If you want to know how to increase your reading speed and comprehension, you’ll love this article.
What is speed reading?
It’s basically a set of techniques and methods to accelerate your reading speed by changing you’re reading habits. It can be equally as much about discovering and eliminating you’re bad reading habits, as well as implementing new and better reading methods.
How To Increase Your Reading Speed And Comprehension:
Speed reading is something you either can use once in a while to boost your reading speed, or you can train yourself to permanently be a speed reader.
Learning Speed Reading Will Save You Time
Speed-reading is not a new phenomenon.
In fact, due to it’s benefits it has been embraced by many individuals. The concept was first popularly established in 1957 after which president John F Kennedy organized training classes for him and his family so that they can all master the art of speed reading.
It has been said that John F Kennedy himself could read 1000 words per minute. The average person, without knowing how to speed read, reads between 250 to 300 words per minute.
Increasing your reading speed by only 50% saves you 20 minutes every hour spent reading.
If you can double you’re reading speed (100% increase) you can double you’re free time (or double you’re intake of knowledge in the same time).
This comes in handy especially if you are studying a course. You can speed read and spend the rest of the time going over you’re notes again or taking notes.
When you have a lot to cover and a short time to cover it in, speed-reading will work well for you. It will allow you to cover more topics within the given period.
How You Read
You may spend many hours reading each day but it’s not unlikely that you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how you read.
Have you ever thought about determining how many words you read per minute when you are at your maximum concentration?
Well, you may have lamented from time to time on your reading speed but I’m sure that was as far as it went. However, if you take a moment to think about how you read, you may discover something you never thought about before.
For instance, scientists have changed their way of thinking when it comes to how we read. Previously, scientists were of the school of thought that both your eyes focused on one letter as you read.
However, the studies conducted proved otherwise. Scientists now know that each eye takes note of a different letter as you read. These letters are usually two characters apart.
In essence this means that our brains actually view words as an entity in it self and not as a series of letters.
This interesting fact was then used to help individuals speed-read because it opened the door for clustered reading – reading words in a cluster instead of reading each word individually.
Timing your reading speed
If the concepts of this article are to be of any value to you, it’s important that you test them out and implement them. The way to do this is to test your reading speed.
This will make the process more fun for you because you will see the effects of each change you implement. To test this, ideally you should have a physical copy of a book that is somewhat interesting to you, but it must be new material.
It shouldn’t be too complex like a mathematical text or anything of that nature.
To test your reading speed; count the number of words in a page (or if it’s easier, how many words there are per sentence). Then you should set a timer for five minutes in order to know how many words you can read within that time.
Once the timer goes off, count the number of pages (or sentences) and divide the number of words by five to see how many words you read in a minute.
If five minutes seem like a lot, you can also time yourself for a minute and get a good idea of your reading speed. However, a longer time will give you a more accurate reading speed.
Timing your speed will enable you to track your progress as you work towards increasing your speed. Be aware that speed reading is like everything else.
Getting really good at it takes practice, but stick with it and you will see amazing results.
Set Yourself Goals
As mentioned; the average reading speed is about 200 to 300 words per minute. But if you set a goal to read a little bit faster, you will consciously try to increase your speed.
The thing about reading is that the more you read, the faster you get at it. The average college student for example, reads at a speed of 300 words per minute.
You can set that as your speed-reading goal and once you’ve achieved that goal, if the desire is there, you can strive to increase your speed further until you reach 1000 words per minute.
That’s the level of speed achieved by most competitive speed readers.
The way to achieve this is by setting series of smaller goals. For example, if you are determined to read 1000 words per minute, you can divide that goal into three smaller goals.
First aim to achieve a reading speed of 500 words per minute, increase to 750 words per minute, and finally 1000 words per minute.
Identify And Brake Poor Reading Habits
Often times, things you do end up slowing down your reading speed. Unfortunately, some of these things are so ingrained that you may be unable to pinpoint them as the things that hamper your speed.
Fortunately, with some practice, you can identify and correct poor reading habits. As we go through these habits; take note of which ones you do. This way you will have a action list to work on.
Some of these habits are:
Many people have the tendency to pronounce words in their head as they read them on paper or screen. This habit is known as sub-vocalization and it is one of the major reasons that many people read slowly.
The problem with this is you will only read as fast as you speak, and you can comprehend words a lot faster than you speak. Do you sub-vocalize?
The answer to that is the start of you identifying and rectifying the situation. If you recognize the voice inside your head, then you will be able to switch off as you read.
