How I Improved My Reading Speed and Comprehension
As students, we read nonstop. Class, homework, emails, texting, papers all involve reading (the list goes on). Yet speed reading is a skill foreign to most of us.
I believe lack of emphasis on practicing improving our basic reading speed is a huge failure of our academic system today. Think about it – if you could read twice as fast as you do now and your comprehension stayed the same, that would cut your work time down to fractions of what it was before.
With a little dedication on the front end, learning speed reading skills can reap huge rewards for absolutely anyone.
This blog is going covers my favorite techniques for aspiring speed readers, and also a list of what I think are some of the best speed reading resources on the market today.
Let’s get reading!
Speed Reading Technique #1: Expand Your Vision
Before you start reading anything, always take 30 seconds to practice expanding your visual awareness. Pick a point, any point. It could be on a chair, refrigerator, television. You name it. And lock your eyes onto that spot.
Without moving your point of focus, examine thoroughly all the things that you can make out using you peripheral vision. Try pushing your visual awareness out a little further each time you do this exercise. It will not only stretch your visual awareness for that moment, but will yield you great dividends over time if done consistently.
And guess what. That’s how you should be reading. Advanced readers only focus on 2 different spots per line they read and use their peripheral vision to take care of the rest. Using peripheral vision to do most of the heavy lifting cuts out a lot of wasted motion. It does take some practice though.
Speed Reading Technique #2: Memorize The Headers
Fifth grade was the first time a teacher ever told me that reading headers of all chapters before diving into content was a good idea. At the time I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. Why would I go out of my way to read the header for something ahead of time, when I would inevitably get to that point anyway when actually reading?
The answer seems so obvious now. The faster you read, the more you force your brain to make educated guesses about details in the content because you’re not reading every word.
And that’s okay! Comprehension has actually been proven to increase the more your practice speed reading because you are forcing yourself to use you prior understanding of context to infer what the passage is saying.
If you prefer to read slow like I used to, reading the headers won’t matter much to you because you have plenty of time to carefully analyze each word. But to become an avid speed reader, you need to process context fast. Having the road map laid out for you ahead of time in the form of memorizing headers makes a great deal of difference.
These days I even take it a step further. I also read the first sentence that comes directly after each header on top of reading the actual header itself. Holy hell an extra 45 seconds of work before every chapter!!! Well, it ends up shortening my reading time by about 15 minutes per standard textbook chapter, so I’d say it’s damn well worth it. It also will make a huge difference for you when you start trying to master this next trick.
Speed Reading Technique #3: 2 Point Conversion
On a standard line, like the ones on this page, you should only need two points of focus per line to read every single word. That’s right, you only look at two spots per line! (with direct sight that is)
At first it might be difficult for you to rely primarily on your peripheral vision to read a line, but I have a few key tips you can use to start your practice.
- Map out your points of reference. Start by figuring out where the optimal distances are from the beginning and end of each line is for your focal points. I try to focus 25% from the start and the end of each line to be consistent. It’s tempting to start each new line from the beginning at firl, but stay discipline by forcing you visual path inward at each line change.
- Expand your visual awareness to its max (technique #1). Practice analyzing your surroundings using your peripheral vision throughout the day. It’s not a hard and if you can make a habit of it the rewards are huge.
- Raise your vocabulary. When you practice speed reading, you don’t have nearly as much time to process every word. Your brain has to make educated guesses on what many words are based on context. This is especially difficult if haven’t already mastered the vocabulary that’s in the passage. You’ll notice it’s much easier to practice speedreading topics that you are already familiar with.
Taking small steps to improve your vocabulary on a daily basis will improve your speed reading capabilities without you even realizing it. But constantly digesting new vocabulary can be tedious work. It’s up to you to make the commitment. Try reading 10 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary. It’s reasonable and you can really make some big improvements.
Also, no shame in starting with 3 spots of focus per line. As long as you challenge yourself, your visual prowess will improve.
I used to be worried that if i did not take the time to really process every word religiously I would miss important content. That’s not the case at all. Your brain will naturally pick out the key points after memorizing the headers and still process them accordingly no matter what reading level you’re at. And if you are not yet proficient enough at speed reading to absorb the content at an acceptable level, practicing speed reading is actually the best way to get your comprehension up. So take the hit in the short run and practice your speed reading every time you look at a page.
If you’re looking for speed reading content that’s more formalized, check the articles How I Learned to Read 300 Percent Faster in 20 Minutes and How to Find the Best Speed Reading Course for Your Success. They’re great reads, but a little tedious.
Last but not least, I have to credit the book that started my speed reading journey, 10 Days to Faster Reading, by Abbey Marks-Beal. In 10 days I increased my word per minute reading count stupendously. Average wpm count is about 250 and exceptional is around 400. In 10 days I went from a measly 200 wpm to over 450. Give it a try. It’s reasonably priced on Amazon.