19Scanning for Answers in Reading

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

Just in case some of you don’t know what scanning is, here is a brief explanation. Scanning is when you look at questions and then try to quickly locate the answers in the reading. Perhaps many of you have never thought about this. However, this is a very important skill at NIC & abroad.

Basically, when you enter NIC, you will take a diagnostic test. After that, you will take many exams, tests & quizzes which require scanning. So as you can see, when taking thes tests and others like TOEFL, scanning is very important. By knowing what you are looking for, you can locate answers to questions faster.

Here are some important rules for scanning:

  1. Know what information you are looking for before you begin (read the questions carefully)
  2. Look at the title/headline and any other pictures with the article to help you
  3. Do not read the whole text carefully
  4. Look for key words, dates, numbers and other clues to help you find the information you are looking for

Scanning Activity

This is an activity that you can do in your spare time. First, find an article that you are interested in. Try to choose one that is not too long (less than 500 words). It can be from a magazine, the Internet, or a newspaper. Next, try to answer the following questions about the article.

  1. Based on the title (headline) what is the topic of the article?
  2. Dates? Any important dates? When does the action of the article take place?
  3. Where? Where does the action of the article take place?
  4. Who? Name one or two people in the article and briefly tell who they are.
  5. What? What is the writer’s main purpose of the article?
  6. Numbers/Statistics? Are there a few important numbers or statistics that you found in the article?

Time:

Now try to locate the answers to these questions as fast as you can. Time yourself. Remember, you don’t have to read each sentence to locate these answers. Work on improving your speed over time.

Below is a sample of the Scanning Activity:
Sample article from http://www.timeforkids.com

New Election Set in Ukraine

After two weeks of protests against Ukraine’s presidential election, the Ukraine Supreme Court ruled the election invalid. A new election run-off will be held on December 26.

The Supreme Court's decision was greeted with cheers from supporters of presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko, who was declared the loser in the November 21 election. Calling the Supreme Court judges "real heroes," Yuschenko said, "Freedom and truth are returning to Ukraine following today’s decision." The judges met for five days before they made their final decision.

Since Ukraine's election on November 21, tens of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The crowds braved freezing temperatures to protest election results. Many wore orange to show support for Yuschenko. Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, rallies were staged to show support for, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was initially declared the winner.

The Ukraine is deeply divided over the election results. When the government declared Yanukovych the winner on November 21, supporters of Yuschenko took to the streets in protest. They said the election was tainted by fraud.

Election monitors recorded acts of harassment and intimidation at the polls. They also noted multiple voting by some people in addition to a strangely high voter turnout. In some areas, there were accusations of ballot boxes being burned. As a result, protesters remained in Kiev, hoping to overturn the election results.

This is the Ukraine's fourth presidential election since it became an independent country in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The election crisis has pitted the pro-Russia mostly Russian speaking eastern section against the Western-leaning mostly Ukrainian speaking rest of the country.

Akiko Miyata

  1. Based on the title (headline) what is the topic of the article?

    Elections in the Ukraine

  2. Dates? Any important dates? When does the action of the article take place?

    December 26th: new elections!

  3. Where? Where does the action of the article take place?

    Kiev, Ukraine

  4. Who? Name one or two people in the article and briefly tell who they are.

    Yuschenko (pro-Western politician) & Yanukovych (pro-Russian politician)

  5. What? What is the writer’s main purpose of the article?

    To announce that the Supreme Court said the past elections were illegal.

  6. Numbers/Statistics? Are there a few important numbers or statistics that you found in the article?

    over 10,000 people in the streets were protesting; 4th presidential election in Ukraine

Time: 2 minutes

Of course, when you read for pleasure, read at a comfortable pace. However, sometimes when you are taking a test you have to locate information quickly through scanning. As you can see, you can improve your scanning ability & learn a lot from doing this. I located these answers in less than 2 minutes. How fast can you locate the answers from your article? Good luck!