HOW TO ANSWER SUMMARY PASSAGES

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INTRODUCTION TO SUMMARY WRITING


You are welcome, in this article, we will look at how S.H.S. students can answer their W.A.S.S.C.E. summary passages without any difficulty. As we are all aware, summary is the section C of the W.A.S.S.C.E. English Language Paper 2 which fetches a good thirty (30) marks, this number is very very significant to the chances of any student who desires a better grade in English Language at W.A.S.S.C.E.


Meaning of Summary
Summary refers to a short statement of the main points of a lengthier expression. To summarise means ‘to reduce’, ‘to shorten’ etc.
In summary writing, students should have it the back of their minds that in an attempt to reduce the length of a lengthier expression, the main idea or the meaning of the expression should not be changed or altered.


How to Answer Summary Passages


In an attempt to help students answer questions on summary passages without any difficulty, I have put together the following guidelines or rules.
Guideline one; Summary answers must be written in sentences, and not phrases nor dependent/subordinate clauses; Students should remember that an answer written as a phrase or a subordinate clause does not score a mark/a good mark because we are all aware that phrases and subordinate clauses do not make complete thoughts, and as such, students should desist from such, unless otherwise stated in the question that the answer be a phrase or a subordinate clause, which is not always the case.
Guideline two; Students should desist from mindless lifting, that is to say that they should avoid lifting answers verbatim from the summary passage. Summary answers must be written in students’ own words.
Guideline three; Students should have ample stock of vocabulary/register. Students should remember that a good knowledge of register is important in summary writing. Register refers to the vocabulary or language used in various fields/professions. Students should understand the context or field of the summary passage, once they are able to do so, they can then use the appropriate vocabulary. Let us take a look at two examples below;
Example one
The young intelligent lady who writes stories to be published in the newspapers can be found at the back of where films are normally shown.
Let us try to summarise this expression.
In an attempt to summarise the expression above, we will divide this sentence into four parts;
a. The young intelligent lady who writes stories to be published by the newspapers
b. Can be found
c. At the back of
d. Where films are normally shown

We need to understand that our knowledge of register is important in identifying a word or phrase to replace the first expression, The young intelligent lady who writes stories to be published in the newspaper. In the field of journalism, anyone who writes stories to be published is called journalist. This means we can replace the lengthier expression by the phrase, the journalist.
Also, the verb phrase can be found needs to also be replaced by a word or expression, that means the same, the student is not encouraged to repeat this same expression in the answer. We need to understand that if someone can be found somewhere, it means the person lives or stays there, it means we can replace can be found with the word lives or stays.
Furthermore, at the back of is a complex preposition or a prepositional phrase, when something is at the back of another, it is behind that thing, so behind should be used to replace the phrase, at the back of.
Finally, the expression where films are normally shown needs to also be replaced with a word or expression. Here, our knowledge of register again is very important. Where films are shown is technically called video theatre, so it means, we can replace that expression with video theatre.
Now our summarized statement will be; The journalist stays behind the video theatre.
We have seen that the meaning of the original (lengthier) expression has not changed, it remains the same as the short or reduced form (summary).
Example two
The act of spacing the birth of children has been accepted by the good people of the Republic of Ghana.
In the above expression, the act of spacing the birth of children can be replaced by the technical term, family planning. The verb phrase has been accepted can also be replaced the word embrace or practice. Then, the good people of the republic of Ghana can also be replaced by the word Ghanaians.
So, our summarized statement will be; Ghanaians have embraced family planning.
Guideline four; Replace idiomatic expressions with one word in summary writing. Students should try as much as possible to be abreast with the entire S.H.S. English Language syllabus because ‘idiomatic expressions’ is one of the topics to be treated. These expressions, when used in a summary passage should not be repeated when the student is presenting the summarized form of the passage or his answer.

