Scanning for Details


Hey everyone.

In our lesson today we will practice scanning for details on the IELTS Reading Test. This is an important lesson, because it will help you learn a skill that will save you a lot of time on the reading test.

If you haven’t yet, you should check out our lesson on How to Approach the Reading Test first.

Let's go!


What is Scanning and Why is is important?

Scanning means searching a text for a specific word (like a name, or a number). This is extremely useful on the IELTS Reading Test, because it can save you time by helping you quickly find the location of answers.

For example, take a look at the following question:

scanning for details


For the above question, you can quickly find the location of the answer by scanning the text for the year 2001. This saves you a lot of time, because you can skip huge sections of text while you search. Remember, you don't have to read everything! You just have to answer the questions. So if you can find the location of an answer quickly without reading too much, that will save you a lot of time for harder questions later in the test.


How Do I Scan for Details?

You need to pay attention to scannable words in the question, and underline or circle them.

Remember that most of the words in questions on the IELTS Reading Test will be heavily paraphrased in the text, so scanning is not useful for these words. Luckily, some types of words will never be paraphrased. These words include numbers, dates, names, and technical words.

Any time you see these types of words in a question, underline or circle them! They are very valuable, and can help you find the location of answers really quickly on the reading test.

Here is an example of what a question might look like after you have circled/underlined scannable words:

scanned section


In the above questions, the test taker has identified acronyms (FAA, ATC), names (Grand Canyon, Class F, World War II), and numbers (a year – 1956 – and a measurement – 365m).

These are all scannable and can help you answer a question more quickly, without wasting time reading every single thing in the text.


  • You will not be able to use it for every question, or even half the questions on the IELTS Reading test. But when you do notice a scannable word, that is a great chance to save yourself time.
  • As you improve your scanning skills, you can even scan for things that are paraphrased. For example, you might circle the word “Man-made” in a question, and then notice easily when the text mentions a close synonym, like “artificial”. This is very helpful, but it is up to you to practice until you reach this level.


Let’s Get Some Practice!


We’re going to work with an article called “The Unlikely History of Balloon Flight”. It is about late 18th century England and the first flights using balloons.

Scan the article to find the answers to the questions below the article.

Try to do this quickly! Remember, the purpose of scanning is to help you speed up, so that you don't have to read every word on the test.

NB: The questions are not always in passage order.


If you’re finished, notice how quickly you were able to answer these questions. Now I want you to try to use this same skill on your IELTS Reading practice tests!

Good luck.