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TOEFL iBT - Skimming

Skimming is a reading technique that enables you to read information quickly to get the gist of an article or passage. You are simply trying to get a general idea of what is written. Based on your skimming, you may decide whether the information is relevant to your needs at the time. This is what we all do when we look over the newspaper, for example.

Sometimes skimming is confused with scanning. Although scanning also involves reading quickly, the objective is different – to look for specific information. While scanning, you may not read the whole text and will most likely stop reading as soon as you locate what you are looking for in the text. On the other hand, while skimming, you will probably read quickly all the way through to the end to gather all the main ideas.

On the TOEFL iBT, you will need to use scanning techniques in the Reading, Writing, and Speaking sections of the exam. For example, in the reading section, you may be given anywhere from 3 to 5 passages, each of which is approximately 600-700 words in length, followed by 8 to 12 questions. The only way you can complete the tasks effectively is by skimming through the passage first and then going back to scan or locate the specific information  you need to answer the questions.

All general ESL reading textbooks have exercises related to skimming. In addition, general English reading textbooks also devote chapters to developing this important skill, which everyone uses in every language.