Tips for ESL Students to Review and Improve Written Work

As ESL students you have to improve your reading and writing skills for which there is very little time and in addition, you also are required to have speaking practice.

There is a way in which you could improve your reading as well as writing skills at the same time. The answer is summary writing.

Though you may not realise it, reading and writing skills are closely related. These can be combined when you write summary assignments and you save valuable time as you do so.

Summary Writing Improves Reading Comprehension

When you are asked to write a summary, you need to read your text well. This means that you will have to read the text more than once to be able to write your summary.

This will help you in imbibing more information than you would otherwise have.

When you read, you will also have to ask yourself questions in order to get answers to write your summary. You will also make notes as you read to enable you to write the important points.

This will help you to understand ideas better and know the meanings of words with the contexts they are used in.

Summary Writing Improves Writing Skills

When you read the text and understand it, you can write a paragraph which will summarise the ideas presented.

While you are writing in your own original way, the text and sentences will influence you, enabling you to write better and thus improve your writing skills.

While you may make use of some words and phrases from the text, you should ensure that your summary does not copy too much from the text.

6 Essential Points You Need to Remember When You Write Summaries

  1. Learn the Summary Format

You will have to learn the format of a summary very well. Even though you have written it once, you need to keep writing more summaries and practice. Learn to write in a single paragraph.

You can begin your summary by stating the title of the text and the name of the author and use an appropriate word like explains/states/describes/believes/thinks/expects…and continue writing your summary.

  1. Ask questions when you are Reading

When you are reading the text, ask yourself some questions about it. Given below are some questions that you could ask yourself.

What does the author want you to know?

Why does the author have this opinion?

How does the author prove his/her opinion?

Does the author provide any suggestions/advice/solutions to a problem?

What does this phrase mean? How is it related to the main idea/supporting points?

When you ask yourself these questions, you will find it easy to write your summary.

  1. Find the Main Idea

As an ESL student, you may find it difficult to find the main idea in the text. At higher levels, the text is purposely made complex by putting in ideas together to form one main idea.

You can ask yourself the questions which have been given above. These questions will help you to find the main idea more quickly.

  1. Identify the Writer’s Opinion

When you read the text, you should try to ask yourself what the author’s opinion is. You should try and find clues which will give you this answer.

  1. Know the Purpose

Sometimes you may not be able to make out the opinion as it may not be clear in the text. Then you could find out the purpose in writing. You could ask yourself, why am I reading this text? What am I supposed to understand after reading it?

You have already noted the purpose when you asked yourself the general questions when you were reading your text. Here are other questions you could ask yourself.

What type of an essay is this (informative, persuasive, narrative)?

Is the author trying to change my opinion of a subject?

Is the author highlighting a problem?

  1. Find Supporting Ideas

You will find this the easiest as you look for points that support the writer’s opinion and purpose.

From the points that you may have chosen, you can keep the main points which you could include in the summary. To make it easy, you can ask yourself about which points you think are important.

3 Tips to Improve Your Summary Writing

You now know how to write your basic summary. But you may feel the need to improve the quality of your writing. Use the three tips given below.

  1. Learn Concise Writing

As an ESL student, through the earlier years, you have been asked to write more and more. But since you are at a higher level now, you will have to learn to write in a concise manner. This is even more important when you write your summaries.

Practice writing summaries using the active voice rather than the passive voice and concentrate on writing concisely.

When you write you can proofread your text and eliminate the simple vocabulary.

  1. Write a Summary about a Movie

Writing a summary about a movie will help you to differentiate between the major supporting details and the other details which could be left out.

When you watch a movie and have to tell the story, in short, you don’t tell or explain the whole story in detail. You state the important points which give others a complete idea of the story. So now you can better understand how to write your summary.

You could even try telling the story in three sentences for more practice.

  1. Write your Summary without Referring to the Text

As a further exercise, read the text a few times and make notes if you wish. Then keep the text aside and try writing your summary.

When you have finished writing, go back to the text and review your summary and include anything that you may have left out.

This exercise will encourage you to write in your own style and in addition, will help you to improve your memory as you will be required to remember what you have read.

Use Supplementary Resources

Many universities and colleges have online resources which would include a page on writing summaries. Make use of these resources to improve upon your summary writing skills.

Add to Your Skills

If you have liked the summary writing exercises, you can also add to your English language skills. There are many online language learning lessons which you can make use of. This will improve your English language and will also help you to write better summaries.


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