Reading techniques

Skimming, scanning, intensive reading, extensive reading

1 . Skimming

Skimming is sometimes referred to as gist reading. Skimming may help in order to know what the text is about at its most basic level.


You might typically do this with a magazine or newspaper and would help you mentally and quickly shortlist those articles which you might consider for a deeper read.


Comprehension is very low and understanding of overall content very superficial.

Types of skimming

What to look for while skimming?

  • Key words: The stock market is headed for a record.
  • Topic sentences: At times there are sentences within a paragraph that basically summarize everything that you should have gathered from your reading. For example, in most newspapers the first sentence is usually a topic sentence because it gives you an image of what you are about to read.Topic sentences are found usually in the first paragraph or the last one depending on what you are reading.

2 . Scanning

Picture yourself visiting a historical city, guide book in hand. You would most probably just scan the guide book to see which site you might want to visit.


Scanning involves getting your eyes to quickly scuttle across sentence and is used to get just a simple piece of information.


Something students sometimes do not give enough importance to is illustrations. These should be included in your scanning. Special attention to the introduction and the conclusion should also be paid.

3 . Intensive reading

You need to have your aims clear in mind when undertaking intensive reading. Remember this is going to be far more time consuming than scanning or skimming. If you need to list the chronology of events in a long passage, you will need to read it intensively.


This type of reading has indeed beneficial to language learners as it helps them understand vocabulary by deducing the meaning of words in context. It moreover, helps with retention of information for long periods of time and knowledge resulting from intensive reading persists in your long term memory.


This is one reason why reading huge amounts of information just before an exam does not work very well. When students do this, they undertake neither type of reading process effectively, especially neglecting intensive reading. They may remember the answers in an exam but will likely forget everything soon afterwards.

7 Principles of intensive reading

4. Extensive reading

Extensive reading involves reading for pleasure. Because there is an element of enjoyment in extensive reading it is unlikely that students will undertake extensive reading of a text they do not like.