Skimming is a key reading skill in OET, which involves reading quickly to identify the general or main idea, typical in factual texts such as those in OET.  

Here’s a general guideline: 

  • Scan the main headings in each chapter, noting a word or two. Pay attention to headings of charts and tables. 
  • Read the entire introductory paragraph, then only the first and last sentence of each subsequent paragraph. For each paragraph, glance at the first few words of each sentence to identify the main idea. 
  • Pause to quickly read sentences featuring keywords highlighted in boldface or italics. 
  • When you come across something noteworthy, pause to read the entire sentence for clarity, then continue the same pattern. Avoid getting sidetracked by details you don’t require. 

Effective skimming involves varying your pace and attention based on the content. Although skimming is quicker than regular reading, it’s beneficial to slow down in certain instances, such as when: 

  • Skimming the introduction and conclusion of the text. 
  • Encountering unfamiliar words. 
  • Skimming the first sentence of each paragraph. 
  • The text is challenging. 


Showing sensitivity to patients is key. This includes softening the language used, not being judgemental and avoiding criticism. 

Have a look at some examples:

“Your cough sounds horrible. You’re obviously smoking too much.” X 

“Your cough sounds quite severe. We will discuss how to help you with quitting smoking.”


“I’m not surprised you have foot pain; your shoes are awful.” X 

“Could I recommend some orthopaedic shoes to alleviate your foot pain?”


“Walking 30 minutes a day is not that difficult, anyone can do it.” X 

“Walking 30 minutes a day might sound challenging, but you will feel the benefits of it.


As healthcare professionals, you need to take great care of how words come across. Saying something that scares, disappoints, or frustrates the patient is often more important and memorable to patients than their actual illness or issue.  

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