Reading: How To Use Skimming and Scanning to Beat the Clock

Are you worried about the amount of time you are given in the reading test? This is a common and completely warranted fear. It is impossible to read each passage in full and give the requisite attention to the questions.

Use the techniques of skimming and scanning to help you get the score you need. Please understand that these skills require certain procedures in order to be effective. You cannot simply look the passage over, reading words and phrases willy-nilly.

Below are the procedures you should be following in order to effectively skim and scan texts. Practice these skills as much as possible so that they are habitual come test day.


Get a general understanding of the article by skimming.


1. Read the title. It is the most concise summary of the text.

2. Read the first paragraph in full. This paragraph will give you further understanding of what the text is about, along with the author’s style and opinion on the topic.

3. Read the first sentence of each remaining paragraph. This should tell you what the rest of the paragraph is about. However, if the first sentence is a question or part of a short story, you will want to read the last sentence of the paragraph as well.

4. Read any subheadings you find in the text and think about how they are all related. Subheadings serve the same function as the main title and summarize the text that follows them.

5. As you skim each paragraph, look for the following:

  • Words/phrases that are italic, bold, or underlined. The author made them stand out for a reason.
  • The answers to who, what, where, when, why, and how
  • Proper nouns
  • Superlative adjectives (best, worst, least, etc.)

6. Read the final paragraph in full. This will also provide you with the general idea of the text and the author’s position.

**Remember, as you skim the text, it is very important that you underline key facts, words, and phrases. This will help you locate the information quickly.


Find important information in the text by scanning.


1. Keep focused on the information you are looking for. It is more likely to jump out to you than other information in the text.

2. Consider what you are looking for. A date? A proper noun? A key term? Then scan for the appropriate forms, such as numbers or capitalized words.

3. Use your underlined skimming to lead you to the paragraph or sentence with the correct answer.

4. Once you have found the paragraph or sentence that is likely to contain the answer, read it completely.

5. Repeat

**Remember, scanning requires that you skip over large sections of text. Do not let this freak you out. You are not meant to read more than is necessary.

As always, happy studying. Please reach out if you have questions. :)


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