How to break this habit
After you acknowledge the voice is there, then you need to make a conscious decision to stop speaking as you read. This may take some practice.
Begin by trying to lower the voice as you read, make it into a whisper rather than a full pronunciation. Eventually move on to the next word before you get the chance to sound off the previous word inside your head.
Don’t worry; you won’t lose anything by doing so. This is because your brain understands words you see faster than you can sound them.
When you read word-by-word, you take the time to sound off each word fully before moving to the next one. It’s as if you are putting a period mark on each word as you read before tackling the next word (take note if you’re doing this).
This as can be imagined slows you down considerably and affects your overall reading speed.
How to break this habit
As you read, use your left pointer finger to underline as you read the sentence.
This will make yourself read at the speed of your finger, not allowing yourself to sound of each word. There is a point to using your left pointer finger.
This is because science have proven that the right side of our brain mainly control the left side of our bodies. Conversely you will activate the right side of your brain when you move the left side of your body.
Interestingly, the right side of your brain is also responsible for creating visual imagery and interpreting context of what you see.
So using your left pointer finger to underline will actually support you in activating the right hemisphere of the brain, and thereby help you to stop reading word-by-word and make you more aware of the bigger picture of what you are reading.
Inefficient eye motion
Study how your eyes move across this paragraph as you read. Do you see each word before moving to the next or do you let your eye span several inches?
How to break this habit
Your eye can span a distance of 1.5 inches (about 2.5 cm) as you read. Do not treat each word as a single unit. Instead of focusing your eyes on each word as your read, soften your eyes and allow yourself to take in words as a block.
This will enable your eyes to skip faster across the page, as you will be reading in blocks. Acknowledge that your eyes have the capability of viewing various words at once.
Once you have viewed the grouped words, move on to the next grouped words.
Sometimes when you read, you find yourself going back to read words that you have already read. This is known as regression.
Instead of progressing to the next block of words, you are unnecessarily returning to words you have already covered. This slows you down considerably and it messes up with your reading flow.
Regression also disrupts the text’s structure and interferes with your understanding of the subject you are reading.
How to break this habit
You can overcome regression by using a pointer. This way, you focus on the words above your pointer instead of going back to read words you have already read.
Alternatively you can use a sheet of paper to cover the text you have already read. Effectively preventing you from regressing.
Finding the Ideal Setting
Reading requires a certain amount of concentration.
Speed-reading requires more than the average concentration because you will not have the luxury to keep on rereading the paragraphs you’ve already read in the guise of understanding the subject better.
You can create the best setting for reading by ensuring that you get some things right. You probably already know about these things, but fundamentals aren’t always practiced.
The purpose of this section is therefore to get you thinking about what might be an ideal setting for you.
Distractions not only interfere with your reading speed but also with your concentration. You need to avoid distractions as you read. If you cannot read with the TV or music on, stop insisting that, you can.
People who appreciate music, for instance, find themselves wanting to take in every nuance as the music plays and this interferes with their reading.
Turn off distractions and ensure you have time to read quietly. If you had something else on your mind (for example, if you are anxious about dinner preparations), you may find it difficult to concentrate on your reading.
Choose an ideal time and place for reading. You should consider these tips:
*Put up a ‘do not disturb sign’
Sometimes it is not enough to let others know that you will be doing your reading. Sometimes you need to remind them in other ways because human beings tend to forget especially when doing so fits their purpose.
You should put up a ‘do not disturb sign’ at the door. Let everyone know that you will be reading from a certain time and that you will not be available until that time is over.
Once everyone around you is on the same page, you will find that people will usually wait until you are available to communicate with them because they now know your routine.
If you are unable to find a quiet environment to read in, invest in earplugs (1). Earplugs will enable you to shut out the noise and you can thus increase your speed, as nothing will distract you.
However, you should be careful when selecting earplugs as you want to choose the ones that you will be comfortable in especially if you are going to use them from time to time.
You want earplugs that will be gentle on your ears and still be able to keep out any unwanted noise.
*Switch off the TV
Avoid having the television on while you are reading.
Human beings are naturally attracted to what goes on in their environment. When the TV is on, you will be attracted to the various visuals and sound effects as the shows go on.
You don’t need that kind of distraction especially when you are trying to speed read. If someone else is watching the TV, move to another room and request them to turn down the volume and minimize the noise level.
