Read Faster, Read Smarter: 6 Tips to Increase Reading Speed
As you rise up the educational ladder, you’re going to notice that teachers become more and more enamored with assigned reading. It’s as if they think the only thing you have time for is to open a book or turn on a Kindle. Keeping pace isn’t easy, especially if reading isn’t one of your preferred hobbies, but you can’t afford to ignore it either. That’s why we’ve put together some speed reading strategies that should allow you to speed through more texts while maximizing your understanding. Let’s begin.
- Know where you are. It’s okay if you’re a slow reader at present. No matter what your skill level, you will be able to up your game provided that you take the time to follow the rest of the suggestions on this list. Remember, you’re not in a competition with other people here, but a competition with yourself to read faster than the day you read before. Once you stop trying to catch up to the head of the class, you can focus on getting better. Therefore, sit down with an assigned reading piece from one of your classes. Take out a timer. Set it to three minutes. Start reading. Stop immediately when the timer goes off. Then, count up the number of words.
- Beat your initial performance. Okay, now we’re going to do something similar to what we did in tip one, but the purpose is going to change a bit. Let’s say you started out being able to read 200 words per minute. That’s probably a tad low for what you actually did, but just go with it. Now, in the next three minutes, you know that you’re going to want to read more text than you did in the previous three. Therefore, it’s important to know where you’re going. Don’t count out each word. That would take too long. Just look at how far you read in your book. If you read two and a half pages, for example, then start where you ended, count forward three pages and try to make sure that your eyes are situated in the approximate location as your starting point. In other words, you read two and a half pages in, so you’ll want to make it to the five and a half page mark before the timer goes off. This is very doable because it takes what you’re already capable of doing naturally and it hurries it along (but not too much). Now that you know where your eyes need to end up, reset your timer for three minutes, and get going. What you’ll find is that you have a renewed sense of urgency in how you handle the words. Your eyes and your brain will start trying to take shortcuts to make sure that you get to the finish line while understanding as much of what you’ve just read as possible.
- Review what you’ve read. Try repeating as much of the information that you’ve just taken in as possible. This is what we like to call a “comprehension checkpoint.” It’s where you make sure that you’re still retaining information in spite of rushing yourself more. Once you’re convinced that you have retained the information, keep pushing yourself along. Consider timing each session in three-minute chunks, and keep up with approximately how much you read along the way. Your goal is to do just a little bit better than you did the session before. If you can keep it going, then you’re eventually going to have a breakthrough where instead of reading 200 words a minute or 205 words a minute or 210 words a minute, you’re now reading 250, 275, 300. As the minutes of reading add up, the progress does as well. Meanwhile your reading muscles are getting adequately flexed and any sense of anxiety that you have towards the written word will start to dissipate.
- Push yourself beyond what’s comfortable. For this next tip, I would suggest getting your hands on a speed-reading application like Outread or Spritz. Many of these apps can take a web page — think a long-form web article — and load them in to a speed-reading “player” that zips the words by at a rate of speed that you predetermine. Want to know what it’s like to read 500 words per minute? Move the slider to that goal, hit play, and watch the words zip by one at a time. Many of these apps use the same type of technology in taking you through a piece sequentially, word-by-word. The apps work, though you may lose some comprehension in the process. The key is to use the app to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. If you can do it through an app, you can do it through a printed book. Don’t worry if you lost 30% or so of what was said. Your capacity for speed-reading is growing.
- Try to jump ahead of the text. As you become a more accomplished reader, you will learn that one of the best things to do to speed up your reading time while also maintaining comprehension is to continually question the text and make predictions as to where it’s going. These predictions we’re talking about do not have to be correct. They just have to be valid. And by “valid,” we mean they have to be sincere efforts to jump ahead, question, and predict, what you’re reading. The simple acts of doing so will help your brain skim through the material with greater comprehension along the way.
- Bring the world into what you’re reading. Again, there aren’t any right or wrong answers with this technique per se. All you’re really wanting to accomplish is to connect the written material to other texts or world events or personal situations to which you can relate. When you call on this wealth of knowledge, it becomes easier to read quickly because you don’t spend so much time questioning the meanings or spellings of words. You focus on the writer’s message instead of how he’s crafting it.
If you want to read faster but don’t want to lose comprehension, try the tips we’ve listed here. And if you already have some techniques that are working for you, which ones are they? Share in our comments section below.
[Image via Spritz, linked above]