Example of Summary Writing with CIE Examiner’s Assessment.

Read the passage below and write the content points on ‘The Problems’ faced by the small farmers in the developing countries and the ‘Ways they are being helped’ to overcome the problems. Then make use of the content points are write summary of 160 words about the problems and the ways they are tackled.

Paying fair makes life sweeter for growers

Juanita Garcia is a coffee farmer living high in the Nicaraguan hills. We met at the end of her long, back-breaking day. Her house, miles from her small farm, is simple. Outside are a few bananas and orange trees, inside a bed, chairs, an open fire, a few months’ corn supplies. No decoration, no ornaments, no frills.

Juanita summed up her aspirations. What she wanted for herself, her family and community she said, was just ‘a life of dignity’. Until recently there was little chance of that. The world market that bought her small crop was always precarious and unstable. The coffee went through the hands of dozens of middlemen all taking their cuts. The price yo-yoed around but mostly was near the basement. Life for her and the others in her community was uncertain, poverty-stricken and with little hope.

Several years ago, the Fairtrade Foundation in London helped put her co-operative in touch with a British chocolate maker who wanted to offer a new quality bar. It now buys directly from the co-operative farmers on the alternative European ‘Fairtrade’ market at a price guaranteed at or above the world price. The few pennies more that the consumer pays in Britain go directly to the farmers to help themselves develop. ‘We didn’t make enough money to live on before Fairtrade’, said Juanita. ‘Now we get a better price and the money comes directly to us. Now we have hope’.

Talk to small farmers around the world about their aspirations and few mention money. Words like ‘dignity’, ‘pride’, ‘hope’, and ‘decency’ keep coming up instead.

In the Dominican Republic, Jose Rodriguez, a small cocoa farmer, said: ‘I am not in search of money. I just want everybody to have the means to a decent life. ‘Fairtrade has given him and the 8,000 other small farmers who make up the Conacado association and sell to British chocolate makers that hope, he says.

In Costa Rica, Arturo Jimeneza Gumez came to a co-operative selling Fairtrade bananas after laboring on one of the giant US-owned banana estates. Now he is a small farmer in his own right, and believes Fairtrade had changed his life: ‘Maybe we are only farmers but we have the right to dream and to plan for our children. Our dream is that our look on us as human beings. I thank God for the Fairtrade system.’

In St. Vincent, one of the four Windward islands that supply Britain with many of its bananas, Renwick Rose works with a group trying to persuade British supermarkets to offer Fairtrade bananas. ‘When you buy a cheap banana (one sold on the conventional market) you are unwittingly participating in the exploitation of labour. There are children, mothers, fathers and blood sweat and toil behind that banana. Fairtrade is not just asking you to pay more- but just what it costs.’

Phil Wells of the Fairtrade Foundation says at least 500,000 farmers around the world are probably now benefiting from Fairtrade. ‘The point, though, is that very many millions, the bulk of small farmers around the world, are suffering terribly.’ He says. The House of Commons, now sells Fairtrade coffee, as does the European parliament, and with help it should be possible to get for more people with a professed social conscience to follow suit.

Actress Julie Christie, a Fairtrade supporter, said: ‘The world has reached a stage where consumerism triumphs over all. Conversely, our role as consumers is one of the powers left to us. Fair trade makes our decision easier- we know that Fairtrade-marked products are produced without exploitation.’  The Guardian


Content points:

  • The candidate, after marking important points in the text, has written them in his own words. For example instead of ‘long, back-breaking day’ the candidate writes hard and tiring’. Similarly in place of ‘world market’ being ‘precarious and unstable’ it is changed to ‘uncertain and volatile’ so on and so forth. The candidate can copy the phrases as it is from the text. No marks will be deducted if the points are picked/lifted as it is from the text, however, changing the points into substitute words would allow the candidate to write the summary in a better manner. Remember, a summary has to be written in your own words and in simple language .


The Problems

Paying fair makes life sweeter

  1. The work is hard and tiring
  2. The farmers have to sell their produce in a volatile and uncertain world market
  3. They have to sell through middle men
  4. Which means that the farmer’s profit is negligible
  5. This leads to the farmers living in near poverty
  6. Their lives are lacking in hope and dignity
  7. The farmers and their families are exploited for the labour
  8. They cannot make secure plans for their children.

