Speed Reading Techniques: When to Use Them

It's very convenient to know how to read quickly. In this article, we'll share some speed reading techniques for you to try.
Speed Reading Techniques: When to Use Them

Last update: 22 August, 2021

We often have to process a large amount of written information, whether it’s in emails, websites, work reports, social networks, or training books. Since we constantly have to read, we could all benefit from reading faster. Today, we’re going to discuss speed reading techniques and when to use them.

The good news is that it’s possible to increase the speed you read at. The average person reads between 150 and 250 words per minute. However, if you put a series of speed reading techniques into practice, you could read up to 700 words per minute!

Keep reading to learn what these techniques are and when they’re useful to put into practice.

What is speed reading?

Speed reading is when a person identifies and takes in entire sentences at a glance, rather than looking at each word individually. Some people are born with this ability, but others who were not can still develop it with practice.

Even though you’re reading faster, you’re not sacrificing comprehension. Instead, its effectiveness lies in achieving a balance between rhythm and an overall understanding of the content. Therefore, the goal is that you understand the meaning of the text without wasting time.

There are studies that suggest that speed reading (as long as it’s done effectively) is more productive than slow reading. This is especially true for those people who have to process and work with a lot of written information throughout the day. 

Here are some of the benefits:

  • It allows you to read, understand and analyze the text in less time.
  • Develops the ability to associate prior information and new concepts.

When is speed reading useful?

Speed reading would be helpful in the following situations:

  • If you have difficulty reading: for example, if you constantly have to go back in the text to understand the main idea or if you read slower than normal. Speed reading techniques can help boost your reading skills.
  • You have to read about a topic that’s easy to comprehend or that you’re already familiar with.
  • When you only need to understand the basic arguments or conclusions of written material.
  • If you plan to look at the text in more detail another time. A study found that taking a look at the material beforehand can improve your understanding of the text the second time.
  • After having read the material carefully. Quick re-reads can help you retain the information better.

When do we not recommend it?

While it sounds great to be able to read and understand any written material in the shortest time possible, we don’t always recommend it. That’s because it’s not an effective strategy for every situation.

These are the situations where we wouldn’t recommend using it:

  • When you have to read a legal document or something that contains complex information. These documents require careful thought. Plus, it’s been shown that the faster you read, the less you understand. Even though the goal of speed reading is to find a balance between speed and understanding, it’s best to understand as much as possible in these cases.
  • If you want to memorize something. In these situations, it’s best to read slowly. We recommend reading at 100 wpm in these cases.
woman reading a book

Speed reading techniques

To increase your reading speed, you’ll need to develop your physical and mental skills. This will require specific methods and practice. In addition, if you want to increase your reading pace, it’s important to constantly and systematically follow a series of speed reading techniques.

Also, it’s best to improve your comprehension, concentration, and retention strategies at the same time.

Avoid subvocalization

Subvocalization (also known as your inner voice) consists of the mental pronunciation of words while reading. This habit is one of the main reasons that your reading slows down. 

Therefore, to read faster, you mustn’t subvocalize. At first, this might be a difficult habit to avoid and you may feel like you’re not understanding anything. Just remember that it’s a matter of perseverance and practice. 

The pointer method

Another tool that can help increase your reading speed is to point to the line you’re reading with your index finger, a pencil, or another object that could work as a pointer. This will increase your focus and your concentration on the words. 

Scanning

This is one of the most common techniques for speed reading. It consists of recognizing the main ideas of the text by skimming with your eyes.

When you do this, you don’t want to read every word. Instead, you have to identify the key elements of the text. This is useful when you need to find information about dates, names, and places.

To do this, you usually read the first sentence of each paragraph and then attempt to find the important phrases within each paragraph. In addition, it’s useful to search for items such as lists, captions, charts, and indexes. In the end, you should be able to understand the main idea. 

Avoid rereading

Going back in the text is usually a very common practice when we don’t understand what we’re reading. We tend to reread to figure out what we missed because we want to understand the main idea of the text. 

However, this causes more of a delay and actually harms our comprehension of the material. 

Develop reading comprehension

There’s no use in reading quickly if you don’t understand what you’re reading. Therefore, it’s also essential that you develop your ability to understand the meaning of the text

To improve this skill, we recommend:

  • Expanding your vocabulary: this will involve learning new words and their different meanings in different contexts.
  • Taking notes and summarize: when writing and summarizing, you’re forcing yourself to interpret the information you read.
  • Knowing the main topic ahead of time: knowing what the text is about will help you understand the true meaning of the words and phrases.
  • Leafing through the text before reading: this will help you understand the main idea.
  • Asking questions: after leafing through the text, write down any questions that you want answered while you’re reading. This will help your structure your thinking and verbalize your responses.

Practicing these speed reading techniques

It’s best to work on one-speed reading technique at a time and to use simple texts. At first, figure out which technique is best for you and then start by practicing it slowly until you can do it well. Then, pick up the pace.

It’s normal to not understand the text’s meaning in the beginning. However, with practice, you’ll be able to train your brain to read at a faster rate. Eventually, the technique will become a habit.

In addition, there are a variety of books and online resources that are aimed at offering the necessary tools for speed reading. You could find one of those courses and follow the directions they give. 

Speed reading saves time

Speed reading is a skill that you can learn with practice. It may be difficult at first, so you must keep trying. 

Also, to help with your learning process, it’s best to find the right environment. For example, find a place that’s free of interruptions and has a pleasant light. In addition, you should avoid reading when you feel tired or overwhelmed.

Finally, so that you can measure your progress, you should test your reading pace before you implement any of these techniques. Then, you can keep track of your progress as you practice. That way, you’ll know whether or not your efforts are paying off!

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