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Getting Smarter through Language

Intermediate Reading Course. Section 2: Study Skills in Reading

Summarizing Paragraphs and Passages as a Study Skill

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Why Should You Summarize?

Along with taking notes and annotating and outlining, summarizing what you read is a good study skill.

Summarizing helps improve reading comprehension. After all, if you find it difficult to summarize something you have just read, it means you probably have not understood it very well.


Summarizing what you read forces you to engage with the text actively so you understand the main points and details well in order to be able to summarize the text, which helps improve comprehension and retention. It is also useful as a study tool because you can read your own, shorter summaries when reviewing for tests.

How to Summarize

There is no one right way to summarize information; however, it makes sense to follow certain steps.

How to summarize what you read

  • Read carefully, paying close attention to main ideas and important details. Take notes and annotate the passage as you read.
  • Identify the structure of the passage, and use it in your summary. For example, if the paragraph or passage is organized as a problem and a solution, make sure your summary includes the problem and the solution; if the passage is organized in chronological order, summarize the sequence of events; and so on.
  • If you find it helpful, outline your summary.
  • Write your summary, focusing on main ideas and key details only. Revise as needed so that your summary is clear enough so you do not need to keep referring back to the original passage.

Up Next: Synthesizing the Information as a Study Skill

Go to the next lesson to learn about synthesizing information.