Category: summary writing

Sample Section A of the 2018 CSEC English A Exam

Section A of the 2018 CSEC English A Exam

(Suggested time: 40 minutes)  
You MUST answer this question.  
Write your answer on the RULED PAGES provided, pages 4 and 5.  There may be more space than you need.  

1. Read the following article on tattoos carefully and list FIVE MAIN points discussed, then write a summary of the article in NOT MORE THAN 120 words.  If this limit is exceeded, only the first 120 words of your answer will be read and assessed.   

As far as possible, use your own words.  Your summary must be in continuous prose.  You may use your answer booklet to jot down a plan.  In your answer, you will be assessed on how well you: 

(a) identified the main ideas and opinions in the extract
(b) organized and expressed these ideas and opinions in your own words 
(c) used appropriate grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation.  


        Since the beginning of civilization, they have served as marks of identification, spiritual protection and decoration. Now at the cusp of another millennium, tattoos and other varieties of body markings are resurfacing as a popular form of individual self-expression.  
      Tattoos are timeless and can be as unique as the bearers they adorn. They don’t fade away like favourite T-shirts, or get lost or broken like school rings. They stay with you forever, until death. They become a part of you from the day you sit in the artist’s chair, etching your emotions alongside the needle’s sting, transforming an instant of your life into a symbol for the world to see.  
     Tattoos and other body markings arrived in the Caribbean with African slaves and indentured workers from China and India. They were sometimes the only permanent keepsakes of peoples snatched from their ancestral places. The Caribbean’s original Amerindian inhabitants also used tattoos to mark spiritual milestones. The Taino of the Northern Caribbean Islands, for instance, used vegetable dyes to affix images of their guardians onto their skin. These images also indicated an individual’s lineage, or his or her social position. Each tattoo was both a personal history book and a mark of belonging.  
    Over the centuries, however, tattoos and other forms of bodily adornment have mutated, exchanging religious and cultural significance for individualist associations. Sometimes that mark of individuality has been confused with rebellion and non-conformity, often alluding to a stain of bad character. Tattoo-wearers have seemed wild, dangerous, even just plain bad.  
     But today, tattoos have come full circle. Celebrities, writers, lawyers, housewives, all proudly display their marks of rebellion. An entirely new perception of the art of tattooing has arisen, which is more than just a preoccupation with style. This rediscovered form of expression has spawned an entire subculture of individuals among us. They carry this common bond of distinction through their daily routines. Via the images on their forearms, shoulders, ankles, or torsos, they connect to each other, announcing to the world that it is OK to be unique and different.  

Adapted from “Pictures made flesh”. Caribbean Beat, July/August 2003. 

                                                                                                              Total 25 marks  


Sample English A Summary Writing Question

Summarize in not more than 120 words, describing the life in deserts.
As what geographers have estimated, about twenty percent of the earth’s surface is occupied by deserts. A majority of us view deserts as one unique kind of landscape — areas with little or no rainfalls.

In actual fact, there are differences between the deserts, though in varying degrees. While it is common for laymen like us to see deserts as rocky or covered with gravel or pebbles, there are some where large sand dunes inhabit. Despite the fact that rainfall is minimal, temperatures do change in deserts, ranging from seasonal ones to daily changes where extreme hotness and coldness are experienced in the day and night. Unfavorable conditions in the deserts, especially the lack of water, have discouraged many living things from inhabiting these landscapes. Nevertheless, there are exceptionally surviving ones which through their superb tactics, have managed to live through and are still going strong. One such kind is the specialist annual plants which overcome seasonal temperature changes with their extremely short, active life cycles.

In events of sudden rain, the plant seeds pullulate and grow very quickly to make full use of the rain water. Their flowers bloom and set seeds that ripen quickly in the hot sun too. Once the water runs dry, the mother plant dies, leaving behind the drought-resistant seeds, waiting patiently for the next rainy season to arrive. The Cacti, a native in American deserts, adapts to the dry surroundings by having unique body structures. The plant has swollen stems to help store water that carries it through months. By having sharp pines instead of leaves, water loss through respiration is minimized. Besides, these pointed pines also help the plant ward off grazing animals, thus enhancing its survival period. Besides plants, there are also animals with distinct surviving tactics in deserts too.

