What is Scalping? A Comprehensive Guide

Scalping trading is a method where traders aim to make profits from small price changes in the markets. This strategy involves making several trades throughout the day to take advantage of these minor fluctuations.

In this blog, we will explore the basics of scalping. We’ll look at the essential tools and strategies needed for success, and discuss the benefits and challenges of this trading style. We’ll also provide useful tips and insights to help both new and experienced traders improve their scalping techniques.

The Basics of Scalping Trading

Scalping is a method where traders try to make quick, small profits from tiny changes in stock prices. The goal is to enter and exit trades rapidly, making a small profit each time. Over the course of a day, these small profits can add up to a significant amount.

For example, imagine you notice that a stock usually moves up and down within a narrow range during the day, say between $50.00 and $50.10. As a scalper, you could buy the stock at $50.00 and sell it at $50.10, making a small profit each time the stock moves. By repeating this process many times, you can accumulate substantial profits.

Scalping is different from other types of trading like Intraday trading and long-term investing. In day trading, you might hold a stock for several hours to capitalize on larger price movements within the same day. Long-term investing, on the other hand, involves holding stocks for months or even years, focusing on the overall growth of the stock over a long period.

Scalping requires you to be quick and precise. You need to watch the market closely and make decisions fast, without hesitation. This approach is suited for those who can stay focused and handle the fast pace of making multiple trades throughout the day.

Why Speed and Precision Matter in Scalping

As we mentioned before, speed and precision are the most important factors in successful scalping. They can make the difference between making a profit and missing an opportunity.

Speed is crucial because scalping depends on taking advantage of small price changes that happen very quickly. Markets can change in an instant, so you need to enter and exit trades fast. For example, if you see a stock’s price drop to a level where you want to buy, you need to act immediately before the price goes back up. Even a few seconds’ delay can mean missing the trade. This means you need a fast trading platform and the ability to make quick decisions.

Precision is just as important. Because the profit from each trade is usually small, you need to be very accurate to make sure you make money. This means entering and exiting trades at exactly the right moments. For example, if you buy a stock at $100.00, you need to sell it at exactly the right time to make a profit. Using tools like charts and indicators can help you decide the best times to buy and sell.

For instance, let’s say you’re trading shares of a popular tech company. You notice that throughout the day, the stock fluctuates between $150 and $151. As a scalper, you decide to buy 500 shares at $150. When the price moves up to $150.50, you quickly sell your shares. This trade nets you a profit of $250 in a very short time. To succeed in scalping, you need to make these trades quickly and accurately, buying at the lower price and selling at the peak before it drops again. This quick and precise approach helps you make the most of small price changes and turn them into profits.

Speed and precision together help scalpers make the most of their trades, turning small price movements into steady profits over time.

Common Scalping Strategies

Scalping trading involves various strategies to capture small price movements. Here, we’ll explore three specific strategies: EMA strategies, breakout techniques, and price action methods. These are just a few examples among many other strategies used by scalpers.

1. EMA Strategies

Exponential Moving Average (EMA) strategies are popular among scalpers because they help identify the direction of the trend quickly. EMAs give more weight to recent prices, making them more responsive to new information.

How it Works:

Scalpers often use two EMAs, one short-term and one long-term, to find trading opportunities. For example, a common setup is the 9-period EMA and the 21-period EMA. When the short-term EMA crosses above the long-term EMA, it’s a signal to buy. Conversely, when the short-term EMA crosses below the long-term EMA, it’s a signal to sell.

Imagine you are watching a stock where the 9-period EMA is about to cross above the 21-period EMA. You buy 200 shares as soon as the crossover happens at $50. As the price rises to $50.30, you notice the short-term EMA is still above the long-term EMA, confirming the upward trend. You decide to sell at $50.30, making a profit of $60.

2. Breakout Techniques

Breakout techniques focus on entering trades when the price breaks through a significant support or resistance level. This strategy is based on the idea that once a price moves beyond these levels, it tends to continue in that direction for some time.

