We are living in the age of information. The more information we process, the more informed we are. How can we still cope with all the latest development in the information technology while still reading the way when reading was mostly limited to printed books, magazines and newspapers? Today, things have changed tremendously. Traditional reading materials are now only a small portion. We have computers, internet, ipads, laptops, smart phones, tablets, kindles, and many other reading gadgets.
Just imagine how much time do we spend on browsing the internet? How much do we spend (sometimes waste) on social media networks? What about forums, chat rooms, groups, what sup and what not and what not?
The problem is twofold. First, we have to get through a lot of reading material and second, we have lesser time than we had before. The only way out is to triple or at least double our reading speed. In other words the only solution is learning the techniques of speed reading.
What is Speed Reading?
Speed reading – also called super reading – simply means to read faster than normal. It is the use of certain techniques, tricks and ways to change your reading habits. Once you adjust to your new ways of reading, you may triple your speed. If your current speed is 200 words per minute, you can easily take it to the levels of 600 to 800 words per minute. It is a skill just like another skill. It takes time to learn and master it. Once mastered, it becomes a skill for life.
How to calculate your speed per minute?
An average reader reads at an average speed of 200 words per minute. It could be slightly more or less. In most cases, an average speed falls anything between 175 to 225 words per minute.
If you want to learn the speed reading techniques, you may want to know what your current speed is. It is absolutely essential to monitor your progress as you learn and apply the techniques. Here is a simple and easy way to calculate your speed.
- Pick a book which should neither be too technical nor too basic to read.
- Note the time preferably using a digital clock or a stopwatch. You can also use an online stopwatch or your computer’s clock.
- Mark the starting point in your book.
- Start reading and continue till one minute is complete.
- Mark the stop