For instance, Skinks ( desert lizards ) metabolize stored fats in their bulbous tails, producing water to supplement their needs, just like what camels do with the stored food in their humps during long journeys through deserts. Antelopes like the addax, have very low water needs and hence are able to tolerate the conditions in deserts, extracting moisture from the food they eat. Finally, there are the sandgrouses ( desert birds ) which do not have special features to overcome the drought-like nature in deserts. Hence, to survive in these hot, dry deserts, they need to spend a large part of their time flying in search of waterholes.

gravel Small pieces of rocks and stones
pullulate to have just enough money to pay for the things that you need
bulbous like a bulb


Despite the dry conditions in the deserts, some plants and animals still manage to survive there. One of them is the specialist annual plants. Their short life cycles allow them to germinate, grow and produce seeds during short rainy seasons. These seeds are drought-resistant and are able to wait for the next rainy season before starting their life cycles again. The Cacti adapts to the dry weather by having swollen stems for water storage and pine-like leaves to minimize water loss through respiration. Skinks generate water from stored fats in their tails and antelopes which requires very little water, survives in deserts by extracting water from food they eat. Finally, sandgrouse with no adaptive features turn to waterholes constantly for help.    ( 119 words )

CSEC English A Sample Summary Writing Question

Here is a CXC past paper type summary writing question.
This is the type of summary writing question that has been on
CXC English A past papers
NB: CXC suggests spending no more than 35 minutes to answer the summary writing question in Section one, paper 2 of the English A exam.
Read carefully the following conversation between Ross and Susan and then answer the question below it.
Susan Charles, a fine secretary you are! Don’t you know that the students from Guadeloupe arrive on September 15th?
Both the boys and the girls. So what else is new?
Ross: None of your wisecracks. That’s only a month away and we haven’t found accommodation for them as yet. The hotel says there won’t be any room at that time. As secretary of the club, it’s your responsibility…
Susan: I know, I know. I’ll arrange for them to stay in private homes. I’m sure the villagers won’t mind taking them in for a small charge. It’s only for two weeks. Our visitors are booked to leave on the 30th.
Ross: Not a bad idea. Why don’t you write to all the villagers asking them to write to us if they are interested in putting up these students? I wonder how much they’ll charge.
Susan: I’ll ask them to give their rates. We’ll have to insist, though, that the villagers who are interested must be able to speak French. The Guadeloupeans speak no English.
Ross: At least not the six who are coming. Should the villagers provide meals?
Susan: Breakfast and dinner, except on Sundays when they must include lunch as well.
Ross: I think we should let the villagers know that two club members will want to inspect homes and chat with the applicants before making the selection.
Susan: Agreed. Letters from those who are interested should reach us by August 26th. Then our members can visit on the 28th.
Ross: After six p.m., I suppose? Should the villagers write to you as secretary?
Right on both counts; I’ll tell them to write to:
   The Secretary
Denby Sports Club
P.O. Box 63
Arroyo Village.
Ross: But suppose a villager can put up more than one student?
Susan: All the better, my friend, all the better.
Imagine that you are Susan. In not more than 150 words, write the letter to the villagers.
Marks will be given for (1) content, (2) organisation and (3) expression
30 marks


The Secretary
Denby Sports Club
P.O. Box 63
Arroyo Village
Dear Villagers,
A pleasant day to you. The Denby Sports Club is seeking your help on accommodating six (6) Guadeloupan students both male and female for two weeks. The reason for this is of the inconvenience with the hotels being filled at this time. The students will be arriving on September 15th and departing on the 30th.
Villagers interested must be able to speak French fluently, to provide breakfast and dinner daily except on Sundays where lunch should be included. Please state your fees of accommodation and write back to us by August 26, where as an inspection by two (2) members of the club to select appropriate homes and chat with applicants will be done on August 28 after 6pm. Thanks in advance.
Susan Charles.



