Summary Writing Exam Tips

How to Pass the Summary Writing Section

Key Skills Covered:

How to write headlines

When it comes to writing your main headline for the summary writing section of the Victoria Police Entrance Exam, you just want to re-word the headline provided. Let’s take a look at an example:

Example: Should bottled water be banned?

Strategy 1: Identify the key words & re-write headline
In this case, the key words are: “bottled water” and “banned”

An example of rewriting the headline using the key words is: “Banning bottled water”

Strategy 2: Another approach is to re-write the headline using the main key word
In the original example, without reading the article, we know the subject matter is bottled water. This is the key word. 

By asking the question; “should it be banned?”, we can assume some of the article is taking a negative view to bottled water or there are problems to it. 

So with this in mind, let’s see what we can come up with:

The problems with bottled water
Is bottled water good for you?
Bottled water: the truth revealed
The truth about bottled water
The downside to bottled water
The case to ban bottled water

All of the above examples use the main key word (bottled water) and like the original headline, all of these headlines imply there is something wrong/bad with bottled water.

Strategy 3: Write the headline after reading the article and/or creating your outline

If a headline doesn’t come to you quickly, read the article in full and see if anything stands out by the end. 

Often, articles contain phrases or key words you could use in your headline. 

Another approach is to write down anything that comes to mind and by the time you have finished your outline, a stronger headline may come up.


How to structure your summary writing outline

There are 2 approaches or strategies for creating an outline:

Strategy #1: Read the entire article first
Once finished reading it, you can then go back and create points from each paragraph and combine them under sub-headings

Strategy #2: Read one paragraph at a time
After reading the first paragraph, you write down a couple of key points from it and include a subheading before continuing the same process for the second paragraph.

Below is an example of an article we will look at creating a summary outline for starting off, using strategy #2:

Should bottled water be banned?

Banning bottled water would reduce waste and protect the environment. About 70% of plastic water bottles bought in the United States are not recycled, which means the majority end up in landfills or in the oceans, harming the ecosystem and poisoning animals.

Plastic water bottles were the third most commonly collected trash during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup behind cigarette butts and plastic food wrappers. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste by weight in the oceans than fish.

Almost all plastic water bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the raw materials for which are derived from crude oil and natural gas. The Pacific Institute found that it took about 17 million barrels of oil to produce enough plastic for the bottles of water consumed by Americans in 2006. Since 2006, American consumption of bottled water has increased 65% from 8.3 billion gallons in 2006 to 13.7 billion gallons in 2017, increasing the need for more plastic water bottles and thus more oil and gas.

Banning bottled water is good for your health. A study by Orb Media and the State University of New York found bottled water samples contained nearly twice as many pieces of micro-plastic per litre (10.4) than the tap water samples (4.45) with 93% of bottles showing some sign of micro-plastic contamination.

Banning bottled water would save money, and public water fountains are convenient and plentiful. Bottled water is expensive. It can cost between 400 to 2,000 times more than tap water, four times more than a litre of milk, and three times more than a litre of gasoline. Mathematicians at Penn State University estimate that spending $20 on a reusable water bottle can save the average American up to $1,236 a year; for a family of four that amounts to nearly $5,000.

Banning bottled water would protect local water supplies. Almost 64% of bottled water comes from municipal supplies. Bottling water can drain water sources that local communities rely on. Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo continued to bottle and export water from public lands and municipal supplies in California during times of drought, even when a 25% reduction in water use was imposed on cities and municipalities in the state.

Edited content has been sourced from:

Key points per paragraph from the article:

Paragraph #1:
Subject: Environmental concerns

  • 70% of plastic bottles in the US is not recycled
  • Majority end up in landfills causing harm to wildlife and the environment

Paragraph #2:
Subject: Plastic bottles in the ocean

  • Most common trash item collected in oceans
  • Plastic numbers in ocean expected to exceed fish by 2050

Paragraph #3:
Subject: Making plastic bottles

  • Made from crude oil and natural gas
  • 17 million barrels used to create plastic bottles in 2006
  • Consumption increasing and therefore, required resources increasing

Paragraph #4:
Subject: Health

  • Bottled water is not good for your health
  • 50% less micro-plastics per litre in tap water compared to bottled

Paragraph #5
Subject: Save money

  • Bottled water costs 400-2000 times more than tap water
  • Average person can save $1236 a year with a $20 reusable water bottle

Paragraph #6
Subject: Local water supplies

  • 64% of bottled water comes from local supplies
  • water is still bottled and exported during drought

The above is suitable as a response. Just need to add a conclusion. One thing about using this strategy though is, we can see paragraph’s 1 & 2 are similar subjects as they both are about environmental concerns. 

Below is an example using Strategy #1 where some of these paragraphs have been combined together to make it more logical.

Example of Summary Writing Response

Banning bottled water
The problem
70% of plastic bottles are not recycled
plastic expected to exceed fish numbers in oceans by 2050

Resources used
making plastic bottles requires oil and gas
17 millions barrels of oil used to produce plastic bottles in 2006

Health benefits
50% less micro-plastics per litre in tap water compared to bottled

Save money
bottled water costs 400-2000 times more than tap water
average person can save $1236 a year with a $20 re-usable water bottle

Protect local supplies
64% of bottled water comes from local supplies
water is still bottled and exported during droughts

banning bottled water will benefit the environment, save resources and save consumers money, and protect local supplies

How to Write Sub-headings

A good sub-heading should accurately and quickly describe the subject matter to a reader at a glance. 

The key here is to use words that describe the subject matter. Often these words can be pulled straight out of the paragraph. Try not to overthink sub-headings, just keep them simple and short ie, 2-4 words.

The first sub-heading used in the above example is “the problem”. This is a good headline to use as it combines the subject matter of paragraphs 1 & 2, which is about environmental concerns, which would make a good sub-heading on its own. Another sub-heading could be “environmental problems”. All 3 of these headings describe issues with bottled water, which is a logical place to start the summary. 

Articles may be broken down into “the problem” and “the solution”, so keep these in the back of your mind as you may use them on exam day.

The second sub-heading above is “resources used”, from the paragraph about making plastic bottles. A reader will quickly know what this section is about after reading it. 

Some other possible sub-headings for this paragraph include:

  • Plastic production
  • Production of plastics
  • Producing plastic bottles
  • Making plastic bottles
  • Resources used in production

All of the above sub-headlines basically say the same thing, just using different words. Sub-headings #3 & #4 (above) use words taking directly from their corresponding paragraph shown in bold below:

Almost all plastic water bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), 

The Pacific Institute found that it took about 17 million barrels of oil to produce enough plastic for the bottles of water consumed by Americans in 2006. 

If you’re struggling to write sub-headlines, my advice is to practice as much as you can on articles from my practice exams or simple find practice articles online from news sites etc. 

The more you do, the better you will be able to pick out words and include them as subheadings, which are short and to the point.

If you would like extra help on a question, drop me an email. 

For further Victoria Police Exam Tips:
Abstract Reasoning
Verbal Reasoning
Oral Communication Task
Numerical Reasoning
Extended Writing
Literacy Skills