Ways in which they are being helped

  1. Fair trade arranges for (European) food manufacturers to buy direct from small-farmer co-operatives
  2. This gives the farmers an alternative outlet they can sell at a price guaranteed the same as a higher than the world price
  3. The extra cost paid by the consumer goes direct to the farmers
  4. This gives the farmers hope and restores their independence
  5. British supermarkets are being encouraged to stock Fairtrade goods
  6. Fairtrade wants to pull an end to exploitation
  7. It is working hard to get support from a range of
  8. people with social consciences.

 There are two responses given here:

Candidate’s Response 1

Small farmers in the developing world work long hours. They make very little profit from their crops because they have to sell through middle men who take a large share of the profit. The world market is uncertain and because the farmers are unable to store their crops, they are not able to wait to get the best price. They live very poor lives and their futures are uncertain. Some international organizations, however, are doing what they can to help the small farmers. An organization called ‘Fairtrade had arranged for food companies in ‘Europe to but direct from groups of small farmers at a price guaranteed to be or above the world price. The consumers in Europe pay a little more for goods sold in this way, but small amount of money to them makes a great difference as the profit goes directly to them; this gives the farmers hope and helps to make them independent.

Candidate’s Response 2

Small farmers are very back-bracking. Their houses are miles form farm. Crops are precarious and unstable and they go through the hands of dozens of middlemen who take there cuts. Few of them mention money. Words like decence and pride keep coming up instead.

Senegalese onions are very good quality and cheaper than their Dutch counterparts. Surely, a consumers dream. They do not get much money and the government does not want to do anything to help them.

Fairtrade is an organization that helps people to buy chocolate.


  • Summary 2 is a C or perhaps an ungraded one while summary 1 is an A. Lets see why!
  • Once the candidate has jotted down all the points he now rearranges them in a paragraph form. He/she has added all the content points in his/her summary but it is not necessary to write them in the same sequence as jotted above.
  • The candidate uses different colours to chalk down the points e.g  the problems are highlighted in red colour and the ways to help the small farmers are marked in blue. This will help avoid confusion while the candidate jots the content points.
  • In the first response of the summary the sentences are kept short, simple and changed accordingly keeping in mind that the purpose of a summary here is to inform. In contrast,the sentences in the second response are fragmentary and replete with spelling mistakes.
  • When summarizing a text no quotes or examples ( Phil Wells , 50o,000 farmers are benefiting,House of Commons,four Windward islands  e.t.c), are included from the original text therefore, the candidate has omitted all the illustrations cited in the text and focused only on the core points. No quotes are present in the second summary as well.
  • The information provided here is complete and concisely written in approximately 155 words. That means the candidate does not exceed the word limit of 160 words as required in the question. There are many irrelevant points added in the latter response. Moreover, the length it is extremely short up to 88 words) which is not up to the standardised criteria of summary writing.
  • Summary 1 is written entirely in own words and no sentence is lifted from the text. Remember, no marks will be given if the summary is copied because the examiner wants to know how you have interpreted the text which he will assess through the summary you have written.
  • You can shuffle your content points but keep in mind whatever manner you write the points and sentences should be linked.
  • In the first example, instead of repeating ‘and(s)’ and ‘but(s)’, see how the candidate has linked all the points with transition words (because, however, but, and) giving continuity to thoughts.
  • It would have been better if the summary had been divided into two paragraphs because this would have proportionate  ideas divided in the  two parts of the content points i.e. ‘problems faced by the small farmers’ and ‘the help provided to them’. However, it is still written in a coherent manner, therefore marks will not be deducted. Unlike the second summary is incoherently written with no proper proportion of ideas.
  • Nearly all content points are nicely weaved into the summary in the first. There is no track of content points in summary 2.
  • There are no spelling mistakes and no grammatical errors in the former. In the latter there are many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

Source: GCE O-Level Cambridge English Revision Guide, IGCSE First Language English, CIE Discussion Forum





