How to Do Skimming in a Reading Comprehension Test

Skimming is reading fast but still understanding what you read.

. To skim is to read quickly, looking for main ideas in a text. Your main objective should be to understand the main point of the text, not minor details. Effective skimming increases reading speed and understanding, making you more efficient at learning material and completing research.

Read the title and any subtitles to obtain clues about the nature of the text. Titles will indicate whether a text is persuasive, informative or narrative. Figuring out the type of text will help you determine what kind of purpose it will have and what kind of information you will need to glean from it. For example, in a persuasive text, you will need to locate the argument.

Read any comprehension questions included with the text. You only need to read enough to answer the questions, so knowing the questions ahead of time can help you filter your reading. If a question asks for a specific fact, such as a date or name, quickly locate the information in the article and move on to the next question, before reading the text in full.

Glance over each paragraph in the text, paying closer attention to the first sentences of each paragraph, which are often topic sentences. Also, look at the last sentence in each paragraph, which summarizes or concludes the ideas in the preceding sentences.

Verify your answers by reading the sentence where the answer is located. When skimming, you are reading quickly and can easily overlook or the misinterpret the context that surrounds a piece of information. A writer may introduce a date or idea, but then declare it to be someone else's and present her own theory. Read the sentence where the information is found, as well the sentences before and after, to confirm your answer.

  • Don't read every word in the text. Look at a sentence as a whole, noting key words and ignoring minor ones.
  • Focus only on the information in the text, even if you are aware of facts that contradict or overrule them.

Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.