Key reading skills to improve reading comprehension and speed

Whether you’re practicing  for your IELTS reading test or for your school coursework – you should be familiar with the following strategies. Pre-reading skills are important in helping you improve your overall reading comprehension and speed. Rather than diving straight into a “cold” reading of a  difficult passage, try these pre-reading strategies first:

  • Previewing: Gain a sense of the general idea before you read closely. Read the title, subtitles, and take note of pictures/diagrams/quotes that are featured along with any captions. Take note of key vocabulary words. This will help give you some sort of general idea on the topic you’ll be reading about. You can prepare yourself by thinking of what you may already know about the topic – either what you’ve studied before, read before, or experienced. When you read prepared with some background knowledge, it helps you to quickly grasp ideas and understand a difficult reading.
  • Skimming: Skim the reading passage quickly to get a general idea of its content and organization. Read the first sentence of each paragraph quickly to give you an idea of how the passage is organized.

Once you’ve done these two pre-reading skills, you’re ready to do a closer reading because you will have a general idea of the topic along with background information you may already know about the topic.

Having a general sense of how the passage is organized will also help you in understanding an argument as it is developed. It will also help you when you need to locate the right paragraph/section to scan for information when answering questions.

Practice these skills whenever you read an academic article or essay.


I'm an English teacher specializing in IELTS preparation - especially writing and reading. If you have any questions, please ask! You can also sign up for weekly tips and lessons for IELTS and English!

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  1. […] your pre-reading skills and orientate yourself to the reading and questions. Preview the passage by reading the title and […]

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