Past Papers: 2011, 2012

Syllabus changes O level English teachers ought to know

Some changes since 2011 are made in the syllabus teachers ought to know

 Paper 1-Writing Paper

  1. 1:30 One and Half Hours are allocated to Paper 1, that is the Writing Paper and it carries  60 MARKS.
  2. It is divided into two sections.
  3. The first section is based on Directed Writing wherein the candidates will be given a Task. This Section carries 30 Marks. In this section as per the changes made in the syllabus only three rubric points are given to the students (previously there were 5) and the word limit is 200-300 words. Here 15 marks are allocated for task fulfillment and 15 marks are for the use of appropriate language. This means the proper use of register, language, grammar and vocabulary appropriate for a particular audience. Candidates will have to write to different audiences and thus choose his language accordingly.
  4. In the present syllabus candidates will have to write a write a letter, speech, report and article. There is no mentioning of leaflet or brochures however those could be hinted because if the syllabus says that the candidate has to write  ‘ fit for purpose and relevant to the world of study, work or community’ then leaflets should not be missed out in your preparation. Moreover, here candidates have to inform or presuade a particular audience.
  5. The Second Section is the Creative Writing. It carries 30 Marks . Students have to choose any one question out of 5 given essays: narrative/descriptive/argumentative essay titles. In the present syllabus instead of expository essays , discursive essays and the word count is cut down from 350-500 words from 350 -600 words.
  6. The 30 marks are equally divided in testing the language and content.
  7. Candidates have to answer both the questions on a separate answer sheets.

Paper 2: Reading

  1. 1 hour 45 minutes are allocated to paper 2 and it carries 50 marks.
  2. This paper has two sections and candidates answer on the question paper
  3. It is further divided inot 2 Sections The first section is  Reading for Ideas, it carries 25 marks. Students will have to nte down 15 for content points after they scan a factual passage (or communications) of approximately 700 words – e.g. report(s), article(s), advertisement(s), email(s), letter(s). Then making use of these content points they will write a summaryof 160 words. 5 marks are allocated for language and 5 marks for the summary(that means you take a mean of the both-4=3=7/2)
  4.  15 marks are for the content points.. Students will note down information about e.g. similarities and differences, or causes and effects, or advantages and disadvantages, or problems and solutions, or actions and consequences given in the passage.
  5. Next part of this section is answering the main ideas questions. 5 marks are given for this part.  These will be short answer questions worth 5 marks.Candidates then answer questions on the main ideas in the communication(s) – e.g. follow an argument/sequence or identify a conclusion, distinguish fact from opinion, give personal response to a theme in the passage.Reading for Meaning: 25 content only.
  6. The long passage has been replaced with two passages in Paper 2 (Comprehension) One Factual and the Second Narrative.
  7. The second section is Reading for Meaning with 25 marks.
  8. Candidates read a narrative passage (e.g. report, article, story) of approximately 700 words. They then answer short answer questions testing their ability to understand the language (both explicit and implicit meanings).
  9. Note:Equal weighting is given  to both Creative and Directed Writing



Last minute exam tips by CIE Examiners!!

General tips for English Language Paper (1123 and 0500) exam papers

  • Do not write rough drafts. You cannot afford the time to write out every answer twice, and it is neither required nor desirable that you should do so; plans are sufficient.

• Take two different coloured highlighters into the exam. You need to annotate all the passages, and it is especially useful to use two colours for the summary and other questions where there are two types of material asked for. But don’t go mad with the highlighting! Only single words or short phrases should be highlighted in a text, otherwise you are not precisely identifying your useful phrases and will end up with a ridiculous amount of highlighted text.

• Regulate your time and keep an eye on it. Beware which question requires ore planning.

• If you run out of time on the last question write notes instead of full sentences. You will lose fewer marks for doing this than for continuing to write in sentences but leaving the answer incomplete. Indicate what points you would have made and you will get some credit for them.

• Suggestions for length are given as a number of pages and are there to help you understand what is expected and what is possible within the time limit. Answers which are shorter or longer will be self-penalising.

• However, the exam is assessing quality rather than quantity. Do not waste time counting words either during or after you have finished your responses. The time would be better spent improving content, expression and accuracy.

• Avoid using ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘then’. These are immature ways of linking ideas and events.

• If you finish the exam early, go back and check your answers again; you may have  missed something.

• Do the questions in the order in which they are printed on each exam paper, as there is a reason why they are in that order. In particular you should not read both passages on Paper 2 before answering question 1.

• Have a pen (and a spare) for the exam with which you can write legibly and neatly. It is good policy to get the examiner on your side with a well-presented script. Often untidy writing is associated with poor spelling and punctuation.

