Lots of my students tell me their teacher told them to ‘skim and scan’, as if this is a magical way to improve your reading.
This is a complete myth. ‘Skimming and scanning’ is simply what you do in your own language anyway – it is a ‘transferable skill’.
In this blog we’ll look at more reliable ways of improving your IELTS Reading Skills.
What are 'skimming' and 'scanning'?
What is ‘skimming?’
You’re probably skimming this blog. You’re quickly checking to see if there’s anything that will help you. You’re looking at headings and trying to get an overview, but you’re not reading in great detail. You’re looking to see if you’re going to read any further, and asking “Is this worth my time?” “Shall I try another site?” “Is this what I’m looking for?”.
Skimming is a useful life-skill as it helps you save time, so it’s important to use this strategy in the Reading Test, but it will not help you get the answers right.
It will only help you know where to look for answers, as you use Capital Letters, Numbers, Names, keywords and first lines to orientate yourself so that you can come back later and read more closely.
When you skim, you take a calculated risk that you may miss something.
What is ‘scanning’?
Scanning is what you do when you know what you’re looking for.
When you get some pills from the doctor, you don’t read through the 4-page booklet that comes in the box – you just quickly jump to the place where it tells you how many times a day you should take the pills.
There is nothing magical about this skill – everyone has it and you will most certainly transfer this skill to IELTS reading.
The key to a better IELTS Reading score
The only way to improve your reading score is to read more and learn more vocabulary.
The IELTS Academic Reading Texts contain vocabulary sets and topics that you can familiarise yourself with before the exam.
The more you read these types of text, the more you will understand, and the faster you will be able to skim and scan for the answers to the questions.
There are certain key topics that come up in IELTS.
Knowing the issues and vocabulary surrounding these topics will help you to
- read more quickly and predict correct answers
- listen more effectively and be able to correctly spell the words that you hear
- write more persuasively, with plenty of ideas to support your argument
- speak confidently on a wide range of topics
Read regularly for pleasure and interest – you don’t have to understand everything, but the more you read, the more you will become familiar with common themes such as the environment.
Read. Everything you can get your hands on. Read until words become your friends. Then when you need to find one, they will jump into your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them. And you can select whichever you like, just like a captain choosing a basketball team.