10 Difference between Skimming and Scanning (With Table)

What is the main difference between skimming and scanning? Skimming aims to get general sense from the text main ideas while scanning aims to locate specific details within the text.

Many learners prepare for exams by having extensive and intensive reading. But those making final revision touches consider skimming and scanning to save time.

Telling the differences between skimming and scanning can be challenging. We wrote this article to share the differences and similarities between skimming and scanning.

Difference between Skimming and Scanning With Table

Basic Terms Skimming Scanning
Purpose To get a general sense of the text’s main ideas or topic. To locate specific details or information within the text.
Reading Speed Reading rapidly to cover a lot of text in a short time. Reading quickly but with a focused search for keywords or phrases.
Depth Superficial reading, skipping over details. Focused reading limited to specific parts of the text.
Reading Material Typically used for longer texts, articles, or chapters. Applied to shorter texts or when specific information is needed.
Strategy Reading headings, subheadings, and the first and last sentences of paragraphs. Focusing on keywords, numbers, or specific phrases related to the information sought.
Comprehension Limited depth of understanding; main ideas are captured. Minimal emphasis on understanding; aim is to locate information.
Goal To decide whether the text is relevant for more in-depth reading. To quickly find specific information without digesting the entire text.
Typical Use Case Used when you have a lot of material to cover or when assessing the content’s relevance. Applied when looking for data, facts, or answers to specific questions.
Use in Exams Useful for quickly reviewing test questions and passages. Useful for rapidly finding answers within a text during an exam.
Example Reading a newspaper headline and the first few lines of an article to decide if you want to read it. Scanning a textbook to locate a specific date or statistic for a research paper.

What Is Skimming?

Skimming is a reading technique that involves quickly glancing over a text’s surface to get a general sense of its content and main ideas without reading every word. Readers typically focus on headings, subheadings, the first and last sentences of paragraphs, and any highlighted or emphasized text.

The purpose of skimming is to assess whether the text is relevant for more in-depth reading, to identify the main topics, and to gain a broad understanding of the material.

Skimming is like taking a quick look at a book’s cover, reading the titles of chapters, and maybe the first and last sentences of each section. You’re not reading the whole thing; you’re just checking to see what it’s about and if it interests you.

It’s like peeking at a movie trailer to decide if you want to watch the whole film. Skimming helps you figure out if a text is worth reading more carefully.

What Is Scanning?

Scanning reading is a reading strategy that involves visually examining the text for specific information or keywords while skipping over irrelevant details. Readers use this technique to quickly assess the content and locate relevant material.

Scanning reading is particularly useful in academic or professional settings when you need to review multiple sources, find specific data, or decide if a text is worth reading in-depth. It is not a replacement for comprehensive reading but serves as an initial step in the reading process to identify relevant sources or key points.

Main Difference between Skimming and Scanning

  1. Skimming is quickly assesses the content for relevance while scanning focus on searching for specific information.
  2. Skimming focuses on main ideas and overall content while scanning on keywords, numbers, or phrases.
  3. Skimming involves superficial reading without reading every word while scanning Involves rapid, targeted search for details.
  4. Skimming is used to decide if a text is worth further reading while scanning to quickly locate specific information.
  5. Skimming is typically used for longer texts while scanning applied to shorter texts.
  6. Skimming involves reading headings, subheadings, and first/last sentences while scanning involves looking for particular words or phrases.
  7. Skimming provides limited depth of understanding while scanning provides minimal emphasis on comprehension.
  8. Skimming aim is to get a general sense of the material while scanning aims is to pinpoint specific data or answers.
  9. Skimming commonly used in academic settings and test-taking while scanning in research and fact-finding tasks.

Similarities between Skimming and Scanning

  1. Both are rapid reading techniques.
  2. Both involve quick examination of a text’s surface.
  3. Both are used to find information efficiently.
  4. Both focus on specific elements within a text.
  5. Both are valuable for information retrieval.


Skimming and scanning are distinct reading techniques, each with its own purpose and approach. Skimming is used to quickly assess a text’s main ideas and relevance, whereas scanning is employed to locate specific information swiftly.

Understanding the differences between these techniques allows readers to choose the most appropriate method based on their specific information retrieval needs, making them valuable skills for efficient reading and research.

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