Hi. My name is Jan Hagston and I’m a literacy educator.
This video explains what’s required in undertaking the summary writing task which is part of the Victoria Police entrance examination and gives advice about how to write a summary text. The article and summary we’ll be looking at are from the Candidate Information Booklet.
You’ll find this video more helpful if you read the article and look at the summary beforehand. You can find the Candidate Information Booklet at vpol.acer.org
The summary writing task requires you to read a short article and to write a summary of it. It tests your ability to identify the main points or ideas in the article and the details that support those points.
It also tests your ability to write a summary of these points, presenting the information logically.
These skills are important and are used firstly in the Academy and then when you’re qualified and on the job. In the Academy you’ll use these skills from day 1.
You’ll be expected to read and summarise an extensive amount of information and ensuring your summaries are clear, relevant and accurate will help you to learn. It will also help you to prepare for the written and practical exams you’ll do during training.
You’ll also use these skills in the role of policing when you’re required to write reports and to prepare briefs of evidence. These reports must be clear, to the point and accurate.
Both the reports and briefs require the ability to identify relevant information in written documents. These documents might be legislative documents like statements from different parties such as police, victims and witnesses.
You only have 20 minutes to do the summary writing task – both reading the article and writing the summary. You will write the summary using a computer.
There are a few things you won’t be able to do on the computer. You won’t be able to cut and paste, use spell check or grammar check. For bullet points and numbering you will need to use the keyboard symbols *, -, 1 and 2. For headings and sub-headings, you need to use capital letters as you can’t use bold, underline or italics.
Your summary should be 100 words or a little bit longer.
It needs to have:
It should be written in note form and use correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.
You should also use a style of writing and language that reflects what’s used in the article.
You need to accurately report the main points and give the key details that support those points.
And the points should be grouped logically.
To help you understand what this all means in practice we’re going to look at how to do a summary writing task.
This is an example of the type of article you could be asked to read.
If you haven’t already done so, you might like to read the article and look at the example of the summary now. You can find the Candidate Information Booklet at vpol.acer.org
First, you need to read the article to get a general understanding of the topic and the main ideas.
Next, read it again but this time look for the main points as well as the supporting details.
The main point in each paragraph will be in what’s called the topic sentence. All paragraphs should have a topic sentence. It’s often the first sentence in the paragraph.
Then you should look for the information that expands on the main idea – the supporting information. This should be the other sentences in the paragraph.
As you read, make notes of the main points as well as the details that support the main points. You can make notes on your working paper or in the text box on the screen. If you use the text box, you must remember to delete your notes when you’ve finished writing the summary.
In this example, we’ve made notes on paper. You might also like to make notes in the margin next to the text.
You might write something indicating the overall topic of one or more of the paragraphs. These might become the headings or sub-headings in your summary.
Next you should write a plan of what will be in your summary. This will help you to organise the points that go together. Having the points organised logically is an important aspect of the task.
You can plan using your working paper or in the text box on the screen.
We’ve done the plan in the text box because we want to build on the plan, so it becomes the summary. You could try this, or you could write your plan and then delete it when you’ve finished your summary. Or you can plan on your working paper.
Start by writing a title for your summary.
Now think about which of the points go together. It helps to use headings and sub-headings to group the points. You don’t have to write out all the points just indicate which ones go together.
Now you need to write the summary.
Here we have used the plan as the basis for the summary and expanded on it. We could have written the summary below the plan but, because time is important, we’ve expanded on the summary to save a little time.
This is a summary of the article we’ve been looking at. It’s a model only and isn’t the perfect answer or the only way the article could be summarised. It has a title. It uses headings. The points are grouped under the headings, so they’re organised according to the topic and when the events took place.
The summary has dot points, not full sentences. When you use dot points you write in short phrases, and you sometimes leave out words. If you were writing in full sentences you’d have to put in those missing words. And remember you need to use an asterisk or a dash for dot points and the keys 1 and 2 if you want to number points.
There are no spelling mistakes. Correct spelling is important. If you’re not sure of how to spell a word, check to see if the word’s used in the article and then copy it.
Notice that that the writer of the summary has abbreviated a few words. It’s OK to use appropriate abbreviations.
One word that has been abbreviated in the summary is ‘Identification’. It’s been abbreviated to ‘ID’. The writer of the article used this abbreviation and capital I D is an accepted abbreviation so it’s OK to use it in the summary. And of course, it’s much quicker to write ID than to write identification. In one place the person who wrote the summary didn’t use capital letters for the abbreviation – which they should have done.
The word ‘Government’ has also been shortened to ‘gov’. G O V or G O V T are accepted abbreviations of government and it’s OK to use it here but don’t abbreviate too many words in your summary.
Because the summary has dot points, the writer didn’t use any full stops, but you can put them at the end of each dot point if you want. It’s up to you. Commas have been used in a few places – which shows the writer can use this punctuation correctly.
There are a few words in the article that start with a capital letter but don’t have one in the summary. One is ‘Senate’. It should have a capital letter as it’s a proper noun. Proper nouns are the names of something or someone like ‘Ned Kelly’ or ‘Australia’. In the article, a capital was used for Senate because it’s referring to a specific organisation - the Australian Senate. The words in ‘Tax File Number’ also start with a capital letter in the article but don’t have one in the summary. If a capital letter is used in the article, use one in the summary.
The writer of the summary has used correct grammar. For example, they’ve used the correct verb tense to show the events happened in the past – ‘proposed’, ‘supposed’, ‘criticised’, ‘introduced’.
The summary also uses the type of language and style of writing that’s used in the article. So it’s not informal and it doesn’t use slang. Although this wasn’t a very technical article, one technical word - ‘legislation’ is used in the article and in the summary.
I hope this will help you to write a summary of a short article.
The best way to get better at writing summaries is to practise.
Look for articles that are a similar style and length to the one we’ve been looking at - or even a little bit longer. Practise making notes and planning on the screen and on paper. See which works best for you. You also need to practise writing using a computer but NOT using cut and paste, spell check and grammar check. It can take a little time to get used to.
The more you practise the better you’ll get at doing this type of writing.
You can also read the chapter in Practise Now! Victoria Police Entrance Examination on summary and extended writing. It goes over the points we have been talking about. Read over the explanations, have a go at the practice exercise and compare it with the one that’s been done in the book.
Practise Now! is produced by ACER. It describes a range of the types of questions you’re likely to find in the Victoria Police entrance exam and it provides detailed explanations on how to answer different questions correctly. It’s available from ACER bookshop and commercial booksellers.
After you do a practice summary, try to get someone to give you some feedback about it. There is a table in Practise Now that gives you guidelines about what a good summary should have.
When you think you are getting better at this type of writing, have a go at the practice tests.
There is information about how to get the practice tests on the Victoria Police Entrance Exam webpage.
If you are having trouble with different aspects of the summary writing task, say spelling or punctuation, you may like to contact the Reading Writing Hotline. They can suggest organisations that might be able to assist you or resources you could use to help you overcome any problems you are having.
So, I hope this information has helped you understand what you need to do for the summary writing task and good luck with the Exam.
Reviewed 15 June 2022