Reading Skills

Whenever you read, be very clear about why you are reading and what you are looking for. Have the purpose in mind so that you can maintain focus. Purposeful reading helps you to read faster and more selectively, and it also enhances your ability to remember important content. 

Person reading with a pen

Let’s take a look at 2 important Reading Skills to help you in the Reading Section of the TOEFL iBT. They are: Skimming and Scanning.

1. Skimmingreading quickly to have a general idea.

Skimming helps you not only to identify and understand the general idea (gist), but also to consider what you already know, decide if you need to continue reading, and what to read carefully.

When skimming, don’t try to understand every word you read. Instead, focus on the general idea. You can skim a text by paying close attention to:

  • titles/headings/subheadings;
  • text layout and source;
  • text divisions (sections/chapters/subheadings);
  • non-verbal information (graphs, charts, pictures, diagrams);
  • words that are in bold, in italics or underlined;
  • adjectives and adverbs (attributing qualities);
  • connectors of sequence, addition and contrast.

But most importantly, for the TOEFL iBT Reading Section, you should try to read the first sentence of every paragraph and the last sentence of the first and last paragraphs.

2. Scanning: reading to find specific information 

Scanning should be used when you need to identify specific pieces of information that are explicitly stated in the text. Therefore, focus your attention on the key words in the question to read only until you find these key facts in the text.

This is a technique we use every day, as when we look up a phone number, a date or a word in a dictionary. 

Here are some tips for you to practice scanning for information:

  • Scan texts and highlight (even if only mentally) key facts, such as dates and names;
  • Look for Capital Letters, numbers and symbols, and special formatting, such as boldfaced words or italics.