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Skimming texts in the IELTS reading test

There are several texts in the IELTS reading module: 3 longer texts in academic IELTS and 5-6 shorter texts in General Training. For shorter texts which only contain factual information or advice you will mostly need to scan the text, but for longer texts which contain more complex ideas, descriptions and arguments you will need to use the skimming technique.

First, read the title/heading of the article and any subheadings because these give you important clues to what the text is about so that you can start predicting what kinds of words you’ll read in the text itself and more importantly, what the main message will be.

Next, read through the text at normal speed like you are reading a newspaper article or blog post. Aim to understand the main ideas/information and don’t spend time trying to understand every word. In fact, don’t worry if you don’t understand some words, just keep going. Some candidates avoid reading the whole article before attempting the questions this is usually a costly mistake and results in not being able to find all the answers within the time limit.

As with an IELTS essay, there is normally an introduction and conclusion of the whole article/text and even within each paragraph you will find an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence. These sentences usually contain key information to understanding the text as a whole, so it is a good idea to focus a little more on them when you are skimming the text for the first time. Underline them if it helps you. Also, spend a few extra seconds on the last part of the final paragraph. This is the final conclusion and it probably holds the key to the writer’s overall opinion/purpose for writing.

After reading the full article quickly, the title should have more meaning and you will have a much better understanding of the main message, what each section is about and also be more familiar with the vocabulary. This means you’ll be better equipped to locate the answers to the questions much more quickly.

Skimming a text effectively takes time to develop so start off slow with a short paragraph. Read it as quick as you can and see how many key words you can remember from it. To test your comprehension, use those key words to explain what the paragraph was about. Then try a longer paragraph and keep going until you can ‘speed read’ a whole article. When you are confidently skimming articles of IELTS length, try to read faster by only focussing on key words. Keep practising and pretty soon you’ll be able to skim any text within 1-2 minutes.

You can start with our free practice reading tests! Try 200 words per minute, then increase to 300, 400 and finally 500!!

Good luck!!

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