How to make summaries

Do you know why summaries are important and how to prepare for making effective summaries? If you don’t, you might want read about it here.

Summaries step-by-step

Step 1 
Understand your material before you start to summarise.  Read through all of the material to get an overview, don’t make notes yet.  Read it again if necessary until you truly understand it.  Look up words or concepts that you don’t understand along the way, this ensures the material makes more sense.

Step 2
Now reread the material for meaning, underlining or highlighting the most important information that you need to remember and making notes in the margins to add clarification to the content.  Identify key concepts and supporting facts and note the headings and subheadings or divide the information into sections to organise your summary. Think of the focus – who, what, when, where, why. 

Remember at this stage that LESS is MORE, you don’t want to rewrite your notes but you need to rethink them explaining the essential information in your own words.

Step 3
Reread the material crossing out unnecessary information. This is the information that is not necessary for understanding or has been repeated. Reduce the notes so you are left with mostly key lines, phrases, half sentences and lists in point form.  

Step 4
Draft the summary with what is left into your own words.  You can write it in either full sentences or point form, draw pictures, use colours whichever learning style you prefer.  Ensure your points make sense to you. Use phrases instead of full sentences, use words instead of phrases and keep some words/terms as is e.g definitions, quotations specific facts and formulas.  Check that you have kept the essential information.  Aim for 10-25% of the original text. If your summary is too detailed and too long then create a summary of your summary.

Preparing a summary is not a 1-step process.  What is important is that you are left with a concise learning aid which will give a more forceful impression in your memory.

Different variations of summaries
Depending on your learning style you can adapt your summaries to suit you. Take this test to find your learning style. 

Visual learners may prefer to draw charts or mind maps/spider diagrams using visual symbols, colour and shapes.  Auditory learners find it beneficial recording the summaries onto audio and playing it back a number of times.  They can also convert their summaries onto flash cards and “teach�? their favourite teddy bear by reading the summaries out loud or having a question and answer session.

Read more about how to study with old exam papers.

Mind maps
Mind maps are a visual methods of summarising information which helps you to see the overall structure of a subject and how everything relates as well as the necessary facts.  You start with the main concept in the middle and then the related concepts all branch out from there.  So you get to see the big picture and how everything connects. Make use of colours, images and words (not sentences), mind mapping works the way the brain works, which is not in nice neat lines.

Flash cards
These are pieces of card with questions on one side and the answers on the other side.  You can add in pictures or other visual images to help you memorise the concepts.

Whichever method of summarising you choose remember that good summarising skills take practice.

If you want to learn more about better techniques to study and to remember your work better, join the next Re-Mind course at EQ-Advantedge in Durban. 

If this is your child's first exam in Grade 4, read these helpful tips on how to teach them to study independently.