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Skimming vs Scanning: how can it help me in my reading test?

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

Skimming and scanning are definitely skills that you will need in an English reading test. These 2 skills will improve the speed at which you can do the test and also improve your accuracy. So, let's begin by looking at the differences in these techniques.

Skimming is a process of reading to get an overall view or get an impression of the content. This is when you pick out the main ideas or messages.

Scanning, on the other hand, requires you to look for a particular word or phrase. You can ignore unnecessary ones.

Now we know what the 2 skills are, how can you use them in a reading test?

Skimming can be used to pre-read a text. This way you will have an understanding of the overall meaning of the text. Skimming can also be used to check your answers at the end of the test.

A simple technique for skim reading is:

· Read the first paragraph attentively to get an idea of what will be discussed in the text.

· Read the first (and sometimes the second) sentence of each paragraph - they give the main idea of the paragraph.

· After you have read the first sentences, your eyes should drop down to the end of the paragraph, looking for important pieces of information, such as dates and names.

· Read the last paragraph attentively as it may contain the summary.

Scanning is when you are searching for specific information. The key to scan reading is knowing exactly what you are scanning for. This means you must identify the keywords or phrases in the question. If you get this part wrong, your scanning will be inaccurate.

A simple technique for scan reading is:

· Underline the important information while reading the text (dates, numbers, names etc.)

· When you read, identify the keyword and scan the text for it. This way you’ll find the answer more quickly.

It is extremely important to practice both of these skills when preparing for any English test as they will help to improve your score.

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