What is your experience with reading faster?
Wouldn’t it be nice to read faster so you can complete your work or school projects in less time?
What do you think of when I say “read faster”? Do you envision speed reading and not understanding as much? Actually, the very first speed reading course I took was just like that. It was rather uncomfortable because I felt I understood less with that particular technique.
Then I came across a course that helped me read faster without losing any comprehension; in fact, increase my comprehension at times. This approach makes sense to me. The purpose of reading is to understand what the author is saying. If reading fast costs that comprehension, then what’s the point?
One effective way to read faster
There are actually several techniques with this approach that I’m going to show you. Begin with the most basic one first, which has doubled the speed for many students I worked with.
Practice this skill with a hard cover book that lies flat on the table. A paperback is less ideal for this exercise because you have to use one hand to hold down a page. Choose a book you have not read before so there is no chance of the content being familiar to you. Get a timer. Set it for 2 minutes. Read for 2 minutes the way you usually do.
Count the number of lines you read. Pick 3 lines at random and count the number of words in each line. Find the average number of words per line. Multiply the number of lines you read by the words per line. Then divide by 2 because you read for 2 minutes. The reason for the 2 minutes is because often you are just getting into the content in the first minute. 2 minutes allow you to get up to your regular speed.
How to calculate reading speed
Here’s an example:
After reading for 2 minutes, you count that you have read 100 lines.
You pick 3 lines at random and count the number of words in each line.
Line 1: 9 words
Line 2: 10 words
Line 3: 11 words
The average is 10 words per line
Multiply 100 lines by 10 words per line = 1000 words
Divide by 2 minutes = 500 words
This means you read 500 words per minute. At least for that book.
The easier the book is, the faster you read. The more difficult the book is, the slower. So your reading speed would vary depending on the reading material.
The reason you want to find you reading speed right from the start is so that you can see your progress as you practice the techniques. Your reading speed will increase as you practice these skills regularly.
Training your eye movement
The first technique is eye training. Underline each sentences with your finger. At the end of each line, bring your finger to the next line without lifting it off the page. Like making a deep U turn. Have you ever had the experience of finding yourself on a line below the line you intended to read? This small amount of time adds up. Some research says you lose 1 out of 6 seconds by not immediately finding the beginning of the next line. Just imagine, 1 out of 6 seconds; 1 out of 6 minutes; 1 out of 6 hours; you can do a lot of other things with the time you save. Merely by doing this one little thing. Underline each sentence with your finger, and at the end of the sentence, instead of lifting your finger, loop it around to the second line.
Do this NOT for the purpose of reading
Before you begin this technique, there is some eye training. Underline the sentences at a pace where your eyes cannot really see the word. Start at your regular pace, then speed up to an almost ridiculous pace. After 1/2 a minute or so, start slowing down until you are at your regular speed. You will be able to see the individual words at this point. Here’s the reason for this exercise.
Imagine getting on the freeway. At first, you are not yet matching the speed of the drivers already on the freeway. You increase your speed until you match the traffic flow. Perhaps even beyond the speed limit to 75. Then imagine you see a police car ahead, so you start to slow down. Although you slowed down to 55 mph, you feel you are driving really slow after 75 mph. But 55 mph is not that slow. Same with your eye training. After the pace where the words are a blur, when you slow down to your regular speed, you are able to see individual words clearly even though by now, your pace is not that slow.
Practice this for a few minutes, then measure your reading speed. Most likely, you’ll notice a significant difference with just this one technique.
Using your peripheral vision in reading
Practice this technique until it becomes normal to you. Then go on to this slightly more advanced technique. Instead of underlining with your finger from the beginning of the line to the end of the line, move your finger in about 1 word from each end. Your peripheral vision will take care of those 2 words. Do this until it becomes natural to you. Then move in 2 words from each end, and so on….
After you have mastered the above techniques, use all your fingers to underline, as if you are brushing down the page in slow motion.
From time to time, measure your reading progress.
By not reading individual words, you can grasp the meaning of the idea better. This is the reason why reading faster actually improves comprehension. Individual words do not convey ideas. It’s reading the idea (the phrase) that helps us comprehend better. Increasing our reading speed can actually helps us accomplish that better than reading word by word.
If you have questions
If you have questions about these techniques, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you find this article helpful, here is another one on Improving your English the natural way.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email email@example.com