Speed reading techniques have been around for more than half a century now. In fact, JFK was reportedly an advocate of speed reading.
Speed reading involves any technique or combination of techniques that help/s one read quicker. You can learn how to speed read through things like books, videos, software, apps and courses.
The average person reads at a rate of around 200 words a minute. Expert speed readers, however, say that they can process around 1,000-1,700 words a minute, with 50 per cent and above comprehension.
But, is 50 per cent comprehension good enough? What’s the point of being able to read more quickly if the trade-off is that you’re losing out on key bits of information and meaning?
Some people argue that the speeds at which speed readers are reading don’t even constitute as reading—it’s more like they’re skimming texts.
All that said, if you’re a slow reader, there’s no harm in trying out speed reading techniques, to find out for yourself whether they can help you boost your reading speed, without compromising your comprehension.
Try out the following and see if any of them help:
Many slow readers find it difficult to skim. Try to force yourself to skim a piece of text on the first go, to get an overall impression of what is being said, before going on to do a closer reading. You might find that, as you do this, you’re getting better at skimming. You can then apply your skimming skills to reading material that doesn’t require close reading, like a manual for a new product or an article that you’re only interested in reading for the main points, or something that you have to read in a hurry.
This involves guiding your eye to raise the speed of reading. Use your index finger or a pen or pencil as a pointer and you will find it will help you read a lot quicker, as it is forcing your eyes to move faster along passages of text. Some people believe that this technique also helps reduce ‘subvocalisation’. Subvocalisation is the internal speech we hear when reading a word or passages, which ‘sounds out’ the word. This is how most of us are taught to read. It should be noted that there is no proof that reducing subvocalisation does actually increase reading speed. We’d encourage anyone practising meta guiding not to skip words, for better comprehension.
There are many computer programmes, software and apps for speed reading. They deploy a variety of techniques. Some programmes instruct readers to view the centre of the screen while lines of text around it grow longer.
Newer programmes use built-in text and guide readers through an on-screen book at pre-defined speeds. Here, text is usually highlighted to guide the readers where to focus their eyes. Most programmes try to eliminate the need for subvocalisation.
Try it out
If you’re interested in having a go at speed reading, try out a website like Spreeder (http://www.spreeder.com/) for fun and see if it actually helps you. You can paste the text you want to read and the software will then pace the text for you, according to which rate of speed (words per minute) you have chosen. You can even adjust the ‘chunk size’ of the text that is flashed across the screen each time (1 word to 6 words) and the window size. Tinker around with the settings and see what works best for you. Start with the slowest predefined speed and lowest word chunk sizes and see how you get on from there!