• Underline the key words in every question, and then use them to plan around.

• Make your endings strong; they are what the examiner has in their mind when they are  deciding on a mark. There is no point in repeating anything you have said earlier.

• If you are weak on sentence structure do not attempt over-long and complicated ones in which you lose grammatical control. On the other hand, you should use complex sentences rather than simple or compound structures throughout the exam, as these are 
what formal English requires and educated writers produce, and they will give concision, precision, variety and maturity to your style.

• Use commas to separate clauses in a sentence. It is sometimes difficult to follow meaning where they have not been used and should have been. Commas are not, however, a  substitute for full-stops, and ‘comma-splicing’ is penalised heavily in this exam, as it shows an inability to understand what a sentence is and how the building blocks of language work. 

• Detail, detail, detail. Every one of your exam answers will benefit from use of supporting
detail, either textual, factual or creative.

Source: www.cambridgestudents.org.uk

Revision Guide for O-Level Students

Check list designed by  CIE examiners for the preparation of O-Level English Language subject code-1123

Checklist – tick if against the column you have worked on something similar

Skill: All students should be able to: Those taking the Extended examination should also be able to Ways in which the skills might be practised (appropriate contexts
Reading.Locating specificinformation asquickly as possible =Skimming Read short non-fiction texts, such asleaflets, news reportsand advertisements Cope with more detailed andextensive informative texts • Looking at leaflets, reports, guidelines
• Analysing brochures
Reading.Locating more detailed information;looking morecarefully= Scanning Read longer non-fiction texts, such as articles from newspapers andmagazines Cope with longerand more challenging articles • Reading similar articles (in style and in length) to those seen frequently in past examination papers
• Reading factual articles
• Extracting relevant information from articles
Reading & Writing.Integrated reading and writing 1. Read a text which contains information andrespond using therelevant material from the text Convey a thoroughunderstanding by writing a lengthy response in adifferent genre from the original text • Practising using the same material in different genres
• Practising writing formal letters
  2. Understanddescriptive texts and select relevantinformation and phrases from them Select, explain and analyse the effect of the usage ofcertain phrases in the text • Reading passages from literary texts and identifying the ways in which feeling or atmosphere have been         created
  3. Adopt an appropriate voice in which to express a response to a text Adopt a sophisticated orofficial persona • Practising using different registers and styles for different aims according to                                                specific tasks
  4. Show awareness of audience Target your audience • Practise using devices which show ability to address your audience directly and manipulate its response
  5. Write short summaries Summarise through Note-taking • Writing a summary based on a set of notes of between 7 and 15 points
• Practising the use of own words
• Becoming familiar with the concise and precise language of summary style
Writing 1. Describe, discuss, argue and narrate Carry out longer writing tasks on a range of topics, paying attention tostructure, sequence and style • Writing descriptions of events,places, people using all five senses and imagery
• Planning openings and endings to stories
• Structuring and supporting points for an argument
  2. Use language for a specific purpose, e.g. to persuade, toconsider, to evaluate, to inform, to entertain, toconvey an impression Create sustained and cohesive responses tocontinuous writing tasks,showing an awareness of the generic characteristics ofdifferent types of writing • Writing (and performing) debate speeches
• Balancing ideas for and against a discussion topic
• Analysing the devices used in letters, articles and editorials stating a point of view
• Writing stories which have gripping openings, pace,dialogue, climax,strong endings




Fresh resource for teachers on Summary Writing

Check-list for Descriptive Essay -Section 2

  • Students should use this grid to assess how far the writer has fulfilled the demand of acquiring an ‘A” Grade in Paper 1, Descriptive Essay (section 2)
  • There are some points given in the table to give you an idea what examiners really look for while checking a descriptive essay.

Note: Now go through the MARKING SCHEME FOR PAPER 1-SECTION 2. (see the Teacher Resources Section)

Check list





To some extent


Good use of vocabulary      


Varied sentence structures used e.g. complex, simple, compound, long and short       


Words are appropriately and accurately used      


No spelling mistakes      


Essay is coherent and well structured      


Meaningful images used to create effective atmosphere.      


Descriptive Tools appropriately used      


Word Limit obeyed      


No overdone of vocabulary      

By Zakia Shahzeb