Computers and Education in America

Dudley Erskine Devlin writes his own commentary of computer technology on the rise in “Computers and Education in America.” While all the optimists out there push the movement of Websites and constantly flash e-mail addresses on all advertising promising simplicity for our hectic lives and education for our children, Devlin retorts by saying, “In short, the much ballyhooed promise of computers for education has yet to be realized.” He believes that finding information and retrieving it from the Internet is long and tedious. The Internet is cluttered by commercialism, claims Devlin. He also points out how the information might be false when found. He believes claims that the Internet is democratic are false. The personal computer eats money and that plus the cost of Internet bills is too much for families. Although the Internet has nearly 20 million sites, there are not enough mentoring programs to lead students through the Internet. Besides, according to Devlin, kids will always prefer the TV and their friends over cyberspace. Even if kids were on the Internet they would be surrounded by commercialism and pornography. Finally, in the words of Dudley Erskine Devlin, “The cult of computers is still an empty promise for most students.”


Summary Writing Practice Question 2

 Summarize the passage below in 150 words. The model question will be provided tomorrow. 

Computers and Education in America In the last decade, computers have invaded every aspect of education, from kindergarten through college. The figures show that schools have spent over two billion dollars installing two million new computers. Recently, with the explosive increase of sites on the Internet, computers have taken another dramatic rise. In just five years, the number of Internet hosts has skyrocketed from 2 million to nearly 20 million. It is not uncommon for 6th graders to surf the ‘Net, design their own home pages, and e-mail their friends or strangers they have “met” on the Web.

Computer literacy is a reality for many junior high students and most high school students. In the midst of this technological explosion, we might well stop and ask some key questions. Is computer technology good or bad for education? Are students learning more or less? What, exactly, are they learning? And who stands to benefit from education’s current infatuation with computers and the Internet?
In the debate over the virtues of computers in education, the technological optimists think that computers and the Internet are ushering us into the next literacy revolution, a change as profound as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. In contrast, a much smaller but growing number of critics believe that cyberspace is not the ideal classroom. I agree with the critics. If you consider your own experience, you’ll agree that the benefits of computer literacy are at best wildly overrated. At their worst, computers and the Internet pander to the short attention spans and the passive viewing habits of a young television generation. The technological optimists sing a siren song of an enchanted new land where the educational benefits of computers and the Internet are boundless. First, they boast that children can now access information on every conceivable subject. If little Eva or little Johnny wants to learn about far-away cultures, they can access sites from their own homes that will teach them about the great languages and cultures of the world.

Second, these starry-eyed optimists warble about how the Internet has created a truly democratic space, where all children–rich, poor, black, white, and brown–have equal access to information and education. Third, they claim that computers will allow students to have e-mail conversations with experts on any subject around the world. No longer will students be limited by their own classroom, their teacher, or their environment. Distance learning is the wave of the future, and classrooms will become obsolete or at least optional. In the words of John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Computer, the new technologies have created an “avalanche of personal creativity and achievement” and they have given students the “ability to explore, convey, and create knowledge as never before.” Children who used to hate going to school will now love to learn to read and write, to do math and science. They will voluntarily spend hours learning on the Web instead of being bored to death by endless books and stodgy teachers. Sound too good to be true? Let’s examine these claims, one by one. First, promoters of computer learning are endlessly excited about the quantity of information available on the Internet. The reality, however, is quite a different story. If you’ve worked on the Internet, you know that finding and retrieving information from a Web site can sometimes be tedious and time consuming. And once you find a site, you have no idea whether the information will be valuable. Popular search engines such as Yahoo! are inefficient at finding relevant information, unless you just want to buy a book on or find a street map for Fargo, North Dakota. Information is definitely available on the Web, but the problem is finding relevant, reliable, and non-commercial information. Next, the optimists claim that the Internet is truly a democratic space with equal access for everyone. Again, the reality falls short. First, access to an Internet provider at home costs over a hundred dollars a month, once you add up service and long distance fees. And then there’s the technology barrier–not every person has the skills to navigate the Web in any but the most superficial way. Equal access is still only a theoretical dream, not a current reality.

