Reading Skills – Skimming and Scanning

reading skimming ans scanning

In order to get the score you want on your English exam, you need to be able to read texts in different ways. Two important skills are skimming and scanning.

Skimming – Reading quickly to get a general idea of the material
Scanning – Reading to learn specific information


Tips for effective skim reading:
1.) Read the complete title carefully.
2.) Look at any images to get clues about the topic.
3.) Look for key words.
4.) Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph.
5.) Think about the general meaning as you read.

Skimming Practice (C1): Lessons in Chemistry (Bonnie Garmus)
Read the excerpt, and then answer the question.

“Mr. Pine,” Elizabeth said, sweeping into the local television studio and past a secretary on a Wednesday afternoon, “I’ve been calling you for three days, and not once have you managed the courtesy of a return call. My name is Elizabeth Zott. I am Madeline Zott’s mother—our children attend Woody Elementary together—and I’m here to tell you that your daughter is offering my daughter friendship under false pretenses.” And because he looked confused, she added, “Your daughter is eating my daughter’s lunch.”

“L-lunch?” Walter Pine managed, as he took in the woman who stood resplendent before him, her white lab coat casting an aura of holy light save for one detail: the initials “E.Z.” emblazoned in red just above the pocket.

“Your daughter, Amanda,” Elizabeth charged again, “eats my daughter’s lunch. Apparently, it’s been going on for months.”

Walter could only stare. Tall and angular, with hair the color of burnt buttered toast pulled back and secured with a pencil, she stood, hands on hips, her lips apologetically red, her skin luminous, her nose straight. She looked down at him like a battlefield medic assessing whether or not he was worth saving.

“And the fact that she pretends to be Madeline’s friend to get her lunch,” she continued, “is absolutely reprehensible.”

“Wh-who are you again?” stammered Walter.

“Elizabeth Zott!” she barked back. “Madeline Zott’s mother!”

Walter nodded, trying to understand. As a longtime producer of afternoon television, he knew drama. But this? He continued to stare. She was stunning. He was literally stunned by her. Was she auditioning for something?

“I’m sorry,” he finally said. “But all the nurse roles have been cast.”

“I beg your pardon?” she snapped. There was a long pause.

“Amanda Pine,” she repeated.

He blinked. “My daughter? Oh,” he said, suddenly nervous. “What about her? Are you a doctor? Are you from the school?”

Answer the question: How does Elizabeth feel?


Tips for effective scan reading:
1.) Similar to skim reading, you don’t need to understand every word. Here, you don’t even need to understand the basic theme of the text. Just look for the fact you need, like a name, date, or number.
2.) Notice the way the information is organized, in order to save time. Are things listed in alphabetical order? Are there headings and subheadings?
3.) Many of the most common exams list the comprehension questions in the order that you will encounter the information in the text. Read through all of the questions before you read the text.

Scanning Practice: Britannica, Chemistry (Melvyn C. Usselman and Alan J. Rocke)

Chemistry… is concerned with the utilization of natural substances and the creation of artificial ones. Cooking, fermentation, glass making, and metallurgy are all chemical processes that date from the beginnings of civilization. Today, vinyl, Teflon, liquid crystals, semiconductors, and superconductors represent the fruits of chemical technology. The 20th century saw dramatic advances in the comprehension of the marvelous and complex chemistry of living organisms, and a molecular interpretation of health and disease holds great promise. Modern chemistry, aided by increasingly sophisticated instruments, studies materials as small as single atoms and as large and complex as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which contains millions of atoms. New substances can even be designed to bear desired characteristics and then synthesized. The rate at which chemical knowledge continues to accumulate is remarkable. Over time more than 8,000,000 different chemical substances, both natural and artificial, have been characterized and produced. The number was less than 500,000 as recently as 1965.

Answer the questions:
1.) Is cooking classified as a chemical process?
2.) What does DNA stand for?
3.) How many chemical substances have been characterized and produced?

Skim and Scan Reading Practice:
1.) Read the questions below.
2.) Set a timer. The amount of time you have for each task is indicated under the article.
3.) Set the timer again, and scan the article. Feel free to take notes!
4.) Answer the questions.

Practice Reading 1 (C1) – Unleashing the Power of Seaweed Farming (University of Queensland)
Time for skimming: 3 minutes
Time for scanning: 3 minutes
Time to answer the questions: 5 minutes
1.) What is the article about?
2.) Is the tone of the article hopeful or pessimistic. Why?
3.) How much greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced per year by the use of seaweed farming?
4.) How many commercially viable species of seaweed are there estimated to be in the Indonesian EEZ?
5.) The author mentions corn and wheat. How are they related to seaweed in the article?

Practice Reading 2 (C1)Polar Bears on the Russian Island of Kolyuchin (Austin Harvey)
Time for skimming: 2 minutes
Time for scanning: 2 minutes
Time to answer the questions: 5 minutes
1.) Is the article primarily about the photographer, Kokh, polar bears, or how things can happened unexpectedly?
2.) Does the article characterize bears more as dangerous or as curious?
3.) When was the island abandoned?
4.) Why do bears seek shelter, according to the article?
5.) How did Kokh take the photographs?

Practice Reading 3 (C2)A New Discovery Puts Panama as the Sight of the First Successful Slave Rebellion (Melba Newsome)
Time for skimming: 4 minutes
Time for scanning: 4 minutes
Time to answer the questions: 8 minutes
1.) Is the article covers a conflict between which two groups of people?
2.) Is the article primarily about a rebellion in Haiti or Panama?
3.) When did Balboa first bring slaves to Panama?
4.) What does ‘maroon’ mean?
5.) What happened in 1579?

Read, read, read!

Get in the habit of reading in English. It is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of doing well on exam day! Click on the first link below to find something interesting for you to read in English.