Reading Strategies: Skimming and Scanning

Book in English

Do you want to improve your reading score on Cambridge, IELTS, or TOEFL exams? Are you an upper-intermediate level student who wants to improve your reading skills? This lesson will teach you two strategies to improve your reading comprehension.

What is skimming?

Skimming is reading a text for GENERAL INFORMATION. Imagine that you are snorkeling in the ocean. You are skimming the reef, looking at all the different fish, and getting the main idea of what you see.

The reading strategy “skimming” is the same.

  • Read the text quickly
  • You don’t need to understand every word
  • Try to think of one sentence to summarize each paragraph – what is the MAIN IDEA?

Skimming improves your reading because it helps you read quickly and unlock the main idea of a text before you look for details.

What is scanning?

Scanning is reading a text for SPECIFIC INFORMATION. Now, imagine that you are snorkeling again, but this time you are looking for one fish – the fish with the red tail. You see a lot of fish, but your focus is on finding the fish with the red tail.

The reading strategy “scanning” is the same.

  • Read the text slowly
  • Look for what is being asked for in the question like a specific person or date
  • Once you find the part in the text you are looking for – read carefully

Scanning improves your reading because it helps you learn how to find specific information

Skimming and scanning are necessary to get a good mark on the Cambridge, IETLS and TOEFL exams. Let’s try each strategy with a Cambridge B2 First part 7 exam.

Skimming Practice

Skim the text below. Read it quickly. Don’t use a dictionary. Then, answer the question.

Sundance by Teresa Wilson

I really don’t know why this book is so popular. I mean, I suppose it is going to appeal to young girls who want danger and romance, but I found this book really tedious. For a start, the characters were really unconvincing. The author went out of her way to add lots of details about the characters, but I found these details really pointless. I thought that some of the facts she presented about the main characters would become significant in some way later in the novel, but they didn’t. They were just worthless bits of information. I also was disappointed that, although this book is meant to be about kids at high school, the writer seems to have no recollection at all about what it’s like to be 17. The main character thought and acted like a 32-year old. It just wasn’t believable. I’m not saying Teresa Wilson is a bad writer. She can obviously string words together and come up with a story that is appealing to a large number of people, but she lacks anything original. There is no flair. It just uses the same sort of language as you can see in many other mediocre novels.

Source

Q1: How did Kerry feel about the book? 

Scanning Practice

Scan the text below for the answers to the questions. Try to use keywords in the questions to help you look for specific information.

Sundance by Teresa Wilson

I really don’t know why this book is so popular. I mean, I suppose it is going to appeal to young girls who want danger and romance, but I found this book really tedious. For a start, the characters were really unconvincing. The author went out of her way to add lots of details about the characters, but I found these details really pointless. I thought that some of the facts she presented about the main characters would become significant in some way later in the novel, but they didn’t. They were just worthless bits of information. I also was disappointed that, although this book is meant to be about kids at high school, the writer seems to have no recollection at all about what it’s like to be 17. The main character thought and acted like a 32-year old. It just wasn’t believable. I’m not saying Teresa Wilson is a bad writer. She can obviously string words together and come up with a story that is appealing to a large number of people, but she lacks anything original. There is no flair. It just uses the same sort of language as you can see in many other mediocre novels.

Q1: Which age group will like this book?

Q2: Who is Teresa Wilson?

Q3: What does “mediocre” mean in the last line?

For the answers to the questions, scroll down to the end of this blog post.

Final Thoughts

The best way to practice reading is … to read! I hope you use both skimming and scanning the next time you have to take a reading test.

If you liked this lesson, please leave a comment.

For more FCE practice, try these posts:

FCE speaking exam tips

Improve your writing

Reading and Use of English Part 2 Practice


If you liked this lesson, pin it on PINTEREST to your FCE ENGLISH board.

Answers to the reading exercises

Skimming Question 1: Kerry feels negatively towards the book.

I really don’t know why this book is so popular. I mean, I suppose it is going to appeal to young girls who want danger and romance, but I found this book really tedious. For a start, the characters were really unconvincing. The author went out of her way to add lots of details about the characters, but I found these details really pointless. I thought that some of the facts she presented about the main characters would become significant in some way later in the novel, but they didn’t. They were just worthless bits of information. I also was disappointed that, although this book is meant to be about kids at high school, the writer seems to have no recollection at all about what it’s like to be 17. The main character thought and acted like a 32-year old. It just wasn’t believable

Scanning Question 1: Young girls. 

I really don’t know why this book is so popular. I mean, I suppose it is going to appeal to young girls who want danger and romance, but I found this book really tedious. For a start, the characters were really unconvincing. 

Scanning Question 2: The writer/author of the book.

I’m not saying Teresa Wilson is a bad writer. She can obviously string words together and come up with a story that is appealing to a large number of people, but she lacks anything original. There is no flair. It just uses the same sort of language as you can see in many other mediocre novels.

Scanning Question 3: Mediocre means average, nothing special.

There is no flair. It just uses the same sort of language as you can see in many other mediocre novels.

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