How it Works:

Scalpers identify key support and resistance levels on their charts. When the price breaks above a resistance level, it’s a signal to buy. When the price breaks below a support level, it’s a signal to sell.

For instance, you’re monitoring a stock that has been trading between $100 and $102 for several hours. You notice that the price is approaching the resistance level at $102. As soon as the price breaks above $102, you buy 100 shares. The stock quickly moves up to $102.50, and you decide to sell, making a $50 profit.

3. Price Action Methods

Price action methods rely on reading the price movements directly from the charts without using indicators. This strategy involves recognizing patterns and using them to make trading decisions.

How it Works:

Scalpers look for patterns like candlestick formations, support and resistance levels, and trend lines. They make decisions based on the behavior of the price itself.

For instance, you observe that a stock forms a “hammer” candlestick pattern at the $75 support level, which often indicates a potential reversal. You buy 300 shares at $75.10 after confirming the pattern. The price rises to $75.60, and you sell, securing a $150 profit.

Read - How to use Multiple Confirmation in Trading to improve trading accuracy 

These are just a few examples of the many strategies scalpers use to trade effectively. Each strategy requires a good understanding of the market and quick execution. By mastering these techniques, scalpers can take advantage of small price movements and accumulate profits throughout the trading day.

Picking the Best Instruments for Scalping

So, now that we’ve covered the basics of scalping and some strategies, you might have a good idea of how scalping works. But the most important thing is selecting the best instruments for scalping. Let’s dive into that.

When you’re choosing what to scalp, focus on instruments that are liquid and volatile. Liquidity means you can get in and out of trades quickly without affecting the price much. Volatility means the price moves enough for you to make a profit. 

For example, in the forex market, the EUR/USD pair is a great choice because it has high liquidity and frequent price changes. Imagine noticing the EUR/USD fluctuating by 10 pips several times an hour. You can take advantage of these small moves by buying at the lower end and selling at the higher end, making consistent profits throughout the day. 

By focusing on liquid and volatile instruments like these, you can find plenty of opportunities for successful scalping.

Pros and Cons of Scalping

Scalping has lots of benefits as well as risks and challenges. Let’s look at them:

Quick Profits: Scalping allows you to make fast profits from small price movements.High Transaction Fees: Frequent trading can lead to high transaction costs, which can eat into your profits.
Minimal Overnight Risk: Since trades are closed within the same day, you avoid risks associated with overnight market changes.Stressful: The need to constantly monitor the market and make quick decisions can be very stressful.
Frequent Opportunities: Scalping provides many trading opportunities throughout the day.Requires Precision: You need to be very precise with your entries and exits to make a profit.
Less Market Exposure: With quick trades, you have less exposure to potential market downturns.Intense Focus Needed: Scalping requires intense focus and concentration, which can be mentally exhausting.

Essential Tools for Scalpers

To succeed in scalping, you need the right tools to help you make quick and informed decisions. One of the most critical tools is technical indicators. For instance, order flow indicators show the flow of buy and sell orders, helping you understand market sentiment and potential price movements. Another important tool is time and sales data, which provides a real-time list of all the transactions that occur, giving you insights into market activity. 

For example, if you see a large number of buy orders at a certain price level, it could indicate strong support and a good entry point for a trade.

Real-time data and high-speed trading platforms are equally essential for scalpers. Since scalping involves making many trades in a short amount of time, having access to the latest market data is crucial. Platforms like NinjaTrader and MetaTrader 4 offer real-time quotes, advanced charting tools, and fast order execution, which are vital for executing scalping strategies effectively. 

For instance, a delay of even a few seconds can mean the difference between a profitable trade and a loss. By using these platforms, you can react quickly to market changes and take advantage of small price movements to make consistent profits.

