As we said in in an earlier blog, the texts that you can expect to see in the épreuves orales at various grandes écoles fall into two types:
1. Those which simply report on the news without the journalist offering any comment;
2. Those in which the journalist offers his/her opinion, comment or analysis.
This often-overlooked distinction impacts not just on the language that you use in your summary (you cannot, for example, say “the journalist argues” with the first type of text), it also impacts on the method, since what you need to identify in the text, and how you organise your summary (le résumé synthétique) must change as well. This blog explains what is involved in a summary of an opinion or comment text.
The good news is that comment or opinion texts are somewhat easier to deal with than news texts, since the journalist expresses his / her opinion much more explicitly in comment texts. When writing news reports journalists have to be careful not to express an opinion, but in opinion texts, as the name suggests, their views can be expressed openly, which makes life easier for you. The “bad” news, though, is that opinion texts tend to be less common in the épreuves orales of some grandes écoles (HEC, for example).
In this blog I’ll go through – in slow motion – what is involved in commentating on an opinion / comment text, using an article that was actually used in a concours as an example. For obvious reasons, the most recent annales that are available to us come from 2019; however, many of the texts used that year are still topical today, and that’s certainly the case with this one. It was used by EDHEC in 2019 and its title is What if social media firms paid us? (by Vanessa Baird, New Internationalist, 24 December 2018). Click on this link to read the text.
A summary of an opinion or comment text should answer the following five questions:
1. What background debate does this text form part of? Is it, for example, part of the debate around media bias, AI, online privacy, etc? Your answer to this question will form the first one or two sentences of your colle.
2. What prompted the journalist to write this text? Was there a new development in the area that the text touches on, or is she commenting on a problem which has been building for some time? This will come immediately after the one or two sentences on the background debate.
3. What is the writer’s main argument:? What point did she want to make
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