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Skimming vs. Close Reading

We live in a culture that rewards skimming: social media posts, content aggregators, blog posts, and more encourage us to skip quickly through content instead of spending the time and energy to read the texts closely and unpack their meaning.

This reliance on skimming – which is a habit for most of us, myself included at times! – can hurt our scores on the SAT and ACT Reading sections for two main reasons:

  1. Skimming the passages produces superficial, vague understanding of the text, and the answer choices will prey on this flawed comprehension by offering you choices that “sound” or “feel” right but actually have little or no relation to what the text’s actually saying.
  2. Only reading closely will allow us to see the author’s purpose, the function of the text, the main idea of the passage, etc. because we need to pay very close attention to the language used by the author, so much so that sometimes a single word is the difference between a right answer and a wrong answer. I call this the importance of the “precision of language.”

In this video, I explain the problem of skimming vs. close reading in some depth and try to convince you why it’s important to use skimming as selective tool, not as the default way to read passages, questions, and answer choices. 

I made this video a few years ago as part of my Old SAT Critical Reading Bootcamp course, but it still applies just as well to the New SAT Reading & ACT Reading tests today. NOTE: In the video I mention that the average Reading score is 496 – this was true of the Old SAT but not the new. However, I’d imagine that the New SAT Reading average score is very close to that 496.

About the Author:

I’m Rob Schombs, the founder of Reason Prep, creator of these videos, and your test prep tutor. I earned a BA in Chemistry (2006) and an MA in Science and Technology Studies (2009) from Cornell University. In 2010 I started tutoring SAT, ACT, math, chemistry, and writing full-time, and Reason Prep followed shortly after!