Practical Tips for Scalping Success

Here are practical tips from the ETTFOS team, who have over 25 years of experience in trading:

1. Stick to a Trading Plan

Having a clear trading plan is crucial. Define your entry and exit points before you start trading and stick to them. For example, if your plan is to take profits when a stock price rises by $0.10, make sure to exit at that point without getting greedy. Using stop-loss orders can also help protect your capital by automatically closing trades that go against you.

2. Manage Your Risks

Risk management is key in scalping. A good rule of thumb is to risk no more than 1-2% of your total trading capital on a single trade. This way, even if a trade goes wrong, it won’t significantly impact your overall capital. For instance, if you have $10,000 in your trading account, avoid risking more than $100-$200 on any one trade. Diversifying your trades across different instruments can also help spread risk.

3. Keep Learning and Adapting

The market is always changing, so it’s important to keep learning and adapting your strategies. Review your trades regularly to understand what worked and what didn’t. For example, if you notice that trading around certain news events often leads to profits, consider incorporating that into your strategy. Stay updated with market news and economic events to adjust your trading approach accordingly.

4. Use Reliable Trading Tools

Using reliable trading tools can make a big difference in scalping. Real-time data and high-speed trading platforms are essential. Platforms like NinjaTrader and MetaTrader 4 provide fast order execution and advanced charting tools. For instance, a delay of even a few seconds can mean the difference between a profit and a loss, so having a fast and reliable platform is crucial.

5. Maintain Discipline

Discipline is essential for scalping success. Avoid letting emotions drive your trading decisions. Stick to your plan and avoid chasing losses. For example, if you’ve set a stop-loss, don’t move it further away hoping the market will turn in your favor. Staying disciplined helps ensure consistent and rational trading decisions.

By following these practical tips, you can improve your chances of success in scalping. Remember, consistency and discipline are key to making steady profits in this fast-paced trading style.

Common Mistakes in Scalping

Many traders make common mistakes like overtrading, neglecting risk management, and letting emotions drive their decisions. Overtrading happens when you make too many trades in a short period, often leading to mistakes and losses. Neglecting risk management, such as not setting stop-loss orders, can result in significant losses. Emotional trading, where fear or greed influences your decisions, can also be detrimental. To avoid these mistakes, focus on sticking to your trading plan, managing your risks carefully, and maintaining discipline. 

For a more detailed discussion on common trading mistakes and how to avoid them, read this post on Ettfos: Common Mistakes Traders Make and How to Avoid Them.


In this guide, we explored the essentials of scalping trading, including its basics, key strategies, and the importance of speed and precision. We also discussed how to choose the right instruments for scalping, the necessary tools, and practical tips for success. By understanding these aspects, you can make informed decisions, set clear trading goals, and implement effective strategies to enhance your scalping practice. Remember, continuous learning and adapting to market conditions are crucial to maintaining profitability and improving your trading skills.

To further enhance your trading knowledge and skills, explore our other blogs for detailed insights and strategies:

FAQs on Scalping Trading

What is scalping ?

Scalping in trading is a strategy focused on making quick, small profits from minor price changes. Traders using this method enter and exit trades within minutes or even seconds, aiming to accumulate many small gains throughout the day.

What are the best market conditions for scalping?

The best market conditions for scalping are those with high liquidity and volatility. High liquidity ensures you can enter and exit trades quickly without significantly affecting the price. Volatility provides the necessary price movements to make profits. Markets with heavy trading volume, such as forex pairs like EUR/USD or popular stocks, are ideal for scalping.

What are the most essential tools for a scalper?

The most essential tools for a scalper include real-time data feeds, high-speed trading platforms, and technical indicators. Real-time data feeds provide up-to-the-minute market information, which is crucial for making quick decisions. High-speed trading platforms like MetaTrader or NinjaTrader offer fast order execution and advanced charting tools. Technical indicators, such as moving averages and order flow indicators, help identify entry and exit points.

How do you manage risk in scalping?

Managing risk in scalping involves using stop-loss orders. A common rule is to risk no more than 1-2% of your trading capital on a single trade. Stop-loss orders automatically close losing trades to prevent larger losses.

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