Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Are you worried that you don’t have the reading skills that you need for the IELTS?

You already have all the reading skills you need to do well on the IELTS exam.

In fact, you probably employ all three skills in your daily life, even when you are not preparing for the test.

Of course, you are using these skills in your first language; nevertheless, they transfer easily to English.

In today’s article, I am going to explain what these three skills are, when you use them in your “real” life (not preparing for IELTS), and how these skills will help you on the exam.

#1) Skimming

What is it?

Skimming is reading for gist, or main idea.

This is when you read only parts of an article, essay or story to understand, in general, what it is about.

When do I use it?

You use this when you first look at a newspaper, for example.

There are so many long articles in the newspaper, and most people don’t have time to read every word of every article.

First, you read the headline and decide if it interests you or not.

Then, if you find a headline that interests you, you read the first couple sentences.

If you are still not sure of the value of the article, you may skip ahead, reading a couple sentences in the beginning, maybe the end of the article.

By doing this, you have a good overall idea of what the article is about.

Also, when you are reviewing a chapter for a test, or a sales report before an important meeting, you skim.

You reread the title, then a few sentences in the beginning, middle and end of the chapter or report.

This gives you enough information to jog your memory, bringing to mind the details and data that you read at an earlier time.

How do I use it on the IELTS exam?

Skimming is actually the first thing you do when faced with a passage.

As soon as the exam starts, go to Passage 1 and spend 1-1 ½ minutes skimming.

This helps you understand the overall idea of the passage, and will help you access the information and vocabulary you already know related to it.

Then, when you look at the questions, you understand what they are about and what they are asking for.

#2) Scanning

What is it?

Scanning is, actually, not reading.

Reading is slow and scanning is fast, as I like to tell my students.

Scanning is when your eyes are roaming, or wandering, over words to find specific information, such as a name or a number.

When do I use it?

We scan a lot in our daily lives.

Say, for example, you access your work schedule online.

You are not going to read every name and time carefully.

Instead, you are going to scan the document, only looking for your specific name.

Or, perhaps you are looking at a schedule for a movie theater.

You know what movie you want to see, so you scan for that title, then look carefully at the times given.

How do I use it on the IELTS exam?

Scanning helps us find the location of the answers in a passage.

It doesn’t tell us what exactly the answer is, but it tells us where we can look for it.

After you identify the keywords in the questions, you scan for those key words.

Use your finger or pencil to help your eyes move over each line.

The answers are always next to keywords from the question.

#3) Reading for detail

What is it?

Reading for detail is what we think of when someone says the word “reading.”

That is to say, reading for detail is when you read every word of a text carefully.

When do I use it?

Hopefully this is part of your daily life!

If it isn’t, you should incorporate it into your routine for at least 10 minutes a day.

We read for detail when we read for pleasure, or for fun, such as when we enjoy a novel, a comic book, or an interesting essay.

When we study, though, we also do this.

I think you are doing it right now!

Textbooks, practice materials, articles related to our field of study- all of these things people read word for word.

How do I use it on the IELTS exam?

This is the skill you employ after you have scanned for and found the keyword.

After you find the key word, you read the sentence containing the keyword carefully.

Then, compare it to the question.

If the answer is not there, it will be in the sentence immediately before or the sentence immediately after.
As always, with any testing skills, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

Click here to learn how to become a faster reader.

What additional questions do you have about IELTS Reading?

Let us know in the comments below.

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