How to use Skimming and Scanning to ace IELTS Reading

IELTS Reading is the second section of the exam where you are given 3 passages consisting of about 3000 words with 40 questions in total that should be answered in only 60 minutes. You are not granted extra time to transfer your answers from the booklet to the answer sheet.

Reading the whole text word by word as you usually do is time-consuming in the exam and will only prevent you from answering all questions. So, you need to use some reading techniques to manage your time and answer all questions correctly. That is where skimming and scanning skills come to your help.

In this article, we will teach you skimming and scanning in IELTS reading to help you achieve a high band score. The reading tips are helpful for both academic and general tests.

What is the difference between skimming and scanning?

To understand the difference between skimming and scanning, you need to know what they exactly are.

Skimming and scanning are both techniques of fast reading a passage to find specific information without reading the whole text word by word. However, skimming attempts to find the overall concept of the passage, whereas scanning looks for particular details. In other words, skimming finds the big picture while scanning locates some pixels within that picture.

In IELTS reading, both skimming and scanning are essential because you need to understand the concept first to answer questions about some details within that concept.

How to use skimming and scanning in IELTS reading?

The skimming and scanning difference necessitate steps in a specific order so you can speed read the passage without wasting time.

Follow the steps below to skim quickly, scan, and choose the correct answer. This approach has been working every time, and you just need to practice it every day to master it:

First: skim the IELTS reading text

Skimming is used to find the overall concept of the passage without reading it entirely, so your approach should consider only the main parts of the text, which are described below:

Read the title

The title gives you the main idea of what the passage will be about. This can help you build a mental construct of what is coming in the following sentences.

Read the introduction paragraph

This is an essential part of the text since the goal will be revealed, and the approach to achieving that goal will be described.

Read the headings

The headings or subtitles divide the passage into smaller parts, and you can guess what the main point of each part is by its heading.

Read the conclusion paragraph

This part will answer the main question or the main idea introduced earlier in the text. It is the summary of the whole passage that gives you a snapshot of the main idea.

Read the first sentence of each paragraph

The first sentence is the topic sentence or an introduction to the paragraph, which helps you understand the main point within it.

Read the last sentence of each paragraph

The last sentence is like the conclusion of that paragraph that expresses the point discussed within it.

Second: scan the IELTS reading text

When it comes to scanning, you should look for keywords or specific details within the passage that were asked about in the question. They can be numbers, dates, times, and proper nouns or even verbs that you should locate within the text without reading it all.

Regardless of the type, follow the steps below to scan the text:

Underline the keywords in the question

You should know what you are looking for in the passage: the keywords mentioned in the question. Underline them so you can remember what they are.

Of course, in computer-delivered IELTS, there is no paper like paper-based IELTS, but you can highlight the keywords using the text highlighting function.

Underline the keywords within the text

Scan the passage with your eyes to find the keywords you underlined earlier. You can also move your finger or pencil on the paper if you are used to it. You can’t do it on the computer screen, but you can move the cursor if that helps you.

In either case, you are not necessarily reading the text but just moving your eyes along the lines. When you find a keyword, underline it so you can return to it later.

Skim the text before and after each keyword

This is to narrow down your options. You just need to read the sentences around each underlined keyword in the passage and compare them to the question. Once the obviously wrong answers have been crossed out, you are often left with a couple of options to choose from.

Third: choose the correct answer

Here you need more information about the remaining keywords to make your choice, and that information is contained within the paragraph. So:

Close read the paragraphs of the remaining keywords

You need to read the paragraph of each remaining keyword and refer to the question. This will clarify the difference between them, and the correct answer will become apparent.

Final thoughts

Skimming and scanning make the most significant difference in your IELTS reading band score because they help you understand the overall concept of the text while locating the keywords without wasting time. So, practice them every day and together. Alone, neither one is enough, but together they help you quickly find the correct answer for each question.

And if you want to make sure you have successfully mastered skimming and scanning skills, take an online IELTS mock test. It is the fastest way to practice all skills necessary for the exam. Even better is the analytical report full of IELTS reading tips that strategically direct your reading practices. We promise the second mock test you take will have a much higher band score.

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