This article will focus on giving advice and exercises for you to complete in order to help you improve your reading skills, which you can carry over into your IELTS reading paper. Improving your reading skills, in general, will help you in the exam and is the best way to start improving your overall score. This article follows on from the previous article about skimming and will focus on improving your skills in scanning and reading for detail.
Scanning involves searching a text quickly for a specific piece of information and is the skill you need for different questions in the exam such as short answer questions and sentence completion. It involves looking for individual words or numbers in a passage without reading the meaning of the text, the paragraph or the sentence. You are not trying to understand what the text is about generally like you are with skimming, you are simply trying to find where the word is in the passage. This can help you find the location for the correct answers.
Look at the text below and practise searching very quickly for the following words/numbers (they may appear more than once):
Hopefully, this will not have taken you too long to go through, but if it did, it is probably because you are not scanning correctly. A piece of advice is not to ‘read’ the article! Many experts believe that scanning is difficult because you are reading the ’normal’ way in English, from left to right. This can slow you down as your brain is trying to process the information – it is trying to read! When you scan, you can try reading from right to left (from the end of the line back to the beginning) and this will stop you from actually trying to understand the text and help you just focus on what you are looking for.
You can also use your finger to help you to locate specific information as it helps focus your attention on the words (but not the meaning) and also helps you keep your place in the passage.
There are several types of questions that require you to find a word or number from the passage and it won’t be as easy as just finding a number, like the activity above. The question may ask you what date something happened and you need to scan the text to locate all the dates in the passage and read around each one you find to answer the question.
We will talk about the second part of this article next week.
If you are serious about taking your IELTS writing to the next level, sign up for your FREE 3 part IELTS writing video course that takes you through both task 1 and task 2. The video lessons are led by our highly experienced UK native IELTS teacher, Katherine. We also provide you with exercises to test your understanding!