Course Content
Private: BA Arabic
About Lesson

Unit 4

Learning Outcomes

The exersises in this unit are alligned to the following outcomes:

  • distinguish between main points and supporting details in a text.
  • identify the gist of a written material.
  • summarize a text by including all the vital details.
  • prepare a precis that is easy to read, yet exhaustive in all the important ideas.


It is important to learn to summarize. Summarizing is essentially an act of distinguishing between the essential and the inessential. To attempt a summary is not to cut something short without rhyme or reason. It is not a haphazard way of chopping a text small. Rather, to write a precis is to retain everything that is essential. In a precis, it is important to rewrite the original text in a terse and compact way so that all the unnecessary frills are taken off, while keeping the important aspects.

Key words

Summarize, Gist, Main Points, Sub-points

How to write a good precis

Look at these sentences: In a world riddled with burning issues like poverty, hunger, wars and pollution, every action of an individual has more implications than they realise. In our innocence, we might overlook the consequence of our own behaviour. Constant and unwavering monitoring of one’s own actions is fruitful in making a better world than criticising others’ ways of conducting their business.”

Now read the following sentence : It is better to realize the impact of one’s own actions that contribute to global issues like poverty and wars rather than criticising others.

The first passage has been rewritten in the second sentence, but in fewer words without compromising the meaning. This is what a precis does. It makes things clear and concise without compromising the meaning and vital details.

Here are some tips to remember while preparing a precis:

  • Read the passage thoroughly and carefully to understand the meaning.
  • If possible underline or try to re-member the most important parts of the passage.
  • Stick to simple language as far as possible.
  • Remove the unimportant details, multiple examples, extensive statistics, and keep only the very essential details.
  • From an exam point of view, the precis should be one-third of the length of the original passage.
  • Give a suitable title for the precis – not too long or not too short.
  • Since a passage has to be small, in most cases the precis only one paragraph. A precis is not an es-say and is not long.
  • Summarizing does not mean adding new ideas. The precis has to be true to the original text.
  • The precis has to be in Third Per-son even if the original text is in First Person or if it is in the form of a dialogue.


Prepare a precis of the following passage:

There is no need to run, strive, search or struggle. Just be. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation. Most people cannot believe that just walking as if you have nowhere to go is enough. The Buddha said, ‘My practice is the practice of nonpractice.’ That means a lot. Give up all struggle. Allow yourself to be, to rest.

People talk about entering nirvana, but we are already there. Aimlessness and nirvana are one. Many of us have been running all our lives. Practice stopping.“Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. Many of us believe that our entire existence is only a life span beginning the moment we are born or conceived and ending the moment we die. We believe that we are born from nothing and when we die we become nothing. And so we are filled with fear of annihilation.

The Buddha has a very different understanding of our existence. It is the understanding that birth and death are notions. They are not real. The fact that we think they are true makes a powerful illusion that causes our suffering. The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.

(Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation)

The precise of the above excerpt is given below:

Finding Peace and Happiness

Thinking that people come from nothing and will soon become nothing after death, people search and struggle to aim for such things as nirvana. It is to be understood that nirvana and aimlessness are one and the same. We are already there, and we need not fear death. We can find solace if we understand the Buddha’s realization that concepts like birth, death, same, different – are all powerful illusions. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we learn to enjoy life and live in peace.

Now attempt to write precis of the following passages:

Passage 1

Nothing is more vital to life than breathing: in a lifetime, about 250m litres of air passes through your lungs. Yet walk along a busy city street and you will inhale something like 20m particles in a single lungful. Toxic air is now the biggest environmental risk of early death, responsible for one in nine of all fatalities. It kills 7 million people a year, far more than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined, for example. Dr Maria Neira, the World Health Organisation director with responsibility for air pollution, is blunt: “It is a global public health emergency.”

How much does it cost us? The lost lives and ill health caused are also a colossal economic burden: $225bn in lost labour income in 2013, or $5.11tn per year (about $1m a minute), if welfare losses are added in, according to a 2016 World Bank report, which called the figure “a sobering wake-up call”.

Air pollution is getting worse in the developing world and, while it is getting better in some developed nations, our knowledge of how comprehensively it damages our bodies and minds is growing even faster.

Dirty air has been with us for centuries – previously, we simply lived with it – and no one has yet had air pollution as a cause of death on their death certificate. It is only in recent decades that the damage to health has become clear, and in recent years that the health crisis has received widespread attention, thanks to research revelations, government legal defeats and the Volkswagen diesel scandal.

But there is a silver lining to air pollution’s cloud of smog: action to cut it not only brings immediate benefits but also helps fight climate change in the longer term.