Select The Ideal Reading Spot
Apart from avoiding distractions, you need to set up the ideal reading spot. You may want to read outside for instance, but the spot you choose is filled with birds.
This means, you will end up being distracted each time a bird poops or squeaks. Your ideal reading spot should be a low traffic area that will allow you to concentrate on the words you are reading instead of looking around to see what is going on.
It doesn’t have to be a dreary looking place but it has to be free from distractions and interruptions.
Select the ideal time
Different people have different times when their reading is at their best. For example, some find it easier to read in the morning than in the evenings.
Others prefer reading at night when everyone else has gone to sleep.
Whatever time you choose, it should be a time when you will gain the most out of the reading. Sometimes life may have other ideas when it comes to selecting a reading time.
You may want to read in the morning but may find it impossible to do so due to family responsibilities. If that is the case, you need to adjust to a more suitable time.
Once you train your mind to read at a certain time, you will adapt to the changes.
Check your posture
As you read, you should minimize your movements. Fidgeting is disruptive.
Ensure that your feet or arms are not swinging as you read. Don’t nod your head as if agreeing with what the writer is saying. You should ensure that you keep your book flat as you read.
Use a lap pillow if you need to and wear reading glasses if you are unable to see the words properly.
The setting you choose can help or hinder your sped reading efforts. A quiet setting with minimal distractions will enable you to concentrate on what you read.
This way, you will get rid off many of the poor reading habits and you will be able to achieve your reading goals.
Techniques to Improve Reading Speed
Setting a goal, breaking poor reading habits and creating the ideal setting are all steps towards improving your reading speed.
In this part of text we shall look at more of the traditional techniques to increase your reading speed.
But first, lets take a look at:
How Speed Reading Works
Whenever you read any text, several things take place. To start with, the comprehension rate and the amount of time that it takes to read a passage is often dependent on the nature of that content.
As such, in most cases, if you are reading any unfamiliar content or some pretty complex concepts, it is likely that you will take more time looking at different words and word groups as opposed to reading familiar content.
This is usually referred to as fixation and it takes about 0.25 seconds and after you do this, you then have to go to the next word, a process referred to as saccade.
This (saccade) usually takes about 1 second. When you repeat something once or twice, you then pause in order to internalize what you are reading and this is usually referred to as comprehension, which lasts about 0.5 seconds.
If you add up the comprehension gaps, to saccades and fixations, you then find that on average, you will be reading about 200-400 words per minute.
Speed reading is about shortening the duration it takes for fixation to take place using such skills as visualization and enhanced thinking speed.
When speed reading, you ought to think of it as if you are making a slide show presentation whereby the conscious part of your brain plays the role of taking concepts then delivering a speech as opposed to reading through text word for word.
Now that you have some basic understanding of how speed reading works, let’s now focus on the speed reading techniques that you can use.
Different techniques serves different outcomes. Use whatever your situation may benefit from.
When you skim, you are quickly going about capturing the main ideas of what you are reading.
Skimming happens at about three or four times the average reading speed. You can read the first and last paragraphs and then go ahead to read the headings and subheadings of the reading material.
You can also go ahead to read the first line of each new paragraph. Skimming comes in handy when you quickly want to find things like dates, places, and names.
Scanning is a great way to quickly view your reading material without spending much time on it. Scanning centers on a specific keyword and keyword phrases.
For example, if you are reading about pregnancy massage, your keywords will be the word pregnancy and massage. Instead of reading all the material, you will let your eyes scan the reading material in such of those two words.
Many writers center their most important points around their keywords. Thus, scanning will enable you to grasp core information without spending time on the supplementary information.
Mental guiding (Use a pointer)
You’d be amazed how much faster you can learn to read by using a pointer. As remarked earlier, your left pointer finger is a great alternative.
A pointer comes in handy especially if you want to correct issues such as regression, poor concentration and almost any other bad habit. A pointer helps you focus on what you have to read.
It is also a useful tool in regulating your reading speed. You should always endeavor to move your pointer faster than you usually read.
This way, you will be forced to read faster as you cannot afford to keep on repeating words or to sub-vocalize as you read.
Others techniques include using a speed reading software to help you improve your reading speed.
Speed reading software is designed to subtly get rid of all the bad reading habits so that you can ultimately maximize your reading speed.
Methods For Controlling Your Reading Speed
Speed reading is not just about increasing your speed; it is about controlling your reading speed.
Anything to do with speed has to be controlled; otherwise, you may quickly end up burning out and abandoning speed reading altogether.
