What is scanning?
Scanning is a reading skill that is used when you have a specific word or phrase in your mind that you want to locate quickly in a text. As your eyes move quickly over the passage, the word or phrase you have in your mind will catch your eye. Scanning is a reading skill that is used to locate specific information, words or phrases quickly in order to answer a question, whereas skimming is used to get an overview so you can understand the main idea of a paragraph or passage.
Why do you scan?
In the IELTS Reading test, you scan a passage for two purposes.
- To find answers to Short Answer questions. In this question type we scan for key words in the question and for the specific information needed to answer the question. The specific information could be:-
- names to answer a question beginning “Who…?”
- places to answer a question beginning “ Where…?”
- dates to answer a question beginning “When…?”
- numbers to answer a question beginning “How much…?” “ How many…?” “How long …?”
- other information to answer a question beginning “What…?”
- For all other Specific Information question types, to locate where an answer is in the passage. In other question types, you scan for a specific phrase or key word (or words with a similar meaning) from the question. When you find this key word or phrase in the passage, you can then read intensively for detail to get an answer.
The scanning process
The following three-step process can be followed to scan:-
|Step 1Identify the key words in the question. These words indicate what you need to scan for.Underline them.Keep them in your mind.|
|Step 2Scan the passage for the key words (or words with similar meaning) from the question.When you locate these key words (or words with similar meaning) in the passage, circle them.|
|Step 3Read the sentence(s) with the key words to find the answer.|
Demonstrating the process of scanning to answer a Short Answer question
Let’s look at an example Short Answer question for the passage:-
|Question 1Answer the following question using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.1 Where can prehistoric cave paintings be found?………………………………………………|
Let’s now use the three-step scanning process below to answer Question 1.
|Step 1Identify the key words in the question. These words indicate what you need to scan for.Underline them.Keep them in your mind.The question word is Where so you need to scan for a place name.The other key words to scan for are prehistoric cave paintings.Where can prehistoric cave paintings be found ?Note that in Short Answer questions the question word (Who, What, Why, When, Where, How…) is a key word.|
|Step 2Scan the passage for the key words (or words with similar meaning) from the question.When you locate these key words (or words with similar meaning) in the passage, circle them.It’s a good idea to use your pencil or finger to scan the passage for the key words ‘prehistoric cave paintings’. You can also scan for a place namebecause the question word is Where.Note that when you skimmed the passage The Use of Comics in Education you wrote notes next to each paragraph and you circled names of people and places. Now you can use these notes to help you choose which paragraph to scan. To answer this question, we can go to Paragraph A because we know the main idea of Paragraph A is the use of comics thousands of years ago. This has a similar meaning to prehistoric in the question.As you scan, your eyes will catch sight of the words ‘prehistoric cave paintings’ in Paragraph A. Then you need to scan for the name of a place (possibly in the same sentence) which will answer the question, Where…?ORRemember that some place names might have been circled while you were skimming, so you may find it easier to scan for the name of a place first and then locate the key words ‘prehistoric cave paintings’.|
|Step 3Read the sentence(s) with the key words to find the answer.Read intensively the sentence with the key words ‘prehistoric cave paintings’and the place names ‘Lascaux’, ‘France’ i.e., ‘Prehistoric cave paintings from areas such as Lascaux in France’ . You should note that the words ‘from areas’ tell you that what follows is a place name and that this is where you will find the answer to the question Where… ?The answer is Lascaux.|
For all other question types that require you to find more detailed information, the scanning process is the same, but the purpose is slightly different. The purpose is to find the location of the answer in the passage.
By scanning you do not find the answer but you find where the answer is located. Now you need to read slowly around these words to find the answer. This is reading intensively for detail.