How to write a precis in the exam


Precis come from the Latin word Praecidre. It is pronounced as ‘pra-see’ : meaning cut off – in front. Today it means: ‘concise or abridge statement.’ in other words: a clear, brief, well connected summary or a gist of a written or spoken matter. (Dhillon. R, Precis Writing)

The importance of precis writing has been increased with the increased pace of fast moving world. The object of precis writing is to bring out the main idea or theme of a genre into a concise form preserving the spirit of the original. 

You may also like to read the incorporation technique of precis writing here.

What are the requirement for a precis?

Title: Title is the precis of the precis. It can be a word, a phrase or a short pretty sentence. It should be a key phrase which is naturally found in the opening sentence.

Person: Normally as a rule, it is written in third person. Dialogues should be reported in third person.

Tense: Precis is usually written in past tense. Sometimes this can be different according to the text. Look at our example in the latter part of the post. It is of universal significance, so simple present tense is used to write the precis.

Form of speech: It is indirect form.

Length: If the limit is not given, it should usually be one-third of the length of the original text.


Hints to follow when writing a precis.

01. Understand the passage; read the passage well to grasp the subject matter well. Do it several times. Do not start precis unless you have fully understood the given passage.

02. Mark out the main theme of the given piece of text. (Better if you can use some colour highlighters.) Next, find and mark the subordinate/supporting ideas.

03. Put numbers according to the importance of supporting ideas as a sequence using 1, 2, 3 … etc.

04. Avoid remarks, illustrations, examples, quotations…etc. that gives added information to the points you found.

05. Make a rough sketch giving the main theme and all the ideas in the passage using your own simple language. (You can do this in point form)   

06. The draft should not exceed one-third of the original text. Try to incorporate ideas into single words. (refer to the example given at the latter part of the post)

07. Never give your personal ideas or comments. Only produce the original ideas of the author using easy-to-understand sentences.

08. Use only indirect form of speech, third person and past tense.

09. Be careful of the opening sentence of your precis. It usually carries the key point or the theme of the precis.

10. Do not extract the words, phrases from the original text. (unless you can’t find a proper word) Use your own, simple, concise and idiomatic English.

11. Avoid spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes.

12. Revise the draft to find out whether your precis follow above guidelines and missed any important details.

13. Draw a table of five columns and number the lines. The number of rows might vary according to the amount of words.

14. Write one word in each cell. Even articles like ‘a’, ‘the’ are too considered as a single word. Do not use punctuation marks as a separate word.

15. Once you have finished the precis, give it a suitable title.


Let’s look at how to apply the guidelines into a real example. Remember this is only a model answer to the text to identify how to write a precis. Your actual text might be lengthier than this.

Hope you have grabbed a basic idea of how to write a precis at the exam. In our next blog posts, we will be giving you more tips and ways to improve the skill of writing precis. Share this article if you find it useful. Leave a comment if you have any question.



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