There are various methods you can employ to pace yourself as you speed read. These are:
Your hand can be a powerful aide when it comes to speed reading. All you need to do is place your hand onto the page you are reading and move slowly in a straight line down the page.
Your hand will help you increase your pace by drawing your eyes as you read. You don’t have to keep your eyes where your hand is but you do have to keep moving.
Keep your eyes on the page, not on your hand. Once you are through with a line, move your hand downwards.
This method requires the use of your hand. You should slightly cup your dominant hand (bend it at your knuckles) and use it to draw your eyes across the page you are reading.
Your dominant hand will be moving across the line in a sweeping motion (from left to right). You should use your whole arm to move instead of just moving your wrist.
Moving your hand will make it harder for your mind to drift because you are physically activated.
Similar to the sweeping technique, this technique requires you to cup your hand as you would in the sweep.
However, instead of sweeping across the page, you will make two hops (or bounces). The first hop will have you place your fingers at the beginning of the line you want to read and the second hop at the middle of the line.
Your fingers will cover some inches of the line. This means that you will be able to read the words as a block and thus you will end up reading faster.
This technique resembles the scanning method. Instead of reading the material linearly, you will be reading it diagonally (as if in a zigzag).
This way, your mind will scan the material allowing you to take note of the core material and leave out the supplementary material.
Comprehension And Quality
Speed-reading without comprehension is pointless. You should be able to speed read and comprehend what you have just read just fine. This will however require you to put in some effort as you read.
The one overarching principle when it comes to reading with maximum comprehension is knowing specifically what your outcome is. What do you need to understand (or grasp) by reading the book or text?
Make sure you know this before starting to read. The way to do this is simply to ask yourself, why? Why am I reading this book or text?
Human beings are not creatures of random actions. We have a reason for doing what we do.
Connect to what this means for you before reading any text and you will have set yourself up for getting the most quality and comprehension out of your reading.
Here are some specific tips to consider:
Preview your reading material
When you get a book to read, don’t just jump right into it. You should instead go through it noting the various sections, headings and sub-headings.
You can also take the time to study any images or drawings available. This way, when you start reading, you will already have a general idea of what the book is about and you will not spend too much time on diagrams or images because you have already be familiar with them.
If you don’t pay attention to what you are reading (2), it will not matter whether you are speed reading or slow reading since you will not be able to remember what you have read, which means that you will gain little as far as comprehension goes.
You need to read as if it really matters. This way, whenever you sit down to read, you will gain something out of it because your mind knows you are engaging in something of importance.
Know what to read
Not every word written is of equal importance. Every page written has core material and supplementary material.
It is up to you to quickly decide what is important and what acts as supplementary material to reinforce the words already written.
For example, the writer may use an illustration to give a clearer picture of what he had written before. If you realize this at the start of the illustration, you can skip the illustration and move on to the next passage.
As you read your book, you may come across sub-headings. When you do, turn the headings and sub-headings into questions.
This way, as you read the passage under the sub-heading, you will be quickly looking for the answer to your question instead of reading every available detail that may not help answer your question.
Write a report
Write a report or an abstract at the end of your reading. Think about what you have read and then proceed to write down the important points.
You can summarize what you’ve read in a bid to increase your comprehension level.
Often times, stating things in your own words helps you to remember what you have read and it also highlights what you need to do more research on.
Build your vocabulary
One reason why many people read slowly is because they are unfamiliar with some words.
The more words you are unfamiliar with, the more pauses your brain will make as it tries to figure out what the words mean. Endeavor to build your vocabulary each day.
This way, you will be able to increase your reading speed and enjoy reading.
One important aspect of speed-reading is knowing when to increase your speed and when to slow down. When you are reading, you can quickly go through the supplementary material without losing vital information.
However, when it comes to things such as reading legal documents, it would be wise to reduce your reading speed because you will not want to skip any words that may end up making a difference to your situation.
However, there is no reason why you should not use speed reading in your day to day life.
Learn to control your speed
Without control, speed reading will quickly turn into a distasteful chore. You need to exercise control on how much you read and how fast you read it.
When you speed read, you will start with a burst of energy but eventually you will start to feel tired. At that point, you will not be retaining much in terms of information. This can be detrimental in your search for knowledge.
However, you can control your speed by using a pointer. This way, when you are tired, you can reduce the speed at which your pointer moves and thus effectively reduce your reading speed.
And when you feel up to it, you can then increase the speed again until your finish your reading.