How to Double Your Reading Speed
- Jan 12, 2015
It was the year 1890 when a 27 year old voracious reader planted a suspicious curiosity in the mind of a local librarian of Meerut. What caught the librarian’s attention was the fact that every book Narendranath took out for reading was returned the very next day.
The librarian summed up that this must be an attempt at getting into the good books of the people he was staying with. But someone taking out books just for the sake of impressing others and returning them unread felt like a huge blot on his integrity. So he decided to inquire into this atrocity. Narendranath rose to the moment with a polite answer, “Sir, I have read all the books very attentively. If you have any doubt, you may ask me any question you like from the books I have borrowed.” To the librarian’s surprise, Narendranath nailed the answers to each of the questions put forward with extreme efficiency. And this man later went on to become the Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda.
This is just one of the many success stories that speed reading boast. Most successful people inhale information like a gulps of air and can chew up articles by the bulk in minutes. Compared to the 220-300 words per minute of an average reader, these human word-vacuums manage to fit in a minimum of 1500 words per minute into their exceptional brains. This is what makes them so formidable. If you are trying to achieve the feat, then dig into the following techniques to become a full-fledged speed reader.
Preview your reading material
This technique is hugely beneficial. Try this: when the next reading massacre strikes, stop altogether, close your eyes for a minute and try not to think of piles of texts you have to go through. Instead, preview.
- Read the first two paragraphs of the text.
- Next read only the first sentence of the successive paragraphs.
- When you reach the last two paragraphs, read them entirely.
It saves time, but not at the cost of comprehension.
Caution: Previewing might keep you from the details, but would definitely give you an overall idea of the content, skipping the details that you might not need to read, unless you are reading a recipe for a towering croquembouche.
This technique will be like a delicious pan-seared steak to the scavenger in you. Skimming is when your vision picks out trigger words in a text that you reading. This way you skip the essay, but still descend enlightened from reading the content.
- Think of your eyes as magnets and the keywords as iron.
- Stick to a few words per sentence.
- Don’t fixate, will your eye to pick up the trigger words as quick words in a sentence and move along.
The keywords vary for everyone. You and I may not have the same choice in keywords, even though we might share a common interest in speed reading. You could also try going for groups of forms by forming clusters.
Situations when skimming comes handy:
- Needlessly lengthy essays
- Newspapers, while on the run
- A time crunch calls for skimming
How is it different than previewing?
For previewing, you skip whole paragraphs, except the first sentence. But in skimming, you do not skip paragraphs as a whole, but words instead.
Cut down on subvocalization
During my first few days as a junior writer in a certain company, I was a very quiet person and kept to myself most of the time. One day at lunch I was going through the internet for reference to my next article, when my senior called out, “If you are trying to read quickly, don’t murmur. Let your eyes do the reading.” I was caught unaware, but I collected myself and managed an “Okay”. I realized later that subvocalizing has been eating into my reading speed like Pacman.
Did you know that the very words you form with your lips while reading, which you firmly believe to be the best way for understanding your text, is actually cheating on your reading speed? This is known as subvocalization. This auditory reassurance technique is not an ally to speed reading when you are all grown up and have accumulated years and years of reading experience.
- Distract yourself from saying the words in your head. The quickest way is to chew gum while you read.
- You can use your hand to guide your eyes while going through a text.
- If you are currently at a speed of 250 wpm, try pushing yourself to reach 450 wpm.
While reading fast, your eyes and brain can do just fine. But your mouth and ears will just be getting in the way.
When to subvocalize intentionally:
- When you are reading an important document, you would want to absorb in every word.
- Subvocalizing applies to studying, it helps a lot.
- When you are in a park with little kids running around screaming, you might need to need to turn your speed reading down a notch and concentrate on subvocalizing.
Expand your field of vision
The eye can span a length of 1.5 inches at one glance, which amounts an approximate 4-5 words. How about optimizing that?
- Hold the book or screen a little farther that you are used to. This would help you to take in more words at a time.
- Try looking at chunks of words instead of focusing on one.
- Set your timer. Now go!
Training your reflexes
One afternoon I was debating about the book “To kill a Mockingbird” with my uncle in his well-furnished library, when he said a beautiful thing. “No one recovers completely from any kind of wound. It heals to some extent and the mind adjusts to the rest.” The reason I said this is because I would require the last part of what my uncle said to explain the fourth technique of speed reading.
- Run a pencil along a sentence, let your eyes run along and make it quick. Finish a whole paragraph this way.
- Now rest for 5 seconds, and start again, but with double the speed.
- You probably won’t understand anything, but keep at it.
Do you see what happens here? When you train your brain to believe something, it would adjust itself to it. And when it becomes a habit, you would catch yourself reading like a pro.
Try a few tools and resources
You might need some aid to speed up your reading instead of relying on self-help only. A few tools would be:
- Spreeder: All you need to do is paste the text you need to speed read on the window of this web-page and hit on “spreed”. This app would then flash each word quickly, meant for you to read. It comes with lots of options as well. Try this one out for amazing results.
- Spritz: This tool is based on the fact that restricting word to a single position makes up for the time spent by moving your eye over a whole sentence while reading a paragraph. This technique is employed to read speedily with Spritz.
- Readability: This is a quite thoughtful and necessary app. It converts texts from web-pages into plain text minus links, ads, and other distractions which reduce reading speed to quite an extent.
In the year 1988, a seminar was conducted in Princeton University which was known as the “PX Project”. This three hour experiment produced an overwhelming increase of 386% in reading speed!
Speed reading isn’t a very difficult feat to achieve. With the exceptional benefits that tag along with it, speed reading is like a masterpiece. All you need is a bit of patience and a lot of practice and you would find yourself reading like a pro in no time.
Have you found any other speed reading technique that have been useful for you? Share with us.
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