Skimming and Scanning

June 20, 2018 by Ashlee Hunter Ashlee Hunter

What’s the difference between skimming and scanning?

Skimming is reading quickly to find the general overview of the passage.

Scanning is reading quickly to find specific details in the passage.

What are some skimming techniques?

Always think about main ideas: titles, headings, and topic sentences. When you are skimming a reading passage, always read the major parts such as the titles and headings carefully. This will provide the main idea of entire readings, sections, or paragraphs of reading passages.

Another great skimming technique is reading either the first sentence or the first and last sentence of a paragraph. For the most part, the first and/or last sentence of a paragraph will provide enough information about the general overview of a paragraph. This will allow you to answer questions such as heading match questions and title match.

For example, read the first and last sentence in order to get a main idea of the paragraphs:

A

There are now over 700 million motor vehicles in the world - and the number is rising by more than 40 million each year.  

This dependence on motor vehicles has given rise to major problems, including environmental pollution, depletion of oil resources, traffic congestion and safety.

B

While emissions from new cars are far less harmful than they used to be, city streets and motorways are becoming more crowded than ever, often with older trucks, buses and taxis which emit excessive levels of smoke and fumes.  

In Mexico City, vehicle pollution is a major health hazard.

C

Until a hundred years ago, most journeys were in the 20km range, the distance conveniently accessible by horse.  

Can it avoid being locked into congested and polluting ways of transporting people and goods?

D

In Europe, most cities are still designed for the old modes of transport.  

Other social effects have been blamed on the car such as alienation and aggressive human behaviour.

E

A 1993 study by the European Federation for Transport and Environment found that car transport is seven times as costly as rail travel in terms of the external social costs it entails - congestion, accidents, pollution, loss of cropland and natural habitats, depletion of oil resources, and so on.  

It is unrealistic to expect people to give up private cars in favour of mass transit.

F

Technical solutions can reduce the pollution problem and increase the fuelled efficiency of engines.  

Besides, global car use is increasing at a faster rate than the improvement in emissions and fuel efficiency which technology is now making possible.

G

Some argue that the only long-term solution is to design cities and neighbourhoods, so that car journeys are not necessary - all essential services being located within walking distance or easily accessible by public transport.   

But few democratic communities are blessed with the vision – and the capital – to make such profound changes in modern lifestyles.

H

A more likely scenario seems to be a combination of mass transit systems for travel into and around cities, with small ‘low emission’ cars for urban use and larger hybrid or lean burn cars for use elsewhere.  

In most developing countries, old cars and old technologies continue to predominate.

When doing questions like a title match, one skimming technique is reading the introduction and conclusion of a reading passage. This will allow you to get the main idea of the reading passage.

Read the first and last paragraph in order to get the general overview of the reading passage:

A

There are now over 700 million motor vehicles in the world - and the number is rising by more than 40 million each year.  The average distance driven by car users is growing too - from 8 km a day per person in western Europe in 1965 to 25 km a day in 1995.  This dependence on motor vehicles has given rise to major problems, including environmental pollution, depletion of oil resources, traffic congestion and safety.

H

A more likely scenario seems to be a combination of mass transit systems for travel into and around cities, with small ‘low emission’ cars for urban use and larger hybrid or lean burn cars for use elsewhere.  Electronically tolled highways might be used to ensure that drivers pay charges geared to actual road use.  Better integration of transport systems is also highly desirable - and made more feasible by modern computers.  But these are solutions for countries which can afford them.  In most developing countries, old cars and old technologies continue to predominate.

Click here for the full article*. Compare your answers to the main idea of the paragraphs and/or the article as a whole.

Blue ABC

What are some scanning techniques?

When scanning, think about keywords. Vocabulary such as proper nouns, dates, numbers, and times is what you are looking for when scanning text. Scanning helps you find specific details.

Most importantly, when scanning a reading passage, you need to know what the keywords are in the question in order to find the keywords in the passage.

There are different ways to scan a reading passage when looking for specific details. Here are some examples:

skimming and scanning

Better scanning techniques can be achieved by following your finger or pen/pencil. Another good option to consider is circling or underlining the keywords within the reading passage.

Highlight all of the keywords in the paragraph:

A

There are now over 700 million motor vehicles in the world - and the number is rising by more than 40 million each year. The average distance driven by car users is growing too - from 8 km a day per person in western Europe in 1965 to 25 km a day in 1995. This dependence on motor vehicles has given rise to major problems, including environmental pollution, depletion of oil resources, traffic congestion and safety.

Here are the suggestions:

A

There are now over 700 million motor vehicles in the world - and the number is rising by more than 40 million each year. The average distance driven by car users is growing too - from 8 km a day per person in western Europe in 1965 to 25 km a day in 1995. This dependence on motor vehicles has given rise to major problems, including environmental pollution, depletion of oil resources, traffic congestion and vsafety.

Click here to answer the questions*. Use skimming and scanning techniques to help you complete them.

Skimming and scanning are always good techniques to practice as they will help you decrease the amount of time it takes to complete the reading section on the IELTS test.

*Click on the link ‘Identifying information’ to find the article, ‘The Motor Car’, and questions related to the article.

 



Ashlee Hunter

Ashlee has been involved in the ESL world for over ten years and has now planted her roots in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Nothing gives her more pleasure than watching students and candidates reach their language and IELTS goals.

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