Thursday, June 5, 2014

Descriptive Section for SBI PO: The Art of Précis Writing

With the SBI PO exams just round the corner, we are starting a series of blog posts on essays, letters, précis-writing and other elements of the descriptive paper for the exam. We feel that précis writing is important, not only for the descriptive section of the SBI PO exams, but also for our day to day communication. So here is a short guide on Précis Writing.

Précis-Writing :
A précis (pronounced pressee) is a summary; hence, précis-writing aims at summarizing content. A précis should be written in simple and lucid language. The goal of writing a précis is to present all the important points in the passage in a few words, so that it makes an easy read.

 The Length of a Précis:
A précis must always be much shorter than the. An ideal précis would not contain more than one-third of the number of words in the original text.
·         Generally, the number of words is given at the end of the paragraph. All you need to do is divide the number by three.  
·         Be sure to count all the words in the paragraph. Some guides do not include the articles and prepositions in the count, while most do.
·         It is time-consuming to actually count the words in the 1 hour time given for all segments in the descriptive paper in the SBI PO exams, so an approximation would be okay, until the summary is less than one-third of the original text.
Quick tip: You can count the words in one line and then multiply the count with the number of lines in the paragraph to get a fairly accurate number of words.

Approach for writing a Précis:        
In order to write a good précis read the passage in question carefully. It is advisable to read the passage multiple times.
Ask yourself questions like:
What is the basic theme of the passage?
 Which are the most important points in the passage?
 Which are the points that I can eliminate?
A good practice would be to make a rough note of these points. Always write the précis in a rough draft. Revise your draft multiple times before you make a fair copy on a fresh page.

Points to keep in mind:
·         Try to express in your own words what is said on each of the main points. You may rearrange the ideas in your own way, but your final copy does not seem to be series of sentences patched together.  It should read as a complete paragraph.
·         A précis should not contain any extra information. Avoid the rhetorical questions and do not give your own opinions. Also, directly quoting phrases from the original text should be avoided.
·         Convert the direct speech into indirect while writing a précis.
·         It is necessary to avoid exclamations, interrogations etc. Simplify the figures of speech.
E.g.: He fought like a lion in the battlefield.
-  He fought bravely.
·         You should avoid being repetitive.
·         Passages which contain advice should be written in the first or third person even if the passage itself is in the second person.
E.g.: Obey your elders:
-          We must (or should) obey our elders.
·         Eliminate the examples to shorten the text.
E.g.: Great leaders, take Gandhi, or Mandela, or our beloved President Lincoln, or even Hitler have, one thing in common
- Great leaders have one thing in common.
·         For those passages written in first person, you can convert them into third person by using ‘the author’ or ‘the writer’.
·         Finally, give a suitable title to your précis. It may be one of the key sentences in the passage or a phrase, a word, or a short sentence which summarizes the passage.


  1. When I try to write precise I end up writing in 1/4th of the total words. Is that acceptable?

  2. Reducing the passage to 1/4th of its original length is fine & is accepted. A more popular convention, although not too different, is reducing it to 1/3rd. So, unless otherwise specified, it is advisable to make the precis 1/3rd of the original length.

  3. Thank you! @abhishek sir for ur precious guidence .

  4. Thank you! @abhishek sir for ur precious guidence .

  5. Please provide an example of a precis..both the question and the ans..please!!

  6. I read the entire post, and it has a lot of depth. I hope you'll continue to write articles like these. cookie clicker

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