRACT FROM THE PASSAGE:

Governments of rich countries in the so – called first world must provide much needed economic assistance to poor countries in the third world.

QUESTION ON THE PASSAGE:

In one sentence, state one way in which the first world can help poor countries to deal with poverty.

Ans. They must give poor countries economic aid.

OR: Their governments should give economic assistance to poor countries.

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6. Using your own words, or writing fewer words, does not mean you should change the meaning of the original text. Keep the meaning intact.

7. Write complete sentences:

i) Begin each sentence with a capital letter and end with a full stop.

ii) Use appropriate pronouns, nouns or short noun phrases to begin your sentences.

iii) Immediately follow the above with a verb and end it as quickly as possible.

iv) As much as possible avoid starting your summary sentences in the examination with the following:

  • to………………..
  • because…………
  • so that……………….
  • in order to……………….
  • ‘ing’ words e.g. giving, making, dealing, learning, etc.
  • noun + of ……………..e.g. production of, lack of, provision of, scarcity of, employment of etc. ‘Provision of economic assistance’ for example , is a phrase, not a sentence.

You can make it a sentence easily:

They must provide poor countries with economic assistance.

So why not do the right thing?

8. Make sure to provide the required number of sentences and points.

Before you go …

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Thank you.

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Ralph Nyadzi is a self-improvement blogger, online course creator and internet research addict . He spends his day working as a freelance website designer, web content manager, SEO content writer and WordPress trainer,. Ralph is the CEO of RN Digital Media Ent. He publishes on CegastAcademy.com and BloggingtotheMax.

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