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Four Types of Reading in English

Updated on April 10, 2012

Making English reading faster and more fun

Do you hate reading in English because it's too slow and difficult?

Here are some ways to make it easier and more fun!

First, did you know that there are four types of reading skills? They are called "skimming," "scanning," "detail reading," and "reading for pleasure," and each one is used in different situations.


Reading fast for an overview

When you “skim” an article, your eyes pass over it quickly to get only the general idea of the text. You don’t read every word, and you don’t think about the details of the text. This is the type of reading you do when you are waiting in the dentist’s office and you pick up a magazine to look through the articles quickly.

To practice “skimming,” take an article in English and read over it in only one minute. Then, try to say the main idea of the article in one or two sentences.


Looking for specific information

When you “scan” a text, you read it fast while looking for specific information.

This is the type of reading that you do when you read the classified ads in a newspaper – your eyes “scan” over the page, looking for a specific detail: for example, a motorcycle for sale that costs less than $5,000. When your eyes see an ad with the number $4,500, you stop and read that particular ad.

To practice “scanning,” get a text with a lot of numbers: dates, prices, etc. and give yourself 5 minutes to find the significance of each number in the text.

Detail reading

Deep understanding of the details

This is the kind of reading that you do when you need to deeply understand and analyze a text. You read slowly and carefully, trying to understand every detail. This is the type of reading you often do when you are doing research on a topic for a class, or when you are analyzing a business proposal. You often take notes on what you read.

To practice “detail reading,” take a more difficult text and read it slowly, looking up any words you don’t know in the dictionary. After you finish, try describing (in your own words) the main ideas of the text in detail.

Reading for pleasure

Relax and read something you enjoy!

This is the type of reading you do for fun! You read at medium speed, not too fast and not too slow. To practice reading for pleasure, read a book, magazine, or website about a topic that you really enjoy. Don’t worry too much about the new words, just read and enjoy the process!

What kind of reading should I do on English exams?

Don't make this common mistake

Many English exams include a reading comprehension section, where you read a text and respond to questions. A lot of students waste too much time on this part because they make the error of doing "detail reading" from the beginning of the text. If you spend too much time on the reading, you won't have enough time to finish the rest of the test.

The best way to read on an English exam is to read the questions first so that you know what information to look for in the text. Then, "scan" the text to find the answers. When you find the part of the text that is on the same topic as the question, stop scanning and read only that part more slowly to get the answer.


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