Who does it affect? Almost everyone. Over 90% off the world’s population lives in places where air pollution is above WHO guidelines. It is worst in south and east Asia, where most of humanity lives, with traffic, dirty industry and the open burning of waste delivering a triple whammy.

India has almost half of the top 50 most polluted cities in the world, China has eight and Iran has three. Africa is highly polluted but little measured: in 2015 Paris had three times more monitoring stations than the entire continent. (From The Guardian)

Passage 2

The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that. Nevertheless, we will never see him again as we have seen him for these many years. We will not run to him for advice and seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not to me only, but to millions and millions in this country. And it is a little difficult to soften the blow by any other advice that I or anyone else can give you.
The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate past, it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.

All this has happened when there was so much more for him to do. We could never think that he was unnecessary or that he had done his task. But now, particularly, when we are faced with so many difficulties, his not being with us is a blow most terrible to bear.

A madman has put an end to his life, for I can only call him mad who did it, and yet there has been enough of poison spread in this country during the past years and months, and this poison has had an effect on people’s minds. We must face this poison, we must root out this poison, and we must face all the perils that encompass us, and face them not madly or badly, but rather in the way that our beloved teacher taught us to face them.

The first thing to remember now is that none of us dare misbehave because he is angry. We have to behave like strong and determined people, determined to face all the perils that surround us, determined to carry out the mandate that our great teacher and our great leader has given us, remembering always that if, as I believe, his spirit looks upon us and sees us, nothing would displease his soul so much as to see that we have indulged in any small behaviour or any violence.

(Jawaharlal Nehru’s words on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi)

Passage 3

The Himalaya and humans are both Cenozoic creatures. The Cenozoic (literally ‘new life’) is the latest era in Earth’s history, encompassing the past 65 million years. By human standards, this is a long period of time, but by the Earth’s scale of ‘deep time,’ it represents merely 1.5 percent of Earth’s age (4500 million years). About 65 million years ago, the Mesozoic (‘middle life’) Era or the Age of Reptiles ended with the extinction of dinosaurs and many other species, and the Cenozoic or the Age of Mammals began.

What is more is that the Himalaya is the youngest mountain on Earth, and geologically speaking, it is still active and still rising to the sky. There are many active faults and numerous earthquakes (some big and many small) in the Himalayan region. Likewise, humans are also the youngest species on Earth, and they are still rising to their human potential, intellectual peaks, and spiritual sky. Just as the rise of the Himalaya has been accompanied by earthquakes and landslides, so has been the development in human’s communities associated with changes, crises and challenges.

The Himalaya, the youngest mountain on Earth, did not come into existence all of a sudden. It has taken tens of millions of years for these mountains to form. When the Mesozoic Era began about 245 million years ago, India together with Africa, South America, Australia, and Antarctica were parts of a super-continent in the southern hemisphere called Gondwana. (It was named after the Gond tribes in central India, in whose land the evidence for the existence of the former super-continent was first discovered in the mid-nineteenth century by British geologists working in the Geological Survey of India in Calcutta.)

A vast sea, which geologists have named the Tethys (after the wife of Oceanus in Greek mythology) lay between Gondwana and Eurasia. Gondwana was subsequently split into several major tectonic plates. Gondwana was Mother of four continents (Antarctica, South America, Australia, and Africa) and one subcontinent (India); she was also Mother of the three oceans (the South Atlantic, the Antarctic, and the Indian Oceans) that separate these continents.

The Indian continental plate separated from Gondwana about 120 million years ago, and as it drifted northward, the Tethys ocean became small and smaller because it began subducting beneath the margin of Asia. Ocean-floor rocks (mainly basalt) are heavier than continental rocks (mainly granite); so when they are pushed together, the oceanic floor subducts beneath the continental margin. And in so doing, a magmatic arc made up of volcanic and granitic rocks is produced on the continental margin from the melting and upward rise of the subducting oceanic crust (as it happens today along Indonesia, Japan, and the Andes). This was also the case with the subduction of the Tethys. The volcanic and granitic rocks in Kohistan (in northern Pakistan), Ladakh (in India) and all along southern Tibet (from Kailas through Lhasa to Mishimi hills at the easternmost boundary of the Himalaya) are products of the Tethys subduction. These rocks were formed between 120-40 million years ago. This magmatic range is known as the Trans-Himalaya – a term coined by Alexander Cunningham in his book Ladak (1854). The Trans-Himalaya was extensively explored by the ‘Pundits’ of the Indian Survey during the 1860s-1890s and by the Swedish geographer Sven Hedin, author of the three-volume book, Trans-Himalaya (1909-1912).