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TOEFL | An overview
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is an integral milestone for non-native English speakers seeking international academic opportunities. With four key sections — reading, writing, listening, and speaking — it challenges a candidate’s comprehensive grasp of the English language. Of these, the reading section can often seem daunting, but understanding and utilizing key strategies such as skimming and scanning can significantly streamline your preparation and enhance your performance.
This article aims to help you understand the difference between skimming and scanning, learn their meaning, explore examples, and ultimately utilize these strategies to optimize your TOEFL success.
Understanding skimming and scanning
Skimming and scanning are two reading strategies that, while similar, serve distinct purposes. Understanding the difference between skimming and scanning is essential to use each effectively during your TOEFL reading section.
- Skimming: This refers to quickly going through a passage to get an overall understanding or gist. When you skim, you’re looking for the main ideas, general themes, and key points. Skimming often involves reading each paragraph’s introduction, conclusion, and first sentence, ignoring finer details.
- Scanning: Contrarily, scanning is a technique used to find specific information within a text. When scanning, you’re not reading for overall understanding; you’re hunting for names, numbers, dates, or specific details that answer a particular question.
The key difference between skimming and scanning is their purpose; skimming is for an overall understanding while scanning seeks specific details.
Still confused about the difference between skimming and scanning? Let’s look at it with an example:
- Skimming: If a passage is about the history of the Roman Empire, skimming might reveal that it discusses the rise and fall of the empire, key emperors, significant wars, and the impact on modern civilization.
- Scanning: If a question asks, “Who was the emperor during the peak of the Roman Empire?” scanning helps you quickly locate the specific answer, “Augustus.”
Understanding this difference between skimming and scanning and knowing when to use each technique is crucial for acing the TOEFL reading section.
Applying skimming and scanning in the TOEFL reading section
The TOEFL reading section is a timed test, with only 54-72 minutes to read and answer questions about 3-4 passages. Hence, time management is crucial, and that’s where skimming and scanning shine.
- Skimming: The moment you see a passage, start by skimming. You’re aiming to identify the passage’s main idea, the author’s perspective, and the general structure of the text. This overall understanding will help you answer direct questions about the main idea and give you a roadmap of where certain information may be in the text.
- Scanning: After skimming, turn to the questions. Now, use scanning to find answers to specific questions. With the overall understanding from your initial skim, you should have an idea of where to find particular details within the passage.
Skimming and scanning are not independent but rather complementary strategies. This approach allows you to navigate the reading section efficiently, saving valuable time and improving your chances of a higher score.
Effective techniques for skimming and scanning
Applying skimming and scanning techniques effectively is not just about understanding their meaning; it’s also about knowing how to use them practically. Here are some tips:
- Title and subheadings: Look at the title and subheadings first. They often summarize the main ideas.
- First and last sentence: Read each paragraph’s first and last sentences. These often hold key points.
- Pay attention to bold or italicized words: These usually indicate important concepts or terms.
- Ignore less important details: Skip over specific examples, dates, or detailed explanations during this phase. Your aim is to understand the general theme.
- Know what you’re looking for: Have a clear idea of the information you need before you start scanning.
- Use visual guides: Use your finger or a pointer to guide your vision and maintain focus while scanning.
- Look for keywords: Look for keywords related to the information you need. If you’re looking for a date, your eyes should be scanning for numbers.
Remember, the purpose of these techniques is to save time and quickly retrieve the needed information. Practicing these skimming and scanning examples can significantly enhance your speed and comprehension abilities.
Skimming and scanning practice
Now that you understand what is skimming and scanning, the best way to master these techniques is through practice. There are numerous online resources where you can find TOEFL reading passages to exercise skimming and scanning. Practicing with these resources will help you better distinguish between skimming and scanning and apply these techniques effectively during your TOEFL test.
- Skimming and scanning are two distinct reading strategies. Skimming provides an overall understanding, while scanning helps locate specific information.
- These are great techniques that will help you nail the TOEFL reading section.
- Understanding the difference between skimming and scanning is critical to employing each technique effectively during the TOEFL reading section.
- Skimming is for getting an overall understanding of the text, while scanning is for finding specific details.
- Skimming and scanning are complementary strategies. Combining them allows you to navigate the reading section efficiently, saving time and improving your chances of a higher score.
We hope this blog helped you understand the difference between skimming and scanning through their difference, meanings, and a few examples. If you have any doubts or questions regarding TOEFL preparation, feel free to reach out to us or drop your queries in the comment section below. We would be happy to help.
Like this blog? Read more: TOEFL Essay | Importance of persuasive language!
Q1. How much time should I allocate for skimming and scanning versus reading and answering questions?
Ans- Time allocation depends on your reading speed and the complexity of the passage. As a general guideline, aim to spend about 25-30% of your time on skimming and scanning, while the remaining 70-75% should be dedicated to reading and answering questions. Adapt this ratio based on your personal strengths and the difficulty level of the passages.
Q2. What are some examples of skimming and scanning in reading?
Ans- In the context of TOEFL reading, skimming might involve reading each paragraph’s introduction, conclusion, and the first sentence to understand the main idea. Scanning might involve looking for specific details like names, numbers, or dates that answer a particular question.
Q3. How can I improve my skimming and scanning skills?
Ans- Practice is key. Utilize online resources with TOEFL reading passages to hone your skimming and scanning abilities. Also, employing the skimming and scanning techniques discussed in this article can significantly enhance your skills.
Q4. How can I avoid overlooking important details while skimming?
Ans- Create a methodical skimming approach to avoid missing crucial information. Before moving on to each paragraph’s first and last sentences, read the title and subheadings first. Additionally, pay attention to words and phrases that are bolded or italicized because they frequently point to significant concepts or terms.