How to Write a Precis: Detailed Guide

The ability to write precis quickly and correctly is very important. It can be considered one of the most important skills for achieving success in school and even at work. But, unfortunately, in high schools and colleges, we are practically not taught the art of precis, so you have to master it yourself. Today we will tell you about the important rules as well as introduce several interesting ways to write precis that are used by many successful people.

Why do you need a precis

Before talking about how to write a precis correctly, we should remember the definition of precis. It is a written, concise content of any topic. Using the precis, you can quickly refresh and fix important information in your memory.

We begin to draw up the first notes at school. Then we outline lectures at the college. Even a small notebook can become a worthy substitute for a thick textbook and help prepare for a test or an exam. In adulthood, when we start working, we also often face the need to write a precis. It may be necessary to take notes of a scientific text, a book, a seminar, a text of a speaker at a meeting, or something else.

That means you should not underestimate the usefulness of the precis. It contributes to faster and easier fixation of information, as well as its subsequent restoration and consolidation in memory. Hence, a significant saving of time and effort, intellectual resources, and mental energy.

Knowing how to write a perfect precis, you can seriously increase your chances of success in high school and achieve goals in a professional, creative, and even personal life. To prove this, we give a few theses about the benefits of precis.


  • can replace textbooks and books;
  • often eliminates the need to visit the library;
  • serves as a great cheat sheet for preparing for exams;
  • contains only important information on the topic (there is no “water”);
  • repeats the valuable thoughts of the teacher or professor;
  • saves the space both on paper and in a backpack or bag);
  • provides a basic level of knowledge on a specific topic;
  • is an indispensable assistant in practical exercises and work;
  • develops writing speed and train memory;
  • characterizes a person as a responsible student or performer.

Moreover, precis can be contacted even after a few years, when you need to return to some information. Some people also keep notes not as a source of valuable data, but as a memory about some significant moments.

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How to write a precis

There are some tips that will help you to come up with a good precis.

Write thoughtfully

Do not grab the handle from the first words of the teacher or the book. Don’t record everything you hear or read; you should filter information. It is also useful to tag comments, especially if they decipher dry definitions.

Structure your notes

Be sure to highlight the individual parts of the precis: the theme, headings, subtitles, definitions. Indent between text blocks, and frame the main information (formulas, laws, rules). Do not be afraid to visualize the data (where it is possible). Pictures will be printed in your head and will help you remember the information that accompanies them.

Use abbreviations

Shorten the words so that you can make them out later. Come up with your own conventions to speed things up. Math signs and other symbols will help here. For example, the words “increase” or “growth” can be replaced by an up arrow or a larger sign. Just don’t forget what symbol means.

Choose convenient writing tools

Use a notebook with paper on which you will be pleased to write. It’s good if the fields are drawn in it: you can make important notes on them on the topic, and not just put down a date or mark your homework. If there is something you don’t understand, you can put question marks. If the lecturer interrupted, ones thought and switched to something else, leave a free space, and then come back and finish.

Take the pen for writing conveniently and with bright inks. Gel and capillary are also suitable if the paper is thick, and nothing is visible on it. You can also use multi-colored pens at will, but they take a lot of time. A text marker will be more convenient.

One precis – one subject

You should not take notes of all the objects in one notebook. This will confuse you. Take a separate notebook for each item. You can use the notebook on rings with plug-in blocks.

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Structure and logic of precis

If you like structured, neat notes with clear internal logic, there are several convenient types of notes. 

Mind map

This is a special kind of data recording in the form of a radiant structure. Records diverge from the center to the edges; information gradually forks into smaller parts. This method is suitable when you need to structure a small amount of information, e.g., characteristics of historical figures. Plans for writing academic papers are so well remembered.

For example, this method can help you get prepared for the social studies exam: you will see causal relationships between aspects of the topic. And on the Internet, it is very easy to find a ready-made template for such a map if you don’t have enough time.



Cornell Method

This is a precis system developed by Walter Spider, a professor at Cornell University in the United States. First, you need to separate about a quarter of your sheet with a horizontal line from the bottom, and a quarter of the sheet on the left side with a vertical line. In the rest of the sheet – the largest – you record the basic information. Then the most interesting part begins – work on the compendium. In the left column, briefly write down all the main theses of the abstract — it will be much more convenient to revise the notes. In the same column, you can enter the most interesting and important questions that the compendium answers. After completing all the previous paragraphs, you need to write a brief retelling of the abstract in the lower column, based on the facts and questions from the left side.

This method is considered so effective that it is already being introduced in most American schools as a must. It is also great for recording meetings and meetings at work. If you want to know the details, read the Spider’s book, How to Learn in College.

We advise you to use the Cornell method not for precis only, but also for introspection. At the end of each week in the main field, you can write what you managed to do good and important. On the left, write comments on how you could improve the result, what you did not have time to do, what you should have, and so on. At the bottom, you can summarize the total weekly result. And later, based on this summary, you will make plans for the new week. It will help you to visualize your level of productivity within a week.

Add some creativity to your precis

Not everyone likes to write a precis in the way we have described above. Even if you do, sometimes you can get tired of the laconicism, logic, and simplicity. If you believe that genius dominates chaos, there are other ways to organize information: 

Visual summary, or sketching

For such a precis, we use not only familiar tablets, diagrams, and sentences only, but also drawings, fonts of various shapes and sizes, and in general, everything that comes to mind. Due to its brightness and unusualness, as well as the fact that you put a piece of your soul into it, it will be remembered much better than others.

The flow method

This method will break your ideas about a precis. Its main idea is that memorizing new information is not a passive process when you simply learn from someone else’s experience and write down someone else’s wisdom. During a lecture or reading, some ideas, thoughts, suggestions related to the topic being studied arise in your head – write them down. In them – the whole essence and meaning of learning. Such notes will help you understand how you can apply new knowledge.

The only minus of such a note-taking is that at some point you can get too away with your thoughts, and then you will get not a precis, but simply a stream of consciousness instead. Therefore, be careful, try to focus on the essence of the topic.

Step-by-step guide on how to write a precis on an article 

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you write good precis:

  • Read the article carefully
  • Read the text again, highlighting or highlighting the main ideas
  • Think about what the author wants to convey
  • Examine the evidence used.
  • Reformulate the thesis provided by the author. Do it as accurately as possible
  • Write 1-2 sentences summarizing each section
  • Read the article again
  • Answer the question: Is the text synchronized with your paper?
  • Check the logical structure of precis
  • Assess how correct and clear your text is

If you’re going to send paper to the professor, get rid of grammatical mistakes.

How to write a rhetorical precision?

What is rhetorical precision? This is a very structured text, which consists of 4 sentences only. When you write it, you must take care to describe your ideas as accurately and concisely as possible.

We want to explain to you how to succeed in this format. Then you can use it both for personal purposes and in the classroom. Imagine that the professor asked you to write a rhetorical precision, but you do not know how to do it. Here is the instruction:

  1. In the first sentence, indicate the name of the author, the name of the article, and the date of its publication. You must use a verb, such as explain, argue, prove, etc.
  2. Explain how the author developed his personal statement.
  3. Mention the author’s statement on purpose. Use ‘in order’ phrase. 
  4. Now it’s time to answer a few questions related to the author and the audience. Who are the targeted readers? How does the author of the article try to get their attention?

These four sentences are enough to explain the essence of any article. So now you know how to write a precis that will make your thoughts more structured and organized. Good luck with this task!