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Improving A-level summary technique

The new AS and A-level examinations contain a new element we haven't seen before in A-level exams (at least not quite in this form). In paper 1 (Listening, Reading and Writing) there are two summary tasks, one listening and one writing. Each task is worth 12 marks so they require particular attention.

I have blogged before about how I like this task in principle since it encourages good classroom practice (listening and reading input plus manipulation of vocabulary and syntax). It's a good example of the backwash effect from assessment having a good influence on classroom practice.

For students it's a challenge, however, since it demands not just good comprehension and grammar, but sound technique.

Below is part of a document  have posted on frenchteacher. It aims to focus students on the key elements for success and to provide practice in paraphrasing technique.

Two key points to retain:

1.  Students must not go beyond the word limit (90 words at A-level).
2.  Students do not have to change every item of vocabulary. Apart from covering the key content points (7 marks), they need to show frequent changes to the original grammar of the text (5 marks).

Here is the document (extract):


Improving your summary technique

Remember: to get top marks at the A-level listening and reading summary tasks you need to do two things:
  • Cover the required number of content points (AQA 7 marks)
  • Use your own varied and accurate grammar as much as possible (AQA 5     marks)

NB: you do not have to change the wording of everything you hear or read. The 5 marks are for grammar, not new vocabulary. However, altering or adapting vocabulary may allow you to vary your grammar more.

Here are some sentences from an AQA specimen exam paper with ways of summarising them plus commentary. New grammatical elements are in bold.

1.  Il y aura une réduction importante du nombre de salariés.
→ Le nombre d’employés va diminuer considérablement.
(Use of immediate future and adverbial form – ment)

2.  Les salaires vont baisser et la qualité de la production est menacée.
On verra une baisse des salaires et une dégradation de la production.
(Use of future tense and adaptation of verb baisser to noun baisse – this shows knowledge of word morphology)

3. C’est une véritable radio de service public qui offre des programmes que personne  d’autre ne propose.
→ C’est une radio axée sur le service public, diffusant des émissions originales.
(Use of past participle in axée, present participle and adjectives agreement)

4. Radio France, c’est aussi le premier employeur de comédiens en France.
→ C’est la compagnie qui emploie le plus grand nombre d’acteurs.
(Use of relative pronoun qui, present tense of an –yer verb and a superlative)

5. La culture est indispensable au maintien de la solidarité sociale
Pour maintenir la solidarité sociale il faut que la culture soit diffusée.

(Use of pour + infinitive and il faut que + subjunctive + passive + correct agreement on diffusée)


The document on frenchteacher is followed by 12 example sentences to paraphrase together with model answers.

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