Skimming to Improve Your Study
Isn’t it amazing how you can read through an
entire chapter and get absolutely nothing out
of it? The only thing you are acutely aware of
at the end of your hour or so is that you
somehow pushed through thirty pages without
taking in a single word.
“That’s quite impressive,” you try to convince
yourself for a while, before the irritation starts
sinking in. You wasted so much time and the
last thing you want to do now is go back and
You just wish that you could read more effectively the first time. Instead of wasting that hour, improve
your reading with a special technique.
There is a way, and it’s learning to skim intelligently before, during, and after you delve into a text. It is a
very effective tool to improve your studies.
How to Skim Effectively
Start with a skim of everything you will cover. This step has two major implications.
First, it is okay to skim your material. That is a truth that most students don’t realize.
Skimming has a bad reputation with tools like Cliff Notes. The idea is that you will never get what you
need out of a skim, or summary.
That is just not true. The reason for this criticism is that
many people are using that skim or summary as a
shortcut to get out of the more involved work.
If that’s all you plan on doing with your skim, then you are
doing it wrong. If you’re using it to get into material to
prep your mind before you step in again with a fine-tooth
comb, then that’s another story.
Skimming can be quite helpful as an introduction to study.
It will help you see the larger picture of the puzzle before
examining the individual pieces.
That broader view can help you put the pieces in the right places as you read the text in-depth. The
second implication is that you’ll have to read the text multiple times.
Repetition is the unfortunate truth of mastering any new concept. You have to hear it or see it multiple
times to master it.
A skim can count as a read, giving you twice the exposure you would normally get. Fortunately, a skim
can be extremely brief, taking up no more than 10-15 minutes of effective reading before the big read
(as opposed to an hour of ineffective sleeping).
Pay Attention to the Essentials
Next, skip occasional words or phrases and forget the guilt trip to follow. Anyone who has read Lord of
the Rings knows that you can skip a chapter of detail about the forest and not miss any plot
Even textbooks have fluff. Don’t feel bad about skimming
through that fluff (or through concepts you already
There is no need to torture your mind by meticulously
picking through details that are (1) unimportant, (2)
general knowledge, or (3) you already know. Skimming is
completing the motions, not hindering them.
CollegeAmerica is a college offering a degree in Medical Specialties in Phoenix. Students seeking a
Medical Specialties degree in Phoenix have so much to learn that mastering the art of skimming will help
them learn, review, and apply difficult concepts more effectively.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk, Jason Bondy, Michael Kelly