Improve your English reading skills – Part 3: Scan-reading

timetableContinuing with our Improve your English reading skills series, this week let’s look at scan-reading.

When do we ‘scan’?

We scan-read when we already know what information we are looking for. For example:

  • when we are reading a train timetable
  • when we are looking for an entry in a dictionary
  • when we are looking for a name in a phone book
  • when we are looking for information on a specific point in a non-fiction book

How to do it:

  • Don’t read every word, just look for keywords related to the information you need.
  • Don’t just read from left to right. It’s important to be flexible when scanning. Sometimes looking from the top to the bottom of the page to find the title, subtitle, or information you are looking for is more efficient.
  • Don’t let irrelevant information distract you. Focus on what you are looking for and ignore parts of the text that are not related to it.
  • Be prepared to change your reading style. Once you spot the information you need, you will need to change your reading style and focus on reading for detail. We’ll look at that aspect in more detail next week. After you have found out whatever it was you were looking for, you can switch back to scanning and continue reading through the rest of the document.

What documents have you ‘scan-read’ recently?

Today’s image is by Monique.

Improve your English reading skills – Part 1: Styles of reading

readingBefore you can start to improve your English reading skills, you need to decide on which which styles of reading you will use most and where your strengths and weaknesses are.

Let’s have a look at the four main styles of reading and work out which aspects you need to work on in order to improve your English reading skills overall.

1. Skimming – This is when you read quickly, just trying to get an impression of the overall meaning of a text.
Examples: reading a newspaper or magazine, looking at an advert.

2. Scanning – When you ‘scan’, you are looking for a specific piece of information within the text.
Examples: looking at a timetable to find out when your train leaves, looking for a number in a phone book.

3. Reading for detail – This is when you pay attention to every single word and spend time thinking about what each individual sentence means.
Examples: reading a grammar explanation, reading the instructions for an exercise in a textbook.

4. Reading for a deeper meaning – This is when you read quickly through a long text and think about the overall meaning. You might consider that there is some hidden deeper meaning. Maybe it relates to another topic or maybe it is making some kind of political statement.
Example: reading a novel.

Try some of the examples I have mentioned here and find out which areas you feel most comfortable with and which you need to work on.

Why are you learning English and which of these skills do you think you will need to use most?

Once you have decided which of these types of English reading skills you need to work on, you will be able to focus on it and really start making some major improvements.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be going into each of these skills in more detail so remember to check back to see all the latest updates.

This is part of my ‘Tuesday Tips‘ series. Every Tuesday, I share a simple tip on how to improve your language skills. Some of these are techniques I use with students in class and others are things I’ve found work well when learning languages myself. If you decide to try them out, let me know how they went by leaving a comment below the article. Click here to see some more tips on how to improve your English.

Today’s image is by Zsuzsanna Kilian.