How to Speed Read

Speed reading is an acquired ability to read faster than average without losing reading comprehension by changing the way that you read.

speed reading

Improve Reading by Speed Reading

The secret to speed reading is geting over your reading FEAR. What slows your reading speed is the fear of missing stuff as you go. But nobody ever said you could only read it once! You will increase your reading performance by layering your reading comprehension i.e. reading it once, twice, three times super fast with less overall time.

To improve reading you must get a handle on your FEAR of missing stuff as you speed read. When you feel the FEAR remember - Forgetting Everything is All Right. And You must Forget Everything And Remember more. It's no different from the fearful rush you felt when you first took off your bicycle training wheels or first took a car on the road. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and the less scary it is.

The physiological reading speed reading record so far in the Guinness Book of World Records is 25,000 words per minute with good reading comprehension. Mr. Average reads about 100-200 words per minute. There is no reason you can't aim for 1000 words a minute easy. But you have to practice to improve reading by speed reading just like you did to ride a bicycle or learn to drive a car.

Speed Reading Techniques

The best time honored speed reading technique is the Evelyn Wood speed reading technique by President Kennedy. Evelyn coined the term "speed reading". Her speed reading technique involves pushing your eyes through reading material faster by using your finger, hand or other marker to pull your eyes through the reading material instead of wading through it becoming lost in the details.

Photoreading is the new kid on the speed reading techniques block. The signature style of this technique is using peripheral vision and unconscious perception to blaze through reading books.

The WTF! Speed Reading Strategy is our own hack. More on that later.

Speed Reading Skills

There are three primary speed reading skills that separates speed reading from average slow reading. To successfully become a speed reader you MUST master these speed reading skills.

Speed reading skill 1: force your eyes to move through the written page faster than it feels comfortable. This forces you to bundle packets of words into bigger chunks. Counter intuitively, speed reading actually helps you grasp the gist and concepts faster than traditional reading. Kinda like how it's easier to skim across logs floating in water than slowly tip toeing from one to the other and sinking.

Speed reading skill 2: shut up. Stop trying to hear the words as you read. Lab tests show that when you verbalize words in your mind, you also do it with your vocal cords - it's called subvocalization. If you sound out each word as you read you'll never get past a reading rate faster than you can talk.

Speed reading skill 3: see the action, not the words. The final step in speed reading skill mastery is to see the words on the page in your real eyes but see the action represented in your minds eye. When engrossed speed reading you kinda see the words on the page but are unaware of them, aware only of the mental movie they are creating in your head. Sorta like a directed daydream.

Speed Reading Comprehension

Studies on reading comprehension using speed reading systems universally show a fall in comprehension with increase in reading speed. But these studies are typically conducted right after test subjects complete a speed reading course and read a passage once. In fact, the more often and longer you practice speed reading, the better you get at it. And the better your reading comprehension becomes. Even more powerful, is that if you read some text once really fast, then do it again, your reading comprehension is just as good as slow reading it once but in half the time.

Speed Reading Tools

When reading for pleasure I don't use any reading tools. Just the book and me. And sitting anywhere from a hammock to a bed. My dad used to chill reading in nearby trees!

But for course work, play time is over. Sit upright in a school or office chair. Slouching promotes fatigue. The reading tools I use are a timer, baseball cap, and a pencil. Use the timer reading tool to keep yourself on target. Use the ball cap as a reading tool to limit visual distraction around you. And apply the pencil as a reading tool to carry your eyes down pages rapidly and to quickly jot, circle or underline important stuff as you go.

Keep your reading tools together in one spot on your reading desk for quick access.

Study Cram © WTF! Speed Reading Techniques

The Study Cram speed reading technique is a hack and mash together of other speed reading techniques. It's fast, works for us, and probably will for you.

WTF! speed reading techniques begin with asking yourself 'What's This For?', then 'Whizz' over the pages at top speed to create a quick skeleton or the material, then 'Tumble' through the reading again fleshing out the material further, then 'Flip' back through adding the finishing touches to the concepts, and finally play"!" with what you learnt.

WTF! Speed Reading Technique 1 "Whizz" over - To start, quickly whip through the pages you plan to cover for your reading session. Using a pencil or index finger to carry your eyes down the page rapidly. If something doesn't make sense, don't stop, keep going.Look briefly at the title headings, pictures, any text in italics or bold and unfamiliar words that are repeated and the first and last sentence of each paragraph. These are your information hooks.

WTF! Speed Reading Technique 2 "Tumble" through - now you're going to blast through the text really fast but skipping from section to section like a stone tumbling down a hill, touching down at points and bouncing back into the air before striking the page again. This is the part where you're converting the text from a series of broken linked images in your mind to a structured web.

WTF! Speed Reading Technique 3 "Flip" - now flip back through the chapter and convert each subheading or unfamiliar word to a question e.g. a subtitle says "The Kreb Cycle" reframe it as "what is the Kreb Cycle?" See if you can answer it either by talking to yourself or sketching it out on paper. If you can't, or any concepts seem fuzzy, flip back through the chapter and find the missing links you overlooked.

Finally, Speed Reading Technique "!" - Play with what you learnt. At this point ask yourself weird "what if" questions to own the material e.g. if you just read E=mc squared, what happens if mass is infinite or zero, what happens to the equation. Another example is if you just read about the Boston Tea Party, ask what if the settlers had accepted taxation without representation or the British government had allowed American settlers representation, how might history have changed? And ask yourself how what you just learnt is similar to something you already know well e.g. a biological cell is like a factory. This is where Eureka moments are made.

To put the finally finishing touch on your grasp of the reading material do some past exam questions on that topic, or at the end of the chapter, to guarantee yourself an A+ knowlege base. Remember that knowing is not enough. Any parrot can recite. it is being able to use what you read that gives you stellar grades.


Speed Reading Software Programs

Speed reading software differs from books on speed reading by being much more engaging. One of their biggest advantages is the ability to spit blocks of text at you at incrementally increasing rates as you progress forcing consistent improvement. If you've never tried one before I'd suggest you do.

EyeQ is the best speed reading software I've tried. It has a neat reading interface, lots of reading practice, reading comprehension tests, saves your progress, and provides valuable feedback as your reading improves. Disadvantage is it's pricey.

Speed Reader X is another good option if budget conscious. It provides valuable speed reading development skills but the interface is a bit clunky. But for the price, not bad.


Speed Reading Books

These are my favorite speed reading books. Check 'em out for yourself: Speed reading books shine at 'telling' you how to speed read but are lacklastre at 'showing' you how to do it. For this reason I recommend taking a look at these books but investing in either a live speed reading course or speed reading software to master speed reading.

Share |
Article Last Updated: August 31 2014
MLA Attribution for School Papers and Links:

Article Links

Google Ads