Finally, computers do allow students to expand their learning beyond the classroom, but the distance learning is not a utopia. Some businesses, such as Hewlett Packard, do have mentoring programs with children in the schools, but those mentoring programs are not available to all students. Distance learning has always been a dream of administrators, eager to figure out a cheaper way to deliver education. They think that little Eva and Johnny are going to learn about Japanese culture or science or algebra in the evening when they could be talking with their friends on the phone or watching television. As education critic Neil Postman points out, these administrators are not imagining a new technology but a new kind of child: “In [the administrator’s] vision, there is a confident and typical sense of unreality. Little Eva can’t sleep, so she decides to learn a little algebra? Where does little Eva come from? Mars?” Only students from some distant planet would prefer to stick their nose in a computer rather than watch TV or go to school and be with their friends. In addition to these drawbacks are other problems with computers in education. There is the nasty issue of pornography and the rampant commercialism on the Internet. Schools do not want to have their students spend time buying products or being exposed to pornography or pedophiles.

Second, the very attractiveness of most Web sites, with their color graphics and ingenious links to other topics, promotes dabbling and skimming. The word “surfing” is appropriate, because most sites encourage only the most surface exploration of a topic. The Internet thus accentuates what are already bad habits foremost students: Their short attention spans, their unwillingness to explore subjects in depth, their poor reading and evaluation skills. Computers also tend to isolate students, to turn them into computer geeks who think cyberspace is actually real. Some students have found they have a serious and addictive case of “Webaholism,” where they spend hours and hours on the computer at the expense of their family and friends. Unfortunately, computers tend to separate, not socialize students. Finally, we need to think about who has the most to gain or lose from computers in the schools. Are administrators getting more students “taught” for less money? Are big companies training a force of computer worker bees to run their businesses? Will corporate CEO’s use technology to isolate and control their employees? In short, the much ballyhooed promise of computers for education has yet to be realized.

Education critic Theodore Roszak has a warning for us as we face the brave new world of computer education: Like all cults, this one has the intention of enlisting mindless allegiance and acquiescence. People who have no clear idea of what they mean by information or why they should want so much of it are nonetheless prepared to believe that we live in an Information Age, which makes every computer around us what the relics of the True Cross were in the Age of Faith: emblems of salvation. I think if you examine your own experience with computers, you’ll agree that the cult of computers is still an empty promise for most students. Computers, the Internet, and the Web will not magically educate students. It still must be done with reading, study, good teaching, and social interaction. Excellence in education can only be achieved the old fashioned way–students must earn it.

–Dudley Erskine Devlin



How to Write a Summary

 The following are the six (6) steps for writing a summary

1. Find the main idea of the passage:

Read the passage the first time for understanding.  (So you can get a sense of what point they are trying to make.)

Ask yourself, “ What was the passage about?”

(You should answer yourself with a sentence or a phrase)

Hint: If you are having problems, scan the passage to see which ‘topic’ word appears most often. This is likely the topic of the passage.

Now you have to figure out what is being said about the topic. Read the passage a second time.
What is the overall point being made about the topic word?

You need to be able to see the “big picture” being presented by the passage. This is the main idea of the whole passage; Write it down. Never start writing a summary before you read the passage for a second time.

2. Find the supporting ideas in the passage:
(Supporting ideas are used to develop, explain or expand on the main idea.)

While “skimming” (reading through quickly) the passage for the third time, look for the supporting ideas by reading over the opening sentences of the paragraphs.  (A paragraph expresses and develops one main idea or point).

Underline topic sentences in the paragraphs and the key ideas in them.

3. After reading the passage for the third time, write one or two summary sentences for each paragraph describing the main idea that you see expressed by the paragraph.

If you see yourself repeating the same ideas, you will need to read the passage again to get a clearer picture and then revise your summary sentences.

4. Join together the main idea of the passage and your paragraph summary sentences by using transitional words and/or phrases.

These transitional words/phrases do three things:

1) They give your summary a sense of being a “whole” – not just a group of unconnected sentences.

2) They also make your summary “flow” smoothly when reading

3) They reinforce and support the main idea being expressed in the passage.

5. Reread (and edit if necessary) the summary to make sure it clear and to-the-point.
Eliminate repetitive words, too many descriptive words (adjectives and adverbs)and non-essential sentences.

The final version should read like a whole, sensible piece of writing.
**Check your spelling and grammar.

6. Finally, check your summary against the author’s original. Have you correctly described the author’s main idea and the essential supporting points?
Make any necessary adjustments or changes to your summary.