Skimming and Scanning in ielts reading

Skimming & Scanning - Tools To Get High Band Score In IELTS Reading

April 14, 2018

When asked "Which is the best way to improve IELTS Reading Score?", the only answer that we get from tutors, trainers, students or anyone who have already appeared or are preparing for the test is -


Since 'time limit' is one of the major drawbacks of the IELTS Reading module, it is crucial to complete it within the specified time. It requires you to answer 40 questions over three passages with a total of about 3000 words in just 60 minutes. So, Skimming & Scanning are important to achieve high IELTS band score.  

While undergoing IELTS Test preparation, almost every aspirant would have come across these terms. But, there are many who are unaware about its appropriate usage.

Though Skimming and Scanning are the key skills to get success in IELTS Reading test, they are insignificant if you don't know where, when and how to use them.

Understand & Develop these IELTS Reading Skills to achieve High Score



Skimming refers to reading the entire text or some large part of the text quickly in order to get the generic idea about it.

skimming in IELTS

Let's take an example of newspaper here.

While reading a newspaper, we usually read the headlines. If it attracts us, we read the entire story. This helps us cover every news published in the newspaper within 10-15 minutes. Thus, it saves time.

Similar is the case with IELTS Reading module. You are given a long passage and some questions related to it. You need to find the correct answer from the given passage. Here, skimming helps you take a quick look through the passage and understand what it is about, its structure and the way in which it is written.

Remember, you are not finding any particular information while you skim the passage. It is just meant to obtain an overview.

Useful Tips for Skimming

If provided, read the title of the passage

Read the topic sentence and last sentence of each paragraph

Encircle or underline the important words (bolded, italicized, date, name´┐Ż)

Note down titles, subtitles or headings, if given



Scanning refers to finding a piece of specific information in the given text. The information can be a name, address, place or date.

Scanning in IELTS

Here is an illustration to help you understand it in a better way.

Suppose, you are looking for a particular contact in the telephone directory. Let's say, 'Joe'. You will first search for the page that contains the contacts starting with the alphabet 'J'. Following this method will certainly ease your search.

The same applies for IELTS Reading module. You first need to skim the text so that you can get an idea. Then, read the questions. Then after, you can scan the text to find the details.

However, scanning alone is not competent to help you find the correct answer. It only tells you the location of the details you are looking for.

Useful Tips for Scanning

Read the title of the passage, if given

Find the keywords. Try to note their synonyms.

Highlight names and numbers, if any

Take action words into consideration

Mark the words that are repeated periodically in the passage. These words may help you locate the right answer.

Note down the headings, subheadings, or other important information, if provided

Skimming - To understand the context of the passage

Scanning - To find the information from the passage

But, what is it that helps you determine the correct answer? - It is Close Reading!

What is Close Reading in IELTS?

Close Reading refers to deciding which answer is correct for any given question.

Closed Reading in IELTS

Skimming & Scanning are meaningless without Close Reading i.e. there is no point of doing skim and scan without Close Reading as neither of them gives you the correct answer.

Once you have completed Skimming & Scanning the text, you must read the set of questions given. You can then locate the answer. Before deciding whether the answer is correct or not, read the entire sentence or paragraph carefully. After that, you can decide which answer is correct. This is exactly what Close Reading means.

Useful Tips for Close Reading

Try to grasp the meaning of every word you read

Take proper time to understand the gist of the text

Think carefully before deciding the correct answer

Simple Approach to Ace IELTS Reading Test

  • Skimming
  • Scanning
  • Close Reading
  • Choosing the Correct Answer

Over 10 different types of questions are asked in the IELTS Reading module. So, it is not advisable to use the same approach for all the questions. This approach may work for some question types while it may not work for others. Thus, you must practise this approach for different type of questions while attempting free IELTS Academic or General Reading tests at IELTS Tutorials.

Success in ielts exam

Apart from the given strategy, if you have another better way to find correct answers for IELTS Reading, you can use it to achieve your target score. Also, feel free to share or discuss different strategies with other aspirants on study abroad forum.