Difference between Skimming and Scanning

By: | Updated: Nov-11, 2021
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You have done both of these things many times before but you just did not know this is what you were doing. You did this every time you looked at a document in a hurry to see what it was about or you quickly glanced to find some information you needed. So, what is skimming, what is scanning, and what is the difference between them?

Summary Table

Skimming Scanning
A fast reading method that gives you an idea of what the text is about without having to read it in full A fast reading method that allows you to find specific information in a text
Means reading the introduction, the headlines, or the first phrase of a paragraph Means going through an article quickly looking for a date or a quote
Implies not having read the text before Implies previously knowing the information you are looking for


girl reading a book
A girl reading a book

Skimming is a reading technique that allows readers to get the gist of a text without having to read the whole thing in full. When skimming, people will usually look at chapters or subtitles, and even at the first phrase of a well-written paragraph. The main purpose is to get an idea of what the text is about.

Scanning is another method of fast reading, but this one is reserved for people looking through the text to find specific information. For example, when you are writing a paper and you quickly look through a text to double check a date, a number or a fact. It’s the same thing a computer does with the “find” function, but you have to do it yourself.

Skimming vs Scanning

The difference between skimming and scanning consists of purpose and technique.


Skimming is a reading technique meant to give you an idea of what the full text is about. Scanning is meant to help you find specific information in a text.


Skimming techniques include reading the introduction, the headlines, or the first phrase of the paragraph. On the other hand, scanning means looking over the whole text quickly in search of specific information.

You skim a text at first sight and decide on whether to read it in full. However, when it comes to scanning, it is implied that you know at least the information you are looking for.


You can spot people scanning a text as they will be more concerned with the form of words and will tend to use their fingers to go through the text and not jump around. A must in case of scanning is that the reader knows what information he is looking for.

On the other hand, people can use skimming to decide whether they will read the text in full. You can use this technique in the library to tell whether a book contains the necessary information for a paper, or in a bookshop to see whether a book is worth buying.

How to Skim

Step 1: Find some good reading material that are interesting enough for you to read them all. You can use your favourite search engine or websites. You can also check with your local library, if they have one in your area.

Step 2: Once you find some reading materials such as books that interest you, make sure they are well-written and not too hard to understand before starting your skimming practice. If they are written in a foreign language or too hard for you, then skip them right away because it will take more time than needed for this reading technique.

Step 3: Open up the first page of the book you are reading and look at the title of the book. If it is not written in English, you can read the first few sentences to get an idea of what is going on in the story. You can also find out whether this book is interesting for you by reading the first few pages or the table of contents to learn the general of idea. You may pay special attention to typographical cues-subheadings, boldface or italic type.

Step 4: Read through the title page and read about 5-10 sentences on it to get a general overview of the material. This will give you enough information to make an educated guess of specific question such as about what is going on in the story.

Step 5: Once you are done with reading about 5-10 sentences, move to the next page and look at it closely to see if it fits with your initial understanding of what was written in step 4. This way, you can check if your initial guess was correct or not.

If it wasn’t, then move to step 6; otherwise, go back to step 4 and continue checking through all pages until you find out what happens in the book (unless there are no more pages left).

Step 6: After checking all pages thoroughly, if you are still not sure about what happened in the story, then do a little more research online or go to your local library to see if they have any books on the same topic. This will give you a more accurate understanding of what happened in the story.

Step 7: Once you are done with your research, go back to step 4 and repeat the steps above again.

Applying Skimming on IELTS

IELTS is a system of standardized tests designed to evaluate students’ English language proficiency. Students taking the tests are often from non-English speaking countries and their native language is often not English.

In the ELTS, there are two types of question formats: scanning and skimming. In scanning, students look at each sentence of the given text separately to find specific facts or specific word.

In skimming, students take notes as they read through the given text to answer the questions in faster rate than . This is a much more efficient way of answering the questions.

Skimming helps you take notes as you read through a text so that you can answer questions more quickly and efficiently. You can also refer back to your notes as you go through a text if you have any doubts about what has been written in the text.

If you skim well, it will help your overall score in an exam because it saves time and makes your time more efficient. It will also allow you to use your time more effectively for reading other materials or doing other things that will benefit your overall knowledge of a subject area.

Skimming does not necessarily mean going over every word in a text but rather focusing on important information within a particular paragraph or sentence. In IELTS, you can get the main idea of the paragraphs by reading the first and last sentence.

How to Master Scanning Reading Skills

Scanning is a used when you want to find specific information such as figures or names from a large quantity reading material quickly.

Scanning helps readers to quickly see details about a passage without stopping and taking in too much specific information at once.

The main point is to have a general idea of what you are looking for when you scan. You don’t need to be perfect at this, so if you find yourself scanning over the same part of the text several times, you can take a break and go back to it later. Just remember that the more time spent with a passage in isolation from other passages, the better it will be for this skill.

Here are 5 steps to help you to master scanning reading strategy:

Step 1: The first step is a very important one. If you are reading a book with a high level of complexity, try using scanning mode. If the book had been written for younger readers, then this step may not have been necessary. To learn how to scan read and increase your reading speed, start by reading a short passage from the book aloud, without looking at the words on the page.

The reason for doing this is that you can immediately see if you have got everything right. This means that if your reading is accurate, and you have made no mistakes, then your ear should be good enough to ensure that your eyes follow correctly too.

This will mean that your confidence in scanning reading will grow very quickly, and you will find it easy to continue with this exercise for longer periods of time without feeling bored or tired.

Step 2: The second step is to read for about 15 minutes a day. At first, you will probably find that scanning reading is very boring and difficult. However, as you become more used to this technique, it will become easier and easier to do, and you will be able to increase the time spent doing it.

Step 3: The third step is also important because it can make scanning reading more enjoyable. You can also use music as an aid when scanning and reading books. Many people find that they prefer to listen to music while they are doing this exercise, and it can help them concentrate on what they are doing and stop them from thinking about other things during their training sessions.

It may be better if you use a piece of music that has no lyrics so that your mind does not have too much of a break from what you are doing at any one time.

Step 4: Finally, if all else fails, then try reading without any distractions at all — just concentrate on what is being said in the book. However, be aware that you will need to get used to this step before you can get any benefit from it.

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