Example one
Jonh’s father has been terribly ill in the last couple of months. He was diagnosed of hepatitis B and typhoid last week. They spent a huge chunk of money on his sickness. Unfortunately, John’s father kicked the bucket yesterday.
Question
a. In one sentence, state what happened to John’s father
Answer
John’s father died
Example 2
The students of the new established private school in town have always been at loggerheads with those who teach them.
Summary; they quarrel with their teachers
Guideline five; avoid the use of adjectives modifiers in your answers. The examiner most often will want to confuse the student by being excessively verbose. He will use a lot of words and expressions to modify a particular word in an attempt to confuse the student. Take note, in summary writing, modifiers should be avoided as much as possible.
Example one
A beautifully dressed and charming looking girl was seen dead on the principal street of Tumu.
Summary; a girl died in Tumu.
Example two
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, the fifth president of the Fourth Republic of Ghana, upon a series of thoughts and considerations has stepped down as the president of Ghana.
Summary; the president of Ghana has resigned
Guideline six; Avoid giving examples in your answers. There are instances where there will be a lot of examples used in the passage which can be replaced with a single word to include all. In writing your summary answers, these examples should not be repeated again. Endeavor to find a word that will include all the examples you would have mentioned in your answer.
Let us look the two examples below;
Example one
Amina went to the Makola Market and bought three tins of sardine, five tins of milk, three bowls of gari, two bowls of sugar and some bars of soap.
Summary; Amina purchased provisions/commodities
Example two
A year ago, madam Janet visited her husband in the United States. While there, she bought some garden eggs, tomatoes, okra and some pepper.
Summary; she purchased ingredients/vegetables
Guideline seven; Avoid quoting dates and figures in your summary writing. Dates and figures are added to a text to make it elaborate, but elaboration is not the aim of summary writing, so students should avoid quoting dates and figures in their summary answers.
Example one
Bayong and Gbene were very good friends. They had been classmates for more than ten years, on the 30th of July, 2021, they were walking on the streets of Tamale when three men spotted them and shouted; thieves! Thieves! They were rounded up and charged with the crime of having entered Mr. Suhuyini’s house the previous night, and having stolen a motorbike.
Questions
a. In one sentence, summarise the crime that was levelled against Bayong and Gbene.
b. In one sentence, state what happened to Mr. Suhuyini.
Answers
a. They were accused of theft/robbery
b. He was robbed
Having looked at the few guidelines above, let us now try our hands on lengthier passages.

Passage one
In most rural areas in the Upper West Region of Ghana, agricultural produce are left to go bad owing to many factors. One major factor is the bad nature of the roads which link the villages to the district and municipal capitals. The bad nature of the roads , for instance, prevents drivers from plying between the villages and capitals to bring food stuffs to the urban dwellers. To worsen the situation to the urban dwellers, peasant farmers also refuse to carry their items to the urban centers because of the instability in the prices of agricultural produce in the urban areas.
Question
a. In two sentences, one for each, state why agricultural produce are getting bad in the rural areas.
Answers
We are going to examine four different set answers provided by four students and the possible scores they would have if it were in examination;
Student A;
i. The bad nature of the roads prevents drivers from bringing food stuffs to the urban centers.
ii. Peasant farmers refuse to bring their farm produce to urban centers because of instability in prices.
Student B;
i. Bad nature of roads
ii. Fluctuation of prices
Student C;
i. Poor road network.
ii. Reluctance of peasant farmers.
Student D;
i. The roads connecting the rural areas and the urban areas are in a deplorable state.
Or
i. The deplorable road network is a hindrance to drivers.
Or
i. The poor road network is a challenge to many drivers.
ii. The prices of farm produce in the cities are fluctuating/not stable.
Discussion of answers
In an examination situation, student A scores nothing, but zero. Why?
The student will score zero because he has lifted his answer verbatim i.e. word to word from the passage.
Note; summary answers must be written in your own words.
Student B also scores a zero for the answers she has provided. Why?
The student will score zero because her answers are written in phrases, and not sentences. Also, there is some lifting as well.
Note; summary answers must be written in sentences, and not phrases nor subordinate clauses.
Student C will score zero because he has committed the same errors as Student B.
Student D will score some considerable marks or the full mark because the answers are written in full sentences and the student’s own words.
Now that we have successfully come to the end of this lesson, try your hands on this passage.


Lesson exercise
The man who practices law at the village closer to Tamale did not like to hear the idea of writing a will because he believed if children get to know what is up for grabs when their parents die will not hard in order to acquire their own wealth.
He equally believed that some wicked women will pray and do everything within their power to eliminate their man if they know that they stand a chance to inherit a good portion of the man’s wealth as specified in the will.
Despite the above reasons, the consequences of dying without a valid will are dire in most African communities. For instance, there was a serious pandemonium within the extended family of one prominent politician who passed away without writing a will.
Due to the man’s belief about the negative implications of writing a will, he passed away without writing one.
Questions
a. In two sentences, one for each, state the reasons why the man did not like the idea of writing a will.
b. In one sentence, state one negative effect of dying without a will.
c. In one sentence, state how the man passed on.

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