Improving Your Speed Reading Techniques
1Look at groups of words, not single words. If you read a text one word at a time, then this will slow your reading speed way down. However, if you can get into the habit of reading groups or chunks of words at one time, then you can read much faster.
- Start by trying to look at a group of three or four words at once, then work up to looking at an entire line of words.
- Focus on words that give the sentence meaning, such as the nouns and verbs and pay less attention to the filler words, such as “A, the, and, etc.”
- To see the biggest improvement in your speed reading skills, combine this technique with other speed reading techniques.
2Read with your hands. Use your finger to push yourself through the page. As you read, move your hand left to right under the text as if underlining it. Move your hand at the speed which you would like to read. You may start by moving at a slightly faster pace than your ordinary reading, and speed up on subsequent readings.
- While it used to be claimed that this use of the hand or finger “guided” the eye, it now appears that the finger sets the pace of reading rather than guiding its path. This is because it is difficult to pace the movements of your eyes, but easy to pace the movements of your hands.
- You can also use a pen or other object to pace yourself.
3Scan for keywords. Scanning is a highly effective way of extracting answers from a text without really reading it. If you know exactly what you are looking for—a name, a date, a statistic, or a specific word—you can find it quickly by skipping over large chunks of the text. To scan, first visualize the word, number, or phrase you would like to find. Then, run your eyes rapidly over the text. The information you are looking for should pop out at you.
- Try scanning with your hands or a pen. Experiment with shapes to see which gets you the quickest results.
4Chunk the material. One of the reasons you read slowly is that you have to pause sometimes to understand what a passage is saying. You might also have to go back and reread things you have already read. To improve your speed reading, try to pause for reflection only at the end of a reading session (i.e. after about 15 to 20 minutes) or after finishing a section, such as chapter.
- To check for comprehension at the end of every speed reading session, write down keywords, or just summarize what you read in a few sentences or by explaining it to someone. This will help you keep to improve your comprehension, and it will also help you to retain information better.
5Race the clock. You can train yourself to read faster by timing yourself as you go. Start by getting your base time. Set a timer for fifteen minutes, and speed read as you normally do. When the timer goes off, check to see how far you got. Do not count the words, just the pages or paragraphs. Record your figures: for instance, you might write “15min/6.5 pages.”
- Check your comprehension. Say what you learned out loud—you don’t need to write it down, just check to see that you took in the information you were reading.
- The next day, set the alarm for 15 minutes again and try to read faster. Record your times again (“15 min/7 pages,” for instance), and check for comprehension.
- Do this every day or 5 days a week to improve your skills. Try to beat your last time every session.
- If you notice your comprehension is dropping, you may have reached your peak, or you may need to aim for a more moderate improvement in speed.
Trying the SQR3 method
1Survey the text. Before you read, read all titles, chapter and section headings, subheadings, and any charts, graphs, diagrams, questions, and summaries you can find.
- If you are reading a text without these things, you might consider reading the first and last sentence of every paragraph or chapter to get an idea of the material the text is covering.
2Write questions. Write down any questions you hope your reading will answer. You will comprehend more if you go into the text knowing what you want to learn. If you are not sure what you want to learn, go through and turn every chapter heading, section title, etc. into a question. Try to guess what the text will teach you: ask yourself the question you think the text might answer.
- If you like, add further questions while you read.
3Read or skim the text. Review your questions, then read the text. You may skim or scan, or you may just read at your current fastest pace.
- Depending on the length of the text, you may choose to read it all, or you may choose to read it in sections.
- For maximum comprehension, pause at the end of every section and think about what you have read. Answer the question if you can.
- For maximum speed, answer the questions once you have read the entire text.
4Recite the answers. Now that you’ve read, you should be able to answer the questions you asked yourself. Answer all the questions you have read. You do not have to write them down (unless that is your assignment), just recite them aloud.
- If you are pausing after each section, make sure you can recite the answer to that section before you move on to the next. If you cannot, go back and skim it again.
- If you feel you made an error in the framing of one of your questions, reframe it so that you can answer it.
5Review the text. The final “R” in SQR3 is “review,” which will help you retain the information you have comprehended. Go back over the questions you have answered and see if you can still answer them from memory.
- If you cannot, skim the section again until you can.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
1Expand your vocabulary. Running into words you don’t know is one of the great bogs of speed reading. You’re likely to get stuck on words with meanings you don’t know, and likely to miss key information. To expand your vocabulary, read more. When you don’t know a word, look it up.
- If you are reading a certain genre of text, such as a medical textbook, it will help to study basic medical jargon before you start reading.
- Reading broadly in the fields that interest you will expand your vocabulary.
2Choose strategic texts. Because you’ll always be trading some of your comprehension when reading at breakneck speed, you might want to save speed reading for texts that are somewhat easy or that you won’t be tested on. For instance, you might choose to speed read a book that is written for young adults. Or, you might speed read a book that you need to read for a class, but that will not be on any exams or tests. Another good choice for speed reading would be a text you have read before that you would like to review.
- Avoid speed reading texts that you really need to know, such as material you will be tested on.
- Avoid speed reading texts that require you to subvocalize or analyze while you read, such as poetry or fiction. You will miss out on the most important information.
3Take notes. If comprehension is your goal, then processing what you just wrote is your best tool. After you’ve completed your speed reading of a text, take some time to reflect on it. Write down key ideas, discuss them with a friend, or just free-write about your impressions.
- Don’t make marks or highlight the text—this will interfere with your speed reading, and it may distract you from the information you are trying to absorb.
Why is reading hard for some people?
They may not enjoy it or feel a need to learn it. Lack of attention span can make this worse, or dyslexia and similar conditions.
Does this apply to fiction books as well?
There’s no reason it couldn’t apply to fiction, although most people read fiction for fun or entertainment and don’t care as much about speed.
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