A Guide to speed reading techniques and tips to learn how to read faster
Problem – These days we are bombarded with so much reading material that often it is impossible to keep up with this continuous stream of information. As a result, we end up scrolling headlines and teasers rather than going in-depth with content that will actually educate us. Whether we are at work or students, we often have to race against time to complete our tasks or to keep up to date with the latest developments in areas of interest.
Solution – Hence, speed reading can be a vital and valuable skill in today’s world. People who learn how to read faster using proven speed reading techniques can read as much as three times faster than the average reader who reads about 200 to 250 words per minute.
Benefits – Speed reading challenges the human brain to perform better and faster. As you learn to speed read, your brain will be trained to absorb information much quicker than it is used to. This will improve both your memory and the functionality of your brain. There are other benefits including an expanded general and specialized knowledge, improved problem-solving skills, improved self-confidence or a better focus.
Goal – This tutorial aims to help you learn how to read faster. I will explain the essential speed reading techniques and provide you with tips, material, resources and recommendations to help you become an advanced reader and learner.
1. How To Read Faster – Getting Started
Some people mistakenly believe that speed reading is impossible to learn. Others firmly argue that it comes with a toll – that reading quickly limits both comprehension and enjoyment of the text.
These two viewpoints fail to take into consideration one thing, and that’s the fact that fast reading is a scientifically grounded habit that takes practice to achieve.
Reading is about readjusting your brain’s functioning while you read, including eliminating 1st-grade reading rules such as reading out loud or word by word. Let’s do some warm-up with the following generic tips and suggestions (no hard rules here) to get you started.
- Read this or another tutorial of what speed reading is and how to learn it.
- Watch videos or listen to podcasts on this topic if you prefer audio-visual media.
- Make yourself familiar with common phrases and terms.
- Test your reading speed to know where you stand and to set your goals.
- Test your comprehension as well. Speed and comprehension act as a pair.
- Research apps, tools, books and resources to help you learn systematically.
- Adapt techniques such as chunking or note-taking to your system.
- Best speed reading tip: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
- Read more, improve your general knowledge. The more you know the more successful you can become.
2. Learn 3 Basic Speed Reading Techniques
To boost your performance, I recommend learning these corner speed reading techniques to read faster and comprehend more.
Technique 1 – Skimming and Scanning
Whatever you plan to read, try to preview your material and skim a text before you fully read it. This will give you an idea of which sections of the text you may entirely skip, and help you identify where the important information is. There’s no use in reading everything cover to cover. Read what needs to be read, nothing more.
You can scan headlines, names, numbers, tables, graphs, images, excerpts, content boxes or just fly over the page to get a first feeling for the topic. In non-fiction books reading the first 3-5 sentences of each section will give you a quick overview of the most important ideas and facts. Remember: A good reader already knows what lies ahead.
Set your reading goal by asking yourself what you expect from a specific text, book. or author. By knowing the chapters you can even skim for specific information and skip several paragraphs or pages. Skim and read fast, don’t get lost in detail.
Technique 2 – Hand Pacing
Using your index finger or a pen as a tool to lead and pace your eyes along the text is the easiest of all speed reading techniques. We know it from our school days but stopped using it. Simply move your finger underneath the lines. You can apply zig-zag patterns too.
Once being familiar with that technique you may try to use two fingers to lead your eyes. But instead of moving them smoothly along the lines apply two bounces on each line. It is faster and more advanced, but your ability to read chunks of words will determine how fast you can hop and still grasp the sentence.
Technique 3 – Reading Chunks of Words
Minimize the number of eye fixations or stops per line. Ideally, you read with your eyes focused in the middle of the line and still be able to grasp and comprehend the whole sentence. Here is a pen and paper method to learn it. Start with 3 words, then 4 and 5.
The goal is to not read word by word but to divide the text into reading chunks and then read block-by-block or “jump” between whole blocks of words. A block is basically a unit of words that you can read easily read in one go.
By reading chunks of words you slash your reading time substantially because you use your peripheral vision to absorb the information around the block of words you’re already reading.
How do you read and understand phrases containing more than one word? You usually recognize them as a two or three letter phrase rather than reading the single words the are made of. Try the following city names:
New York City – Rio de Janeiro – Santiago de Chile.
Letters hardly transport meaning or information. Single words already have meaning. Word phrases carry an idea or concept. Phrases are images. Understanding those images is the key experience to the technique of learning to read word chunks. Each sentence is made of phrases that contain an idea, often the whole sentence must be read to get its meaning.
3. Stop Subvocalization & Bad Reading Habits
Identify and be aware of your speed reading sabotaging habits. Unless you know what habits are interfering with your reading, you cannot possibly know what needs fixing. The most common bad reading habits are reading word by word, reading out loud, reading with your mouth, or hearing the words in your head. These are often the reasons why you aren’t reading as fast as you could be.
