Reading IELTS test questions quickly gives more time to write better, more complete answers, which get better marks.
Being able to read the passages in the IELTS Reading Test quickly gives you more time to answer the questions accurately, especially, for example, the True/False or Not Given ones, or deciding which of the sub-headings belongs to which paragraph in the passage.
That’s obvious isn’t it?
Well, yes, but the key to doing it successfully is understanding what you are reading and that’s when it can get difficult, so it takes practice. The most important thing is to give your brain enough information to work on to prepare your answer. The brain will start to digest and understand what it is reading from a surprisingly small amount of information.
Skimming and scanning are two techniques which could be used to read and answer IELTS reading tests. Both methods should be used for the test.
What’s the difference between them?
Skimming – to get the gist
Skimming is fast reading to get the general idea of the text. Different techniques for skimming include:
- Running your eyes over the text getting the general meaning – not stopping at words that you don’t understand as this will slow you down.
- Just reading the first and last paragraphs of a text and summaries as well.
- Looking for the ‘topic sentence’ – the most important idea/sentence of each paragraph.
- Just reading the title, subtitles and looking at the illustrations if there are any.
The key thing about the ‘topic sentence’ is that after the topic sentence, the rest is just more description of the main idea. Topic sentences are normally the first sentence of the
paragraph and sometimes the last sentence.
The important thing with skimming is speed. Get the information into your head and let your brain start to work its magic. Practising finding the topic sentence, for example, can improve reading speeds by about 70%.
From the list above, reading a text quickly to get the general meaning is the most comprehensive method but it depends on your reading speed. If you are a slow reader in English you really need to practise to improve. You don’t need IELTS reading texts for this. Good English newspapers (the ones with serious articles instead of naked women and celebrity
gossip!) and informative magazines are fine.
Try using one every day by reading articles as quickly as you can. Once you have done it, read it again slowly to see how much you understood.
Do this with as many articles as possible every day and your speed, and understanding, will quickly improve.
Scanning – to get to what’s needed quickly
This is a different skill to skimming and a good technique for the IELTS Reading Tests. It is the approach that your brain uses for tasks like reading a telephone book or a dictionary. You are not starting at the top and reading every line left to right as you would read a novel:
- Your eyes move quickly over the page, flitting around the text, back andacr oss and up and down.
- Your brain is searching for specific information: a word or name.
- You read the question and then you search for key words or ideas associated with the question – you are almost using a second sense to find the information you need.
For IELTS reading scanning is a powerful technique as you are usually searching for some specific information to answer the question asked.
Scanning is a very different technique to skimming. To practise you use long texts (from newspapers, magazines or other sources) and get a friend to read it. Then your friend must ask you to find key ideas or words as quickly as possible. Again, if you do this frequently, your speed will quickly improve.
Give yourself a chance to improve your IELTS Reading Test scores by practising skimming and scanning.