Reading Tips Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

​In the IELTS Reading Test there is limited time. You must answer 40 questions on 3 texts in only 1 hour.

Skimming and scanning are two techniques to help you speed up your reading in the test. Practice these skills before the test and you should see your scores improving.


How to skim

  • Don’t read every single word, just try and get the gist.
  • Pay attention to the first sentence of a paragraph. This topic sentence should tell you what the paragraph is all about.
  • After the topic sentence, only look for important bits of information such as dates, names or events.
​Remember, if you skim you are probably missing lots of details so make sure you go back and read more carefully before you write an answers on your answer paper. This technique helps you get a general idea of the text and later locate specific information.


Scanning is when you only look for details in the text.

You need to skim read first to get a general idea of the text. Then read the questions. After that you are ready to scan the text in order to find specific details.
How to scan

  • Skim first to find where in the text the answer you are looking for is likely to be.
  • Predict from the question what type of information or word you are looking for.
  • Using your finger helps focus your attention and make sure you don’t miss the word as you go over the text.

​There we go, two helpful tips to speed up your reading. Just like with everything else, practice makes perfect, so make sure you use these techniques when you are doing timed IELTS Reading Test practice. If you have any questions about skimming and scanning, please leave them in the comments below.