How to Write a Good Summary

In the blog post Make the most out of your language lessons with these learning methods, we mentioned that writing summaries is a useful method for revising the topic discussed in class. However, in order that making a summary really helps you learn languages faster, you may want to consider some tips and tricks. In the following, we describe five steps that are necessary for a proper summary.

Step 1: Discuss your questions and uncertainties in class

The class itself is the basis for a good summary. Why? Let us imagine that you are dealing with a more complicated grammar topic. Your teacher explains the topic in detail and with examples on the whiteboard. Then you have time to study the grammar on the same topic in your book. Make sure that you now clarify all your questions and uncertainties because only when we really understand the topic will we be able to write a good summary. During the rest of the lesson, you will do exercises in the book and practise the topic orally in pairs using role plays. Afterwards, your teacher will print out further exercises which will explain the grammar once again and deepen your understanding of the topic.

Step 2: Gather your classroom material together

Some time has passed since your last language lesson, and you have now decided to revise the topic and to write a summary of it. But where to start? On the one hand, you have got a picture of the explanations and examples that your teacher has written on the whiteboard. On the other hand, you have got the theory in the book, the exercises and the worksheets in front of you. Additionally, you now also remember the role play. Well, first of all, get yourself an overview over all the available classroom material.

Step 3: Structure the classroom material

The best thing to do is to take a highlighter and, while reading through the text again, mark everything that is important. When doing that, it may be helpful to use different colours, to add margin notes or to write down what you have read in a single sentence after each section. You may also notice that the teacher’s explanations and the book’s explanations are very similar. In this case, you could simply add your teacher’s comments to the theory in the book and – if necessary – also write down some examples.

Step 4: Write the summary

By now you have gathered the classroom material together, read through it and structured it using highlighters and margin notes. Now it is time to write down the most important points in your own words. Do not simply copy the text from the book because when using your own words, you really internalise the theory. In addition to that, it is important that you do not use complicated, long sentences, but short sentences or even just keywords. You can also make use of different colours. You may want to bold, underline or also capitalise certain words. Or you can also draw little symbols and signs, such as plus and minus signs, arrows, smiley faces, and exclamation marks. In any case, always be aware that you are writing that summary solely for yourself. Therefore, there are no limits to your creativity – anything that helps you is legitimate.

Step 5: Study, edit, complement

Finally, it is time to study your summary. At this point, it is worth mentioning that a summary is never finished. Every time that we read through our summary we can underline or mark certain words. Besides, in the meantime, you may have done other, more difficult exercises, and you may now wish to add some examples to your summary.


Summing up, we can say that all your questions and uncertainties should already be clarified in class. In order to write a good summary afterwards, we gather all the learning materials together and read through them, mark the most important points and – if necessary – write margin notes. Only then do we start writing the summary. For that, we use our own words, different colours, signs, symbols and so on. Later, while studying, the summary can be further edited and complemented.

Now, what about you? Do you use summaries as a learning method? Do you have any tips or recommendations? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

von Nelly Müller – Sprachen Akademie

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