There are two reading techniques we use when we read something in English: Scanning and Skimming. Scanning helps us to locate exactly what we are searching for and skimming helps us understand the general sense of the text.
These techniques are very useful when we have to prepare for an exam. Most practise tests will have a reading section where the student has to read a text and answer multiple questions. You can use the technique scanning. First you have to look at the questions or statements. These sentences contain the specific keywords you need to look for in the text.
The keywords will never be written as they are in the questions or statements but will contain synonyms. Once you see that the word is similar to the one in the text, it is likely that this could answer the question. To make sure it fits the context, you need to read carefully the rest of the text surrounding the key words which helped you to locate the information.
The other skill skimming is used to read something quickly and understand the general sense of it. This is used in many reading exercises as an introduction to the text to understand the main ideas. You can either read the whole text quickly or read the first sentence of each paragraph. This should give you enough information about the text.
Depending on the type of reading exam you have to do, you will have been given practise tests which will prepare you for the reading part. You can find many practise exercises on the internet if you do not have those books. Just type in esl scanning and skimming exercises.
For those who want to read for fun can practise with Pearson graded readers which have questions after every chapter. The activities and questions will train you to use these skills naturally. These questions have been carefully chosen to allow the student to use them in a less controlled way.
BBC 6 mins
Another good reading exercise is from the website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/6-minute-english The level is Intermediate. You can find a wide range of topics. Try listening first before you read. You can download the audio script and read the text.
These texts contain a lot of useful synonyms and expressions. They will also give you a definition of the key words they use in their text. Write down questions about the article and get your partner to answer them and then have a discussion about the topic.
If you find the text is too easy, try to read articles from https://www.bbc.com/news or other sites which native readers use. I recommend reading at least one article a day as well as reading a book for leisure. Books will help you to think in English and give you all the vocabulary you need. It is important though to read on a daily basis.
Books for native readers
If you are reading a book which native readers use and find you are checking the words of most meanings then it may be too early for you to use these books. Try graded readers level 6 which has been taken from an English book and only condensed it into a shorter version. You may enjoy reading it more.
Once you find that this is too easy, then you are ready to start reading books which are read by natives. It is important to not stop reading because you need to check most of the words written. Try to guess the meaning and go on reading.
Understanding the culture
There are a wide selection of books out there. I recommend reading books written by British authors as well as American writers. Try also to read books written by authors from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It will help you understand the culture and mindset of these countries.
Reading blog posts
Another excellent tool to learn English is to read blog posts written by natives. Find a blog you are interested in and start reading the posts. They are usually well-written as bloggers love writing and you get some great photographs to go with the posts.
The English that you read will be real and natural. Some blogs have been written professionally and proofread so you know there will be no grammar mistakes. Sadly, this cannot be guaranteed as not all bloggers use professionals for their writing and there may be some grammar errors, especially spelling mistakes.
In addition, it might even be a good exercise for you as you can identify those errors depending on your level. Nevertheless, most of them are great reads and you will learn amazing vocabulary. If you are interested in the topic, it makes it even more interesting to read.