I remember the first time I encountered the “PTE summarize written text” task in the PTE writing section.
I stared at it for a good minute or two, severely cutting down on the precious 10 minutes I had to complete it. I was so confused- how the heck was I supposed to summarize all those ideas into a single sentence? And how the heck was I going to make this single sentence grammatically correct and well-organized? At first I felt defeated, and angry that I had been given such a seemingly impossible task. But then I realized that I wasn’t there to write the next literary masterpiece of our time, but rather to provide a brief summary of information I already had in front of me.
Understanding how to write in a concise and organized way is crucial to succeeding on the PTE summarize written text task. With this in mind, I want to share with you some of the techniques I used to help me achieve my PTE 90 in writing (both times I took the PTE!).
PTE Summarize Written Text Tip: KISS (keep it simple, stupid!)
No, I’m not calling you stupid! I’m merely pointing out that the most common way that people lose points on the “PTE Summarize Written Text” task is by overcomplicating their sentences. People think that long, complicated sentences are what the PTE examiners are looking for. However, they don’t consider the fact that the more complex a sentence is- the more room there is for error. Once I saw an answer that had five commas, two semi-colons and two colons! That is ridiculous. Try not to use more than three commas MAXIMUM, and don’t you dare use a semi-colon unless you know exactly how to use it!!
Here’s an example of a poor “Summarize Written Text” response:
Aversion therapy is the current way of treating people’s fears, but scientists have found a new way for patients to overcome their fear, it’s called “decoded neurofeedback”, and it’s through the use of brain scanning technology and artificial intelligence; the technology erases painful memories so that people don’t have to relive them the way they have to in fear aversion therapy.
And here’s a much, much better construction of the same ideas:
Scientists have found a promising alternative to fear aversion therapy that involves using brain scanning technology and artificial intelligence to create “decoded neurofeedback”, a method that essentially erases the fearful memories from one’s mind without needing to evoke them, making it less traumatizing for people who don’t wish to relive their fears through aversion therapy.
Notice how the second example contains only 2 commas, but is still a comprehensive summary of the facts.
PTE Summarize Written Text Tip: Summarize the most important points, not EVERY point.
This one is crucial to remember. So many E2Language students stress about “Summarize Written Text” because they’re worried that they won’t be able to address every point in the paragraph in a single sentence. Well, that’s true. But stop worrying! The PTE examiners aren’t looking for a word-for-word summary, they just want to know that you’ve pinpointed the most important ideas in the text to summarize. Once you get into the habit of identifying key points, it becomes easy to ignore extraneous information. It just takes practice.
Let’s look at an example. Here is a text similar to one you might see on the PTE:
Recording artists are frequently the face of commercial products, and children and adolescents are frequently their target audience. Now, a new study by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center finds that the vast majority of the food and beverage products marketed by some of the most popular music stars are unhealthy. And this type of advertising is contributing to the alarming rise in childhood and teen obesity in America, the authors warn.
Soda and other sugary drinks, fast food and sweets are among the most common food and beverage products endorsed by famous music personalities, according to the descriptive study, which publishes June 6 in Pediatrics. Equally alarming, none of the music stars identified in the study endorsed fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Only one endorsed a natural food deemed healthy–pistachios.
Now, let’s think about the important information in this text. The “gist” of this article is that recording artists are frequently the face of unhealthy commercial products, and this is contributing to childhood obesity. Great! But there’s also some extraneous information here that we don’t need to cover in our summary.
- It’s not necessary to name the medical center that conducted the study- instead we can just say, “a new study indicates that…”
- We don’t have to mention the date the study will be published, as it’s the content of the study that interests us!
- We also don’t need to mention that recording artist are the face of many commercial products, as what is important here is the unhealthy food products they are promoting.
- It’s not essential to talk about the one celebrity who endorsed pistachios, although you could if you wanted to. It’s interesting information, but not really a part of the overall theme of the article.
Here’s what our response could look like:
Famous recording artists often promote unhealthy food and beverage products rather than fruits and vegetables, and a new study suggests that this promotion of fast foods, sugary drinks and sweets is adding to the childhood and teen obesity problem in America.
Bonus PTE Summarize Written Text Tips:
Less is more.
Don’t think you have to write 70 words to get full marks! As we discussed before, a longer sentence leaves you more vulnerable to grammar and sentence structure mistakes. For me, between 35 and 50 words was the magic length. I found that I could summarize the main ideas within this limit without my sentence getting too convoluted.
Connectors are a great way to avoid overusing commas. To avoid using “and” too much, try to think about the FANBOY connectors. These are:
Remember, when in doubt, “Fanboy it out!” Okay, I’ll admit it- I’m cheesy!
I hope this helps you on your journey to becoming a “Summarize Written Text” expert! Remember, E2Language.com has a method for this task, and it works. Also, when you sign up to one of our courses, we assess your writing and identify your areas in need of improvement. So if you’re struggling with this task, you should check us out!
Watch our “PTE Summarize Written Text” method on YouTube here:
What do you struggle with the most when it comes to “Summarize Written Text”? Let me know in the comments!
Written by Kaia Myers-Stewart.