3 Effective Tips to Improve your OET Reading Skimming Skills

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One of the most important reading skills you need to be successful in the OET exam is the skill of skimming.  It is something which you are required to do to read expeditiously, or quickly, in part A. It is also something that you should be doing for the texts in parts B and C. This OET reading skimming skill will help you get the general idea of the topic and the type of text before going on to answer the questions. Being able to skim will save you time in the exam. This will also allow you to begin immediately interacting with the texts in a meaningful manner.

It is a skill worth developing then, but how can we skim texts successfully in the OET reading section? And what exactly should skim-reading consist of? In this article, I will provide some practical tips to help improve your competence in this area of skimming skills OET reading.


How To Improve Your Skills


OET Reading Tip 1: Begin with the headings:


The first thing you should be reading when you skim are the headings of the articles.  The headings will tell you what the articles are about. It will begin to orient you towards what sort of information you should expect to appear in the text.  Look at this heading from a reading part A text, for example:

“Technique for plaster backslab for arm fractures”. What information would you expect to read about in this text?

Well, you would expect a set of instructions or procedures, hence, the word “technique”.  You would also expect to read about particular materials involved in the construction of the “backslab”
On top of this, you should expect references to joints, fractures and positions in which the arm should be placed or maintained due to the “arm fractures” mentioned in the titleAll of this gives you important information which you can use to answer the matching questions in part A.
Just from looking at this title you should be able to identify it as the text that will provide information on “the procedure to follow when splinting a fractured limb”
If you can do this, you will have been able to answer one of the questions from the OET reading paper. And you will have done it from mere seconds spent reading.


OET Reading Tip 2: Note the lay-out of the text:


The lay-out is basically the way the text is structured.  Is it written in full developed paragraphs, or is it written using bullet points? Or is it presented in a table or graph-like format?  Noting the lay-out of the text will help you to decide: A. what sort of text it is and B. where you will need to read in future in order to find specific information.  Look at the lay-out of the following text, for example:
A definitions of fractures,dislocation, and sprain

You can see that there are three words in bold type. Then you have a sentence and some bullet points following those words. 
This is a clear indication that you are reading a text which contains short definitions. So just by observing the lay-out you should expect a text which provides this sort of information.

Now look at the lay-out of the next text:


A preview sample on text c: Drug Therapy protocol


Here you can see that you have a tabular lay-out. You should expect there to be numerical information presented. A quick skim of the table shows that the focus is on the drug morphine and the strength and dosages involved under different scenarios.
From observing the above lay-outs in this way, you should be able to answer on which text provides information about “procedures for delivering pain relief”. And which text provides information on “the terms used to describe different types of fractures”
It would seem the answer to the former question would be Text C.
With reference to morphine, a drug used for pain relief. And the latter would be A since, as discovered, this is focusing on definitions, a synonym for “terms”.

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OET Reading Tip 3:  Read the topic sentences:


Topic sentences are the sentences that are usually used at the beginning of the paragraph. This announce what the topic of the paragraph is going to be. 
This tip applies particularly to part C as the texts are longer. So likely to exhibit more examples of this organising feature.
It can be helpful to approach part C texts in this way as OET reading skills skimming through the first sentence of each paragraph. It is a great way to acquaint yourself with the topic of the article. As well as getting a sense of the sorts of arguments and opinions the article will contain. 
This will help you to make sense of the text as a whole and it will make the process of approaching the questions easier. For example, look at the first sentences from paragraphs 1,2 and 4 of this part C text, what do we learn about the content of the article as a whole?

”Millions of people who suffer sleep problems also suffer myriad health burdens.”

“A common refrain among sleep scientists about two decades ago was that sleep was performed by the brain in the interests of the brain.”

“Over a century of sleep research has revealed numerous undesirable outcomes from staying awake too long.”

Straight away we can see that the article focuses on the topic of sleep and what the effects are of sleep deprivation.  There is a strong focus on sleep research and there is a repeated reference to the past indicating that there have been changes or developments in the medical understanding of this topic over time.  Having these broader ideas in your mind will provide an appropriate context for making sense of the questions which you will have to subsequently address.

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***FREE Practice Test:

  1. Look only at the headings of the texts on the following page  What do you learn about them?
  2. Now pay attention to the lay-outs of the texts.  How are they different? What do you learn from these differences?
  3. Just from looking at the above two points, which of the two texts (A or B) would you expect to provide information on a) “the number of products containing paracetamol” b) “the steps to be taken when treating a paracetamol overdose patient”.
  4. Look at the topic sentences for the first four paragraphs taken from an OET part C text.  What do you think the main topic of the text is? What other aspects do you expect the text to focus on based on the information given in the topic sentences?

A contraindications and interactions about paracetamol
A preview sample on text b: Procedure for acute single overdose


Topic Sentences:

  1. “The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognised Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a childhood disorder in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1978 that the condition was formally recognised as afflicting adults.”
  2. “ADHD can be a controversial condition.”
  3. “A recent study found children in foster care three times more likely than others to be diagnosed with ADHD.”
  4. “ADHD, the thinking goes, begins in childhood.”


  1. Text A is providing information relating the potential risks of using paracetamol with other drugs, while Text B is focused on the procedure involved when dealing with an overdose (most likely an overdose of paracetamol as all the part A texts are connected to the same overall topic).
  2. Text A has subheadings, which are used to organise the information.  It also contains bullet points showing that certain information will be provided in a list-like manner.  Text B is a flow chart, which indicates that information relating to numbers of figures is likely to be present and the focus is on how one aspect of the procedure links to another.
  3. a) Text A b) Text B
  4. Main topic: ADHD.  Other aspects: when ADHD develops, who is most likely to develop it, whether it is in fact a real condition, the history and current research which has taken place into the condition.



Three Effective tips to improve your OET reading skimming skills infographic




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