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A Guide To Speed Reading

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Published March 25th 2014
Andimprovingcomprehension
Ready. Steady. Go!

And you're off, reading this sentence most probably at a speed of 200 words per minute, about as fast as you could read it aloud.

Coincidence? Not at all your inner voice is to blame, pacing through the text only as fast as it can speak, holding you back from achieving higher reading speeds and comprehension.

Just think how many more books could you read and how much more information could you consume if you could read twice or even five times faster?

Speed-reading is the ability to silence that inner voice (or subvocalisation). Most people read only as fast as they can speak because this is how they were taught to read.

But it is possible to read faster, with much better reading comprehension, by mastering subvocalisation. How? By absorbing the words faster than your inner voice can keep up.

Let's first take a look at the mechanics specific to the reading process:

Fixations
We don't read in a straight line, but in a series of jumps or 'saccades'. (Experience this by closing one eye and placing a fingertip on that eyelid. Then slowly scan a horizontal line with your open eye. You should feel separate movements as both eyes saccade and fixate on sections along the line). A fixation lasts approximately a quarter or half a second. Reading faster entails minimising the number and duration of fixations per line.

Regression and back-skipping
The average reader regresses (consciously rereads) and back-skips (subconsciously rereads via fixation misplacement) up to 30 per cent of total reading time. Eliminating this regression and back-skipping will increase reading speed. 



Peripheral vision span
Speed-readers have conditioned themselves to use a larger horizontal peripheral vision span, increasing the number of words registered per fixation. The average reader, however, tends to focus centrally, foregoing up to 50 per cent of their words per fixation (the number of words that can be perceived and "read" in each fixation).

SO speed-reading is a case of minimising the number and duration of fixations per line, eliminating regression and back-skipping, and increasing horizontal peripheral vision span and the number of words registered per fixation. 




There are many popular methods of speed-reading, most of which fall into the categories of skimming, meta guiding and Rapid Serial Visual Presentation.

Skimming, or glancing through text to find keywords and important paragraphs is possibly the most trialled "speed-reading" method. Speed-reading is in quotation marks here because the skimming method does not teach you to read faster it teaches you what parts you can skip. Unsurprisingly, skim-readers don't remember many of a text's details.

Meta guiding is a fairly old technique, which involves using a finger, pen or some other thin object to guide your eyes along a line of words. The goal: decrease distraction and focus on the specific words to increase your reading speed.

Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) has come about with innovations in digital software. Single words flash on the screen, allowing you to concentrate on one word at a time. As you get used to the system, you can speed up the display of words.

Spreeder is a common RSVP software load a passage of text and Spreeder will pace through at a predefined speed that you can adjust as your reading comprehension increases.

Another RSVP method is Spritz, which allows even more focus. By displaying the first vowel of a word in red, the software keeps your eyes on one spot.

Now that you're a master of speed-reading theory, try out some of the above techniques (I recommend an RSVP technique) and start speeding through those novels. To test your current reading speed, click here.
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Your Comment
Very interesting article. I've always been a bit critical skimming. I tried to learn spped reading years ago when I was in University. Even then computer programs were avaialble (1980's) I never finished the course but do think it helped a liitle. I became concerned that I might lose the enjoyment of reading. I clicked over fro yur link and cloked at 302 words a minute so that was a bit of fun.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|6149) 955 days ago
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