Time-saver Strategy for IELTS Reading
Reading
Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: Summary Completion

Today we'll be looking at the summary completion task although some of the principles outlined below also apply to sentence completion, note completion, table completion, flow chart completion and diagram label completion tasks. So, hopefully, you'll find this helpful.  Before we start on how to complete this type of task, we need to consider a key idea: synonyms. A synonym is ‘a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language’. Synonyms are important in the summary completion task, because the summary doesn’t use exactly the same words as the reading passage so you have to be able to identify which section is being summarised, and which ideas are missing using synonyms.  Here’s the step-by-step guide to completing the summary task: Step 1: Prepare for all questions You don’t really have time in the exam to read the whole text more than once – although you may re-read certain passages. It’s therefore really important to prepare all of the questions for the reading passage and multi-task as you go along.  Step 2: Set your inner alarm bell for the summary task Before you start reading, you should make a short list of keywords that will help you identify where in the text you’re likely to find the answers to the task. Look at this example: (Click to enlarge)   Here’s a possible keyword list for the example above: earliest humans/produce/during 2005 hormone positive effect University of Haifa negative emotions University of Antwerp lack of willingness to help University of Amsterdam own culture vs other cultures Step 3: Start reading/identify relevant section(s) With your list of key words in mind, start reading the text and answer any of the other questions you’ve prepared as you go along. Be aware that sometimes the summary gathers information from the whole text and sometimes it focuses on one or two paragraphs. You should also remember that you’re not only looking for the exact key words, but synonyms as well.  In our example, our alarm bells are triggered very early on. The second sentence reads “It was through various studies focusing on animals that scientists first became aware of the influence of oxytocin.” ‘First’ is a synonym of ‘earliest’ and this shows us that we may have found the right section/sentence.    Step 4: Slow down Before you read on or answer the questions, you should look back at the task and identify what information is missing. You could use questions to help you do this. For example, the first summary sentence is: “The earliest findings about oxytocin and bonding came from research involving ………” So you could ask “What/Who did the earliest research involve?” ‘focusing on’ here is a synonym of ‘involving’, which means that ‘animals’ is the right answer.    Step 5: Check word limit Before you firmly settle on your answer, remember to check the word limit for the task as that can help you eliminate unnecessary or invalid answers. In our example, we’re only allowed one word.  Step 6: Read on and repeat If we look at our list of keywords, we find that the next word we are looking for is a synonym of ‘produce’ and that this must have something to do with humans. The paragraph goes on to talk about animals until: “It is also released by women in childbirth.” Released is a synonym of ‘produced’ and ‘women’ is a synonym of humans. The question I need to complete the sentence “It was also discovered that humans produce oxytocin during ………” is “When do humans produce oxytocin?” and the answer is ‘in childbirth’. However, given the word limit, this becomes ‘childbirth’. Repeat the steps above until you reach the end of the reading passage.  Step 7: Manage your time If you reach the end of the text, but there are still gaps in your summary task, check your timing. If you’ve spent less than 20 minutes on this task so far, you could spend some time trying to find the answer by looking back over the text. Remember that the task is in order, so that should help you identify where in the text the answer might be. However, if you have spent 20 minutes or more on this reading text, move on to the next section as there might be ‘easier’ points to be gained there and your gaps in the summary task might be due to the fact that you simply don’t know the right synonyms to complete some of the gaps.  That’s it! Task completed! In my next reading blog I’ll be looking at how you can use some of the same skills we discussed here in gap-fill tasks. Hope to see you again then. Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

15 May, 2020

Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: Summary Completion

Time-saver Strategy for IELTS Reading

Today we'll be looking at the summary completion task although some of the principles outlined below also apply to sentence completion, note completion, table completion, flow chart completion and diagram label completion tasks. So, hopefully, you'll find this helpful. 

Before we start on how to complete this type of task, we need to consider a key idea: synonyms. A synonym is ‘a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language’.

Synonyms are important in the summary completion task, because the summary doesn’t use exactly the same words as the reading passage so you have to be able to identify which section is being summarised, and which ideas are missing using synonyms. 

Here’s the step-by-step guide to completing the summary task:

Step 1: Prepare for all questions
You don’t really have time in the exam to read the whole text more than once – although you may re-read certain passages. It’s therefore really important to prepare all of the questions for the reading passage and multi-task as you go along. 

Step 2: Set your inner alarm bell for the summary task
Before you start reading, you should make a short list of keywords that will help you identify where in the text you’re likely to find the answers to the task. Look at this example:

Summary Task from IELTS 13 Academic Page 45
(Click to enlarge)

 

Here’s a possible keyword list for the example above:

  • earliest
  • humans/produce/during
  • 2005
  • hormone
  • positive effect
  • University of Haifa
  • negative emotions
  • University of Antwerp
  • lack of willingness to help
  • University of Amsterdam
  • own culture vs other cultures

Step 3: Start reading/identify relevant section(s)
With your list of key words in mind, start reading the text and answer any of the other questions you’ve prepared as you go along. Be aware that sometimes the summary gathers information from the whole text and sometimes it focuses on one or two paragraphs. You should also remember that you’re not only looking for the exact key words, but synonyms as well. 

In our example, our alarm bells are triggered very early on. The second sentence reads “It was through various studies focusing on animals that scientists first became aware of the influence of oxytocin.” ‘First’ is a synonym of ‘earliest’ and this shows us that we may have found the right section/sentence. 

Writing-exercise-from-page-51-OPM2

 

Step 4: Slow down
Before you read on or answer the questions, you should look back at the task and identify what information is missing. You could use questions to help you do this. For example, the first summary sentence is: “The earliest findings about oxytocin and bonding came from research involving ………” So you could ask “What/Who did the earliest research involve?” ‘focusing on’ here is a synonym of ‘involving’, which means that ‘animals’ is the right answer. 
 
Step 5: Check word limit
Before you firmly settle on your answer, remember to check the word limit for the task as that can help you eliminate unnecessary or invalid answers. In our example, we’re only allowed one word. 

Step 6: Read on and repeat
If we look at our list of keywords, we find that the next word we are looking for is a synonym of ‘produce’ and that this must have something to do with humans. The paragraph goes on to talk about animals until: “It is also released by women in childbirth.” Released is a synonym of ‘produced’ and ‘women’ is a synonym of humans. The question I need to complete the sentence “It was also discovered that humans produce oxytocin during ………” is “When do humans produce oxytocin?” and the answer is ‘in childbirth’. However, given the word limit, this becomes ‘childbirth’. Repeat the steps above until you reach the end of the reading passage. 

Step 7: Manage your time
If you reach the end of the text, but there are still gaps in your summary task, check your timing. If you’ve spent less than 20 minutes on this task so far, you could spend some time trying to find the answer by looking back over the text. Remember that the task is in order, so that should help you identify where in the text the answer might be. However, if you have spent 20 minutes or more on this reading text, move on to the next section as there might be ‘easier’ points to be gained there and your gaps in the summary task might be due to the fact that you simply don’t know the right synonyms to complete some of the gaps. 

That’s it! Task completed!

In my next reading blog I’ll be looking at how you can use some of the same skills we discussed here in gap-fill tasks. Hope to see you again then.

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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