Focus – There’s no right or wrong way of starting to speed read, however, I recommend to focus on your most blatant reading weaknesses. If your issue is subvocalization (voicing the words read in your head or mouth) you need to work on that first.
Subvocalization – Many speed reading techniques indeed focus first on eliminating subvocalization which is the primary reason for our slow-paced reading. Of course, other reading habits come into play that can slow down reading speed, and these are also eliminated when we learn to speed read, but subvocalization is the primary culprit.
The most efficient way to stop subvocalization is to force yourself to increase the speed at which you read. It will feel awkward and uncomfortable at first and you will certainly think that by not saying or sounding out the words read you are going to miss their meaning.
Well, this is definitely not the case. In fact, quite the contrary; having two instead of three reading phases makes the process a lot more optimized. You constantly move from seeing and visually encoding words to directly understanding them at their semantic level.
However, if you catch yourself subvocalizing, you can do two things:
1. Distract yourself by whispering a number sequence (2, 4, 6, 8) or hum a melody while continuing reading. Some also simply recommend to chew gum.
2. Force your brain to visualize the next word rather than spell it out. You can achieve this just by looking at the next block of words. Look at it, don’t read it. Just let your eyes fall on the words and move on. Your brain will still take in the information and process it, even if you didn’t take the time to consciously read it and wait for your brain to comprehend it as well.
To teach your brain to adjust to this phased reading process use the techniques below:
Track-and-Pace – Use a pen, your finger, or some other prop to direct your focus where you want. If you also hide away the text before and after the section you’re reading, you allow your eyes to stay focused and not wander.
Expand eye-fixation – This can be achieved by fixating at the center of each line, rather than conventionally reading left to right. Once you fixate less frequently on each line, you leave no choice for your brain but to start semantically processing the visual information, as there’s no time to sound it out! Combine this technique with the pointer method.
Word Chunking – Another parameter of eye-fixation is to expand the number of words you read each time. Fewer word chunks per line mean less eye-fixation per line, which ultimately means a faster reading pace and fewer chances for subvocalization.
Resist Regression – Most people have a habit of skipping back to a sentence or paragraph that they just read in order to make sure that they completely understood the meaning. This thing is so common that most of us do it without even noticing.
Furthermore, regression will not only force you to subvocalize but to subvocalize content that has already been read. Increasing your reading speed will discourage you from re-reading and keep you moving forward. It’s possible that when you’re first practicing this, your comprehension will go down, but as you re-train your brain it will catch up again.
In order to avoid skip backs, it is quite effective to use a pointer to underline the text while reading it or cover it with a blank paper as you move forward.
4. Increase Reading Speed and Comprehension
- Preview and skim any material. Skim for trigger phrases, numbers and names.
- Recall the main idea. Set your reading goal.
- Ask questions Who, Where, When, What, Why and How.
- For reading use your hand/finger as a pacing tool.
- Flip page with the hand you are not using for hand pacing. It will speed you up.
- For Web Reading: Check headlines. Scan bullet lists and bold words. Use mouse pacing.
- Learn to read groups of words. Start with two words at a glance, then three, four and five.
- Hum a melody while reading to avoid subvocalization.
- Resist going back in text. Just keep reading. Trust yourself and get back in line.
- Learn common pref- and suffixes to understand words and derive meanings faster.
- Conceptualize and link an image to common words to improve comprehension.
- Improve your vocabulary. Learn new words to improve comprehension.
- Visualize information. Use memory techniques to effectively embody knowledge.
- Utilize mind maps to recall ideas, review content and to create knowledge databases.
- Affirmations create a positive attitude. Trust in your skills.
- Reduce noise or any distracting impacts.
- Test new skills or stick to new projects for at least 21 days.
- Read everything you come across. Practice speed reading techniques daily.
Solutions for Bad Reading Habits
- Apply drills to eliminate subvocalization.
- Learn to read at least 4 words in one fixation.
- Trust yourself and resist regression by keep reading.
5. Use Tools to Learn How to Read Faster
Learning how to read faster is an inexpensive method. There are many free tutorials and videos available that teach you basic speed reading techniques. However, it can be time effective to skip steep learning curves by enrolling in speed reading classes or learning with software.
Regular training sessions and exercises are the keys to improve your reading skills. Such courses or programs can help to achieve your goals faster and with more accuracy and discipline. There are free and paid programs on the market.
Adopting this method is a foolproof way to streamline and accelerate your reading pace. Products such as 7 Speed Reading™ or Become a SuperLearner offer an efficient solution for people wishing to reach their goals in a shorter period of time and with less effort.
6. Speed Reading Tips for Kids
- Reading tests are not really necessary for kids. Relax and enjoy the fun.
- Easy methods such as hand pacing or previewing are great motivation boosters.
- 15 minutes a day is a good time frame to practice speed reading techniques.
- Keep sessions short and catchy. The younger the child the shorter the sessions.
- Research books that are suitable for children.
- Think of a smart and inexpensive reward system to keep your child motivated.
