As promised in the previous write-up, this piece is aimed at helping you learn the art of précis writing. To simplify the things, I have adopted the Question-Answer format.
Q: What is précis?
Ans: In simple words, it is the reproduction of the passage in a concise form.
Q: What are some useful tips to write a good précis?
Ans: Following are the tips to write a good précis:
a. Length of the précis should be approximately one-third of the original paragraph. Difference of ± 10 words is acceptable. You should mention the total words of the paragraph as well as the précis at the end.
b. Although boiling down of the paragraph is the basic ingredient of précis writing, yet no important information provided in the paragraph should be missed. Important information means every piece of information that pertains to the central thought of the paragraph. Usually the examples, illustrations and other corroborating material are not given place in the précis.
c. The mood, colour and tone of the language used in the précis should be in consonance with those in the original paragraph. If the original paragraph has been written in a melancholy and somber shade, the very same environment should radiate from the précis as well.
d. Coherence is very important ingredient of a good précis. All the sentences of the précis should be well connected with one another. Précis is not the collection of “Cut Pieces”, instead, it exhibits a beautiful flow and rhythm of words and sentences.
e. Borrowing of vocabulary, idioms and phrases from the original paragraph should be avoided to the maximum extent. For the purpose, you should try to use suitable synonyms of the words used in the original paragraph. The original message given in the paragraph, however, should remain intact during this replacement of words.
f. Précis should be written in an extremely simple language. In a précis, you have to convey the message and information provided in the paragraph to a reader who is not well-versed with the intricacies of the language. Your language should be simple, yet correct.
g. Generally, in précis, you need to follow the sequence of thoughts in the original paragraph. However, for the sake of clarity, you are allowed to change the sequence. But, remember, this change of sequence is permitted only in exceptional situation where conveying the message clearly is not possible without it.
h. Time management is a very common challenge faced by the aspirants while making précis in the examination. Generally 40-45 minutes are available for the purpose. In practice sessions, you should develop the skill of making précis in not more than 35 minutes. In my opinion, précis-related question should be attempted after answering all the other questions of the paper.
i. It’s a must to suggest a suitable title for the précis. Title should be given even if it has not been asked for. Most importantly, only one title should be given unless there are instructions to write more than one.
Q: What should aspirants do in order to improve their précis-writing skills?
Ans: For the purpose, they should learn three different arts: the art of comprehending the paragraph, the art of picking the main points, and the art of reproducing the main ideas in a coherent form.
More and more practice is the only key to learning and polishing these arts. During the preparation phase, you need to identify the art you have difficulties with, and spare more time in learning that. Besides, it is very important to avail the services of some seasoned language expert in the practice session.
Q: How much practice should be done to learn the art of précis writing satisfactorily?
Ans: It varies from person to person; depending on the point from where the things are to be started. Every aspirant, however, should practice 60-70 précis before sitting for the examination. In a full year’s preparation plan, two précis a week is a sufficient dose.