Learn How To Speed Read

learn how to speed read

In this post, we will look at how you can learn to speed read and use those skimming and scanning skills. 

When studying for the IELTS Reading Test, it is important that you take the time to learn how to increase your reading speed, if you are aiming for a band score 7 or higher. During the reading test, you will have texts to read comprising of 1000+ words each. You will not have enough time in the 60 minutes given to read and understand every word in detail. Therefore you must practice with sample tests and learn how to skim read, scan and speed up!

Skimming and Scanning

The differences between skim reading and scanning are;

  • Skimming – a text quickly for the main ideas.
  • Scanning – looking through a text for specific details. 

Skim reading a text means to read it quickly to find the main idea, it will also show you how the information has been organised. With practice, you should be able to skim read around 100 words in 30/40 seconds. 

Scanning a text for specific details is another important skill to develop, as this can help you to find information quickly, like dates, numbers or names. 

For more in-depth information on skimming and scanning please take a look at this post.

Speed Reading

Learning how to increase your reading time will give you many advantages in the reading test, including being able to get a higher band score.

By practising speed reading, you will understand the main ideas quickly and be able to locate the information you need in order to answer the questions. Here are some tips to help you to get started >>

TIP 1 >> Cover It Up

Use a blank sheet of paper to cover the words as you read down the page. this can help to stop your eyes from jumping back to text you have already read.

TIP 2 >> Use A Pencil/Pen To Guide You

Try following the words on the page with a pencil or pen, it can help to increase the speed that you go through the text.

TIP 3 >> Time Yourself

Try timing yourself when you are reading practice texts, how much can you go through in 30/40 seconds? How much of that did you understand?

TIP 4 >> Set Goals

Start practising with sample texts and see how much you can read in two minutes, three minutes or five. then, cut that time down less and less and see how much information from the texts you can remember.

TIP 5 >> Look After Yourself

Know when you work best and set aside some time to prepare. If you work best in the mornings (or evenings), set some time to practice in a quiet environment if you can. Rest those eyes and have a break after 30/60 minutes.  

Exercise 1

Read the text below taken from an article on the BBC News Website. There are four paragraphs, each with around 100 words. 

  • Using a timer – read through the text to understand the main idea
  • After only 30 seconds start reading the next paragraph


“Mean-spirited” and “wrong-headed” is how teachers’ leaders have described Theresa May’s plan to scrap free school meals for infant pupils in England. And perhaps to some, it may seem bullish to deny the youngest kids a free lunch, even if free breakfast is on offer. The move has sparked taunts of “May, the meals snatcher” – reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous cancelling of free school milk. But to Theresa May’s Conservatives, it was a policy that no longer added up. The party does not believe “a free school lunch for every child in the first three years of primary school… is a sensible use of public money”.


It’s one of those tough decisions – but a free breakfast, cheap at a 10th of the price, now seems a more desirable alternative to the Conservatives – although the value of the free-lunch scheme has never been assessed. For some, the idea – brought in by the coalition government in 2014 – was always too expensive. It was very much a Liberal Democrat policy and plans were announced by Nick Clegg at his party’s conference in 2013. It was not long before his man in the education department, the then schools minister David Laws, was accused of understating the costs of the policy itself. 


They say the pressures on their budgets are much more about the unfunded extra costs of teachers’ pay, pensions and national contributions. Valentine Mulholland, head of policy at the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “After the nightmare of bringing this policy in at breakneck speed and all the capital funding spent to upgrade kitchens and dining facilities, it’s pretty sad to see this U-turn.” A BBC News Freedom of Information request just six months before it was due to come into force, in September 2014, found 2,700 primary schools needed new catering facilities before they could even think about offering free meals to all infant pupils.


Mr Courtney’s claim may seem alarmist to some, but it will ring true for many teachers, who often raise the issue of pupil hunger. Nicky Gillhespie, the school business manager at Cheam Fields Primary, said things were very different before her school introduced free school meals.”We had children coming in with nothing. “There were some who’d been given a pound by their parents to stop and get something in the sweet shop for lunch on the way to school,” she said. The school in Cheam, south London, had no kitchen when the free school meals pledge was made and dinners were driven over to the school by a catering firm.


Look at the questions below and answer without looking back at the paragraphs for detail, try to remember where you read this information >>

Question 1.1

A – At the beginning

B – In the middle

C – At the end

1. A comparison of school meals now and in the past

2. Many kitchens and canteens had been renovated

3. Some pupils were given little money to buy food/snacks

Skim read the paragraphs for the answers to the following questions >>

Question 1.2

Which of the titles below would be most appropriate for this article?

A. Children’s school dinners are badly prepared

B. Free school dinners are no longer an option

C. Why free school dinners are soon to be forgotten

D. Why kids love free school lunches

Question 1.3

Which of the following describes the writer’s tone in this article extract?

A. She is giving a neutral account

B. She is showing how shocked she is that school dinners may no longer be free

C. She shows her enthusiasm for the government’s response to school dinners

D. She doubts that the situation will change in the future

Answers are at the bottom of the page.

Review and Strategy

TIP >> Skim read the text for the main idea – don’t worry if you do not understand all of it, read what you need to answer the questions and move on.

TIP >> Know your timing for each question – three texts with 20 minutes each – including transfer time. Answer the easier questions first, so that you can spend a little longer on the hard questions. The easier questions should come first, as the texts get progressively more difficult. 

TIP >> Read the instructions before you do anything – understand what you have to look for before you start reading the questions and the text.

TIP >> Use your other reading skills to help you to increase your reading speed and get the best band score possible!

Answers >>

Question 1.1

A – 1

B – 2

C – 3

Question 1.2


Question 1.3


We hope you found this post useful in helping you to study for the IELTS Test. If you have any questions please let us know in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

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If you need help preparing for the IELTS Test, join the IELTS Achieve Academy and see how we can assist you to achieve your desired band score. We offer an essay correction service, mock exams and online courses.

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