- Invite friends from the neighborhood. Learning in groups can be very effective.
- Make a plan on what to teach and how to teach. Explain what you want to accomplish.
- Warm-up sessions help to increase focus.
7. Practice Speed Reading
- Increase your vocabulary by reading something every day.
- Use memory techniques to recall better.
- Exercise reading chunks of words.
- Exercise visualization skills.
- Exercise to read/skim a book in five minutes
- Scan urban space for word groups. Understand them as one construct. Check signs, ads.
- Advertisement: Practice reading word phrases by skimming magazines, street or shop ads.
- At the doctor: Preview magazines. Recall ideas. Check ads. Read word groups.
- Check out free web apps to exercise speed reading techniques on mobile devices.
Start by reading a book or article that you have already read. It will be easier to skip words and keep up a smooth flow if you’re familiar with the material.
Read a lot, especially non-fiction books. With novels, you’ll often want to slow down and immerse yourself in the author’s world, and that’s okay. But when you’re practicing speed reading techniques, virtually anything that’s not literature is a good choice.
When utilizing your index finger to lead your eyes, start slowly, but at a challenging pace. Keep moving for a page or two and then check your reading comprehension. You will soon be able to move your hand quicker, thus read faster and comprehend more.
You don’t always have to speed read. Speed reading requires a lot of cognitive focus and effort. Besides, you might wish to slow down and take in ideas and concepts in a more gradually satisfying manner. It’s okay to read at different speeds depending on the material. In fact, slowing down and relaxing can be good as it will give you time to recuperate.
Take regular breaks. This way, your comprehension and focus will stay on a high level. Taking breaks also helps to keep your eyes healthy and avoid eye strain.
Get rid of distractions. Cell phones, TV, internet, radio, etc can distract you easily while reading and cause hindrance in your reading speed. Even if you are good at reading, you can become a pro by getting rid of these distractions.
Time yourself. You can improve your reading speed by timing yourself. By timing yourself you will not only try to improve your reading speed but you will also stay motivated to perform better. Moreover, it will also be easier to keep track of your performance.
Each speed reader is unique, so avoid solely adopting specific methodologies, rather adjust each of them to your learning demands. Often the tricks we come up with ourselves enhance our learning progress more than any scientific method could ever do.
Speed Reading Techniques and Tips – Summary
Despite the fact that there are many benefits of speed reading, the biggest advantage of this learning technique is that it saves time. You will be able to retain the same amount of data that you would have retained by reading slowly. Therefore, this can be very beneficial for those people who have to read manifold documents at their workplace every day.
Furthermore, students who know how to speed read have a competitive advantage over their peers. Studies have revealed that a person who possesses this skill can learn a language much faster than a person who doesn’t have this skill. Recent studies about fast reading have also revealed that this particular reading technique improves memory.
Speed reading is also all about practice. The more you practice this learning method the better you will become at it. There are manifold speed reading techniques that can help you in improving your reading speed. However, the most important thing is that you should learn to identify the most important points in the reading material and develop a wider eye span.
With speed reading, people have the power to increase their knowledge and use it towards their own ends and for their own benefit. Therefore, my last tip is to never give up on an opportunity to read something useful and pertinent to your success goals.
What is speed reading?
There are varied definitions of speed reading. Some people define speed reading as “skim and scanning through context.” Others mean using a meta-guide to encourage a faster reading pace, and there are still other definitions that include both of these and even more aspects of speed reading.
The underlying truth is that speed reading is an acquired skill that people use to read faster through written content and comprehend and retain a substantial amount of information once they’re done.
What is the average reading speed?
The average reader reads about 200-250 words per minute but average reading speed can slow down to 100-175 wpm depending on the complexity of the material, for example, scientific papers.
Proficient speed readers are those who reach an average reading speed of 500-600 words per minute or more while keeping their comprehension rates well above 70%.
Sleep Better, Read Faster
- Have a sleep routine.
- Drink a glass of water before bedtime.
- Avoid heavy meals, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, caffeine before sleeping
- Darken and cool your bedroom
- Exercise regularly to have a good night’s sleep.
- A high-quality mattress is beneficial to your sleep and well-being.
- Avoid computer/TV consumption at least one hour before bedtime.
- Stress is a concentration and sleep killer. Try to relax your mind!
- Meditation may help to fall asleep quickly.
- Progressive muscle relaxation can help prepare for sleep.
- A power nap usually improves focus and concentration.
- Read more about tips on how to sleep better here.
Resources and further reading
- The Wikipedia entry.
- Use PDF Booklets (see above) to practice word group reading.
- Use the converter to create your own exercises and material.
- Give RSVP readers such as Spreeder a try.
- Use Bookmarklets from Accelareader.
- Try Quickreader on your iOS device.
- Try Evernote or Read it later apps for better organization.
Thanks for reading. To help spread the word, please share our tutorial on how to read faster and basic speed reading techniques and tips on your favorite social media platform.