Skimming in IELTS
Skimming is used for:
- pre-reading the text for the overall meaning, and
- to quickly check if you have located the correct part of a text.
Let’s take an example of a newspaper here. While reading a newspaper, we usually read the headlines. If it attracts us, we read the entire story. This helps us cover every news published in the newspaper within 10-15 minutes. Thus, it saves time.
Similar is the case with IELTS Reading module. You are given a long passage and some questions related to it. You need to find the correct answer from the given passage. Skimming helps you take a quick look through the passage. You will understand what it is about, its structure and the way it is written.
Remember, you are not finding any particular information while you skim the passage. It is just meant to obtain an overview.
- If provided, read the title of the passage.
- Read the topic sentence and last sentence of each paragraph.
- Encircle or underline the important words (bolded, italicized, date, name…).
- Note down titles, subtitles or headings, if given.
Here’s a picture that illustrates skimming process:
What are some skimming techniques?
Always think about the title, headings, and topic sentences, as they are the main ideas. Always read the major parts such as the titles and headings carefully. The main idea of entire readings, sections, or paragraphs should become clear when doing this.
Reading either the first sentence, or the first and last sentence of a paragraph is another great skimming technique. The first and/or last sentence of a paragraph will provide information about the general overview of the paragraph. Heading match and title match questions are easier to answer when using this technique.
For example, get the main idea of the paragraphs by reading the first and last sentence:
There are now over 700 million motor vehicles in the world – and the number is rising by more than 40 million each year.
This dependence on motor vehicles has given rise to major problems, including environmental pollution, depletion of oil resources, traffic congestion and safety.
While emissions from new cars are far less harmful than they used to be, city streets and motorways are becoming more crowded than ever, often with older trucks, buses and taxis which emit excessive levels of smoke and fumes.
In Mexico City, vehicle pollution is a major health hazard.
Until a hundred years ago, most journeys were in the 20km range, the distance conveniently accessible by horse.
Can it avoid being locked into congested and polluting ways of transporting people and goods?
In Europe most cities are still designed for the old modes of transport.
Other social effects have been blamed on the car such as alienation and aggressive human behaviour.
A 1993 study by the European Federation for Transport and Environment found that car transport is seven times as costly as rail travel in terms of the external social costs it entails – congestion, accidents, pollution, loss of cropland and natural habitats, depletion of oil resources, and so on.
It is unrealistic to expect people to give up private cars in favour of mass transit.
Technical solutions can reduce the pollution problem and increase the fuelled efficiency of engines.
Besides, global car use is increasing at a faster rate than the improvement in emissions and fuel efficiency which technology is now making possible.
Some argue that the only long-term solution is to design cities and neighbourhoods so that car journeys are not necessary – all essential services being located within walking distance or easily accessible by public transport.
But few democratic communities are blessed with the vision – and the capital – to make such profound changes in modern lifestyles.
A more likely scenario seems to be a combination of mass transit systems for travel into and around cities, with small ‘low emission’ cars for urban use and larger hybrid or lean burn cars for use elsewhere.
In most developing countries, old cars and old technologies continue to predominate.
Reading the introduction and conclusion of a passage is one skimming technique when doing questions like a title match. This will allow you to get the main idea of the reading passage.
In order to get the general overview of the reading passage, read the first and last paragraph.
There are now over 700 million motor vehicles in the world – and the number is rising by more than 40 million each year. The average distance driven by car users is growing too – from 8 km a day per person in western Europe in 1965 to 25 km a day in 1995. This dependence on motor vehicles has given rise to major problems, including environmental pollution, depletion of oil resources, traffic congestion and safety.
A more likely scenario seems to be a combination of mass transit systems for travel into and around cities, with small ‘low emission’ cars for urban use and larger hybrid or lean burn cars for use elsewhere. Electronically tolled highways might be used to ensure that drivers pay charges geared to actual road use. Better integration of transport systems is also highly desirable – and made more feasible by modern computers. But these are solutions for countries which can afford them. In most developing countries, old cars and old technologies continue to predominate.
More practice: Skimming practice