How many words do you read a day? You read emails, Facebook and Twitter feeds, magazines and books. You read a least few thousand words a day.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could read faster? It would save you time; reading faster by only 33% would save you fifteen minutes an hour. You could read more books, more articles and more emails each day.
But is it possible to increase your reading speed? It is with something called speed reading. (You can check your reading speed here.)
What Is Speed Reading?
Speed reading is the ability to read faster than the average 200-400 WPM (words per minute). Speed reading has been around since the 1950s, but has grown in popularity with the spread of speed-reading apps.The top speed readers claim to be able to read 1,200 WPM. Considering the fact that this post is 2000 words long, it would take them just over a minute and a half to finish it. The average speed reader can read 500-700 WPM, which is still pretty fast. After learning how to speed read, you could read this whole post in only three minutes. Before we get into how to read faster with speed reading, you should know why the average reading speed is only 200-400 words per minute.
How We Read
When we read, we look at a word or a group of words, which is called fixation. And then, we move our eyes to the next word or group or words, and this movement is called a saccade. One fixation takes about ¼ of a second, while a saccade takes 0.1 second on average.
After we fixate on words and saccade a few takes, we pause for 0.3 to 0.5 seconds to think about and comprehend what we just read.
Also, after you read a few lines, you’ll go back and look again at what you just read to make sure you’ve got it; this is called regression.
If you added up all these fixations, saccades and regressions, and you have 200-400 words per minute. The good news is that you can learn how to read faster. Ready to give speed reading a try?
Speed Reading Techniques
There are many different speed-reading techniques you can use to read faster. Which one you choose depends on how fast you want to read and for what purpose are you reading.
If you are just reviewing a few notes, you could use skimming, while if you want to speed read a book, you could use meta-guiding or the RSVP technique.
Skimming is searching through the text, searching for clues on what the text is talking about.
Skimming does not mean reading whatever sentence your eyes fall on. If you want to skim the right way, you should read the first sentence of each paragraph. This will give you a sense of what that paragraph is talking about.
You should also read any titles, subtitles or key phrases. If the paragraph is talking about a topic you need to know more about or that interests you, then skim more through that paragraph by looking for names, dates, numbers, or whatever it is that might be important in that topic.
You can skim more effectively by using the third-word rule. This is done by skipping the first and last two words of a line. You won’t miss any information because your eyes see those words with your peripheral vision. It just reduces the time you waste on saccades and fixations.
However, skimmers remember less details than speed readers using other methods, and they also lose a certain amount of comprehension. So you wouldn’t want to skim through important documents, but it’s great for reviewing for a test or presentation or for reading through long boring emails.
Scanning is looking for a specific fact or piece of information. You already do this a lot in your daily life. You do this when looking for your friend’s number in a telephone book or your name in a list of names.
When scanning, you don’t read everything. You discard everything that is not what you are looking for, and therefore, you barely remember or comprehend anything other than what you were looking for.
This isn’t completely speed reading, since you’re just skipping words and not really reading them, but most people believe it’s speed reading ,so I thought I’d mention it here.
You see children read this way all the time, but as we get older we drop this habit. Meta-guide speed reading is done by using a pointer, such as a finger or a pencil or pen to guide your eyes and reduce distractions while reading.
Your pointer sets the reading speed for you, and your eyes have to catch up; don’t let your eyes decide what speed they want to read at, or you won’t be getting any faster. To read faster with this speed reading method, you have to move your pointer faster than your normal reading speed.
You might slow down on certain parts, such as the beginning or the end of the page, but in general, when you decide on a speed, stick to it.
If you feel like you aren’t comprehending what you’re reading, set your speed slower. Once you get used to that speed, start going faster.
Subvocalization is that voice in your head that reads you every word. You are hearing it now as you’re reading this article. I can hear the voice while I’m typing it.
Subvocalization limits your reading speed; not letting you read any faster than you can speak.
So to read faster, you need to get rid of that voice in your head.
But just how are you going to do that?
It’s really not as hard as it sounds. To stop subvocalizing, all you have to do is to distract your mind with other things. Keep your mouth moving; say 1 2 3 or A B C over and over while you’re reading. You then no longer hear that voice in your head, and the words go straight into your conscious mind.
Rapid Serial Visual Presentation, or RSVP for short, is what most speed reading apps work by. They show you one word or a few words (called chunks) of what you are reading at a time in one location.
You are able to set the speed and choose how many words you want to be shown at a time, and the speed reading app does the rest.
This method isn’t new and has been around since the 1960s. Though now, there are tons of speed reading apps to help you with it.
Do you ever read something, realize you weren’t paying attention, and then have to read it all over again?
Well, you don’t want that to happen when you’re speed reading. For two reasons, one, it’s a waste of time, and, two, if you are using the RSVP speed reading technique, then you can’t go back, you’d have to go back to the original article.
While speed reading, you can’t hear your mind read the words to you (subvocalization), you can’t go back and reread something, and the words are moving quickly enough to keep your short-term memory occupied. Without focus and concentration, you’re lost.
You can improve your concentration by being in a quiet place, avoiding multitasking, and trying not to wander off. So, the key to speed reading is focus. You don’t want to read several pages only to realize that you didn’t understand a thing.
Does Speed Reading Actually Work?
You might have read one of those many articles out there that say speed reading doesn’t work, and if it does, it reduces comprehension. But the truth is, you can comprehend 75% of what you read as long as you don’t exceed 600 WPM.
One of the arguments against speed reading is that you can’t move your eyes faster than 500 WPM. However, speed reading apps using RSVP to show the word in the same spot. Therefore, there is no need to move the eyes.
They also claim that during speed reading, your working memory becomes overwhelmed, and the words drop out of your mind before you can process and comprehend them. Again, as long as you don’t go faster than 600 WPM, you’ll be fine.
Many people have had great results and read a lot faster with speed reading while still maintaining a large amount of comprehension.
One trouble with developing speed reading skills is that by the time you realized the book is boring you’ve already finished it.
Franklin P. Jones
What Do You Think?Have you tried to learn to read faster? How did you do it? Did it work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Here's what you'll learn in this article:
- What, exactly, is speed reading?
- How We Read
- Speed Reading Techniques
- Eliminating Subvocalization
- Does Speed Reading Actually Work?
Get a List of the 5 Best Speed Reading Apps
Get a List of the 5 Best Speed Reading Apps