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Overview of the Executive Summary


Published: 16 Sep 2021 Update History

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In this guide we will cover that the Executive Summary is, what should be in it and how to construct it as well as tips for success.

The Executive Summary is arguably the most important part of any report. It is the section that the recipient is likely to read first, with the remainder of the report providing the substantive detail should the reader wish to refer to it. In short the Executive Summary is a brief synopsis of the findings of the main report. A useful analogy may be to think of your Executive Summary as the points you would include in a PowerPoint presentation to your client, with the details of the report itself being contained within the speaker notes.

A recurring criticism of the scripts of unsuccessful students is that their Executive Summary sections are weak. In theory the Executive Summary should be the easiest part of the report, as it contains no new information. This guide aims to demystify the Executive Summary, covering:

  • What the Executive Summary is
  • What should be in your Executive Summary
  • Recurring themes in Executive Summary mark keys
  • How to construct an Executive Summary
  • Tips for success.

What is an Executive Summary?

The Executive Summary is the part of a report that is most likely to be read by the recipient of the report. In the context of the Case Study exam this will ultimately be the owners of the client firm. As a rule these people will be busy trying to run their business, and will not be financial experts. As such you need to concisely and clearly summarise the contents of main body and the appendices of your report.

What should be in the Executive Summary?

  • Summarise the financial performance of the client
  • Integrate numbers with text
  • Evaluate and apply judgement to the key points
  • Draw conclusions
  • Make recommendations
  • Refer where appropriate to ethics and business trust issues

Aside from the contents themselves there are specific marks reserved for producing an Executive Summary for each requirement that is 'an appropriate summary of the main report'. Therefore, to earn these marks you should avoid copying large sections from your main report into you Executive Summary. 

How to construct your Executive Summary

As stated in the overview of the Case Study article you are advised to complete the Executive Summary for each requirement in the exam as you go. For instance, you should write-up your Requirement 1 Executive Summary once you have finished writing up your Requirement 1 section. This approach will ensure that your recollection of Requirement 1 is fresh when beginning to draft its Executive Summary.

While timings will vary from student to student, it should be possible to draft a complete Executive Summary for each section of the main report in 10 minutes each.

Tips for success

The key steps in producing a good Executive Summary include:

  • Planning your main section on paper, using blank marking keys. This will give you a summarised main requirement section from which to select the points you wish to transfer to your Executive Summary.
  • Use a specific highlighter pen colour to mark which points from your planning boxes you wish to include in your Executive Summary, this will make it quick and easy to transfer them into your answer.
  • Write up you Executive Summary from scratch. Do not copy and paste from the main body of you report. It is quicker and easier to write a concise analysis from a plan than it is to copy, paste and edit to reduce your word count.
  • Write in full English sentences - 'summary' does not mean bullet points!
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