Home > 'Self Help', Misc, Productivity, Working on it > Speed-Reading: How I’ve increased my reading speed by 79%

Speed-Reading: How I’ve increased my reading speed by 79%

Reading for me has of late become a chore. With up to 40 hours worth per week for my course, I time and again find it hard, no, impossible to adjust, sit back and revel in some light reading. Coupled with a boiled-down attention span when it comes to reading, one thing I routinely notice is that I abandon and abdicate from books (mainly novels) at least 70% of the time. I get two thirds of the way through, momentum ceases, I hit a brick wall, and sentence the book to a life on the shelf with a tatty dog-ear on page 160 to deceive myself that one day, just one day, I will finish that book. Predictably, it rarely happens.

For all that, over the past few weeks, I have, despite delay, indulged myself in researching and practising speed-reading. This is where certain reading habits are developed to dramatically increase reading speeds (mine has increased by 79%) almost immediately. And through developing this disposition, reading rates should continue to increase with practice.

As I’ve been reading more about this, I’ve come across masses of rules and different techniques to incorporate into speed-reading. But, being the tardy, unindustrious student I am,  I didn’t want to overload myself, and so chose the four most common (and hopefully most effective) to work on.

  1. Read with a marker; follow where you’re up to on the page with a marker (your finger, hand, or ruler, for example). This helps to keep your eye focused and highlights to your brain the words that you’re reading.
  2. Increase Perceptual Expansion; Basically in this sentence, you would ideally start reading at ‘sentence’ and stop reading around about ‘stop’. This cuts out approximately 30% of the words you need to read. That’s not to say you’re ignoring those peripheral words. With practice you’ll still take them in and comprehend the sentence in its entirety.
  3. Stop Subvocalizing; This is where you say the words in your head as you read them. This means that you can never really read faster than you talk, yet your brain is still working slower that it potentially could. This is often misunderstood. You will still hear something, some kind of bumbling mumble in your head as your brain picks out important words. The point is that you’re not subvocalizing every word, enabling you to read at a much faster rate.
  4. Practice; the more you practice, the faster you’ll read and the more you’ll take in and remember. When I first started, I wasn’t really comprehending much information, but today I bought a used copy of A Year In Provence, and am flying through it while knowing exactly what’s going on. This won’t come straight away and does take a bit of time, but with a bit of patience a noticeable difference will be seen within a couple of days, if not less.

I’ve been trying this out for a week now, and have noticed massive improvements already. Initially I recorded my reading speed at 291 words per minute. Today when I timed myself, I was at 521; an increase of just over 79%! The aim’s to get to around 700, which is almost 2 pages per minute on an average sized book.

Granted, this technique isn’t to be bestowed on any of the scholarly reading I’m usually drowning under. When all’s said and done, that’s not technically reading, is it? It’s studying. But for all those books that are honoured enough to have a place on my list, this should lighten the load and power me through those thousands of pages. Besides, developing a skill like this is sure to help me with all those further tasks; learning French, learning about politics and WW2 and all and everything else that springs up.

  1. Mike
    February 6, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Nice post Rob. I’ve been trying to work on speeding up my reading as I’ve recently started university and find it quite hard to keep up with everything. I’ll definitely give your tips ago. Thanks.

  2. Freya
    February 6, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I’ve been speedreading for quite a long time and still haven’t found a way to speed read adademic texts unfortunately. If you know of any way, please let me know.

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