Most of us read every day, whether it’s a news article, a document for work, or a book. With so many things demanding our attention, you might be like us and wish to read faster. Reading can be time-consuming and even tiresome. But did you know that faster reading doesn’t have to mean you won’t still be able to understand and retain what you’ve read?
If you’ve never explored the idea of speed reading, you may be interested to know that there are steps you can take to become a fast reader and that all you need to do is practice.
Five Tips for Speed Reading
Conquering fast reading doesn’t mean sacrificing on reading comprehension. In reality, you can have both! Here are five tips for becoming a speed reading machine:
- Skim the text first
Before you start reading something, skim it from start to finish. When you skim, look for sections, key headings, bold words or sentences, bullet points, and images. Take a look, particularly at the beginning and end of the text, where you’ll likely find key summaries of the material.Skimming may sound like you’re doubling the work it takes to read something, but you’re doing the opposite: you’ll now have a comprehensive understanding of what the text is about and what topics are most important for you to focus on. You’ll be less confused about the more difficult sections when you reach them and won’t waste too much time on parts that are less relevant to the central point.
- Don’t subvocalize
When you read the paragraph above, could you hear an inner voice in your head saying the words? That’s what we call subvocalization, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Yet it’s the number one thing that’s slowing us down when we read!If we’re reading at our speaking speed, which subvocalization requires us to do, we slow ourselves down tremendously. Instead of hearing the words, we need to be seeing them. Here are two tricks to help you stop subvocalizing:
- Put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth when you read. This will stop you from mouthing the words silently.
- Listen to classical or non-lyrical music, which will distract your brain from hearing the words and focus instead on seeing them.
- Most importantly, practice not subvocalizing again and again until it stops being a habit.
- Read words in chunks
To read quickly and gain comprehension, you don’t need to read every single word on the page. Your eye span is actually 1.5 inches, or nearly four centimeters, so you can capture up to nine words at a time in just one look. To take advantage of this, visually group words into “chunks” of three to five words. Scan your eyes over one chunk at a time. Glean the meaning from that chunk before moving on to the next piece.This stops you from subvocalizing (you won’t have time to!) and helps you scan through a paragraph before moving on to the next, without sacrificing any meaning in the text.
- Avoid going back
How often have you been reading, only to realize you hadn’t been paying attention to the paragraph you had just read, and have to go back and reread it? Because it’s so common, there’s a word for it: regression. And regression slows our reading speeds way down.To avoid regression, approach a text with attentiveness. Reduce distractions around you, like unwanted background noises. If you do accidentally lose focus, in most cases, it’s best not to go back and reread anything. Usually, you’ll figure out what the gist of the paragraph was using the context clues in the following paragraphs.
You can even use a technique called gliding, where you cover each line you read with a piece of paper as you go, so you don’t have the safety net of going back and rereading.
Something that will help you avoid regression and process what you just read is asking yourself, “What did I just learn?” periodically throughout the text. By briefly summarizing the concepts in your head, there’s a much higher chance those concepts will stick with you throughout your reading, and you’ll be able to make better connections between ideas in the text.At the end of a text, wrap up by writing a brief bulleted summary of what you learned. Writing something down helps you remember it long after you move on to the next text. It also enables you to reflect on the key concepts in the text, ensuring you’re comprehending what you read.
Keep practicing these five tips to increase your reading speed, and remember to go at a pace that works best for you and the context of what you’re reading.