Precis-writing, a more formal type of exercise, consists of summarizing the contents of a paragraph, a passage, a chapter, or of a letter, a document, but not of a full-length book. It involves a close study of a piece of prose and setting forth of everything of importance in it in a third or a quarter of the existing length.
It should be understood from the outset that a precis does not express the “thought” of a passage, for the “thought” cannot be divorced from the words and, consequently, the passage cannot be expressed more concisely than its original length. The precis involves the summarizing of the gist of a passage and the exclusion of minor points. It is essential, therefore, that you should understand completely every shade of meaning in the passage to be dealt with. The finished summary effectively shows any vagueness in the understanding of the passage. Conversely, a good precis is a sign of a good brain.
Another important point to note at once is that you should use only the information taken from the passage. Do not include ideas you would yourself have expressed on the same subject.
The passages offered as a first step are provided with questions. The answers, if given correctly, will bring out the main points of the text. You are advised to observe the following rules:

1. The answers must be written within the number of words indicated. (Remember that articles and prepositions are also words!)

2. No introductions or conclusions are to be made;

3. Express your answers in your own words as far as possible, but if the words of the original, carefully selected, come more easily, by all means use them;

4. There is no room in a summary for repetition and circumlocutions; avoid wordy phrases containing colourless words like character, nature, case, manner, kind, sort, for example, of a courageous character for courageous or brave, of various kinds for various, different, in many instances/cases for often, in spite of the fact that for although and so on.

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