Skimming and scanning for IELTS/TOEFL.

If you are planning on taking the IELTS or TOEFL then you need to perfect your skimming and scanning techniques. Both exams contain reading passages of varying degrees of difficulty and questions pertaining to each article. Since these exams are time sensitive it's important to be a quick and efficient reader. 

An efficient reader strives to understand the meaning of the article as a whole. They don't fret about the one or two words that they don't recognize. Instead, they deduce the meaning from the words and sentences around them. 


The following steps will improve your comprehension and help you find answers in the text quickly:


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Step 1: Read titles and headings for clues

The title and headings provide insight about the general topic of the article.  

Step 2: Skim the text for meaning

When you're skimming, you are essentially speed-reading for gist (huh? Reading very quickly to understand the general meaning). You want to identify the writer's main idea, which can be found in the first few sentences of the introduction paragraph and the last few sentences of the conclusion. In addition, you must determine the purpose of each 'body' paragraph. While skimming underline the important sentences and jot down notes in the margin.

Step 3: Read the questions thoroughly

Once you have gathered the gist of the article, read through the questions carefully. Make sure you read through all the questions before attempting to answer them. People have different methods for answering questions, you can go in order or answer the easier questions first. Pick a strategy and stick with it.  

Step 4: Scan the text for answers

You can determine the kind of information you need to find from the question. It's very important to read the question properly. Think about scanning a Word Search puzzle for a hidden word; you're going to have a pretty hard time if you don't read the word bank! For a test like the IELTS, you're looking for words that stand out, such as names, numbers and dates, because they will help you find the answers. Sometimes it's better to read the text backwards to find this information. 


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The key to achieving a high IELTS or TOEFL score is practicing the right techniques. Although leisurely reading books will benefit your vocabulary and your comprehension, in a test setting you are limited in the amount of time that you have to complete the questions. The time-saving techniques above will help you be better prepared on test day.