CFDs are complex instruments. You can lose your money rapidly due to leverage. Please ensure you understand how this product works and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing money. CFDs are complex instruments. You can lose your money rapidly due to leverage. Please ensure you understand how this product works and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing money.

Beginners guide to scalping

Scalping is a short-term trading style, where a trader looks to take small but frequent profits out of the market. Here we explain how it works.

What is scalping?

Scalping is generic term used to describe a very short-term trading style where a trader looks to ‘skim off the top’, i.e. take small but frequent profits out of the market. The theory is that small price movements are easier to predict than larger ones.

Traders scalping the market fall into the ‘day trader’ and ‘high frequency’ trading categories. This is because they generally prefer not to hold positions overnight, but rather open and close their trading positions intraday whilst looking to accumulate profits through frequent intraday trading activity.  


The scalping trading style lends itself to trading derivatives such as CFDs as a general preference, in an attempt to magnify (leverage) profits over the shorter time frame. It should be noted that losses can be magnified (leveraged) equally in the CFD or margin trading environment.


Because of the frequency of trades that scalping involves, cost becomes an important consideration. While the intraday scalping technique is often applied to shares (CFDs), it is forex and index trading that find prevalence due to the lower costs of trading these products. Spread costs for indices and forex are generally lower than those for share (CFD) trading, which may have commission charges associated as well. Cost is a trader’s first barrier towards making a profit, and because scalping is a high frequency trading technique, costs of trading are compounded.


Scalping the market means adopting a ‘quick in, quick out’ approach. The active nature of this type of trading requires a person’s undivided attention. When a trader is looking for these fast moving opportunities, it is considered wise to allocate uninterrupted time, whether that is during the day, the night, or just over a few hours.

Risk versus reward

As the scalper is looking to take small frequent profits out of the market, to maintain profitability he or she needs to maintain a high hit rate, which means being right more frequently than being wrong. While having a high hit rate seems an obvious necessity for trading, it does not automatically equate to profitability. If profits are small but frequent, a loss that is not managed can become large and wipe out the benefit of multiple profitable trades. It’s therefore important for scalpers to understand risk management and to be strict about their exit strategy from each and every trade.

Managing a risk that’s not bigger than the expected reward is considered prudent in trading. If a trader can establish this risk metric and achieve a hit rate greater than 50% then he or she will be a profitable trader.

Find out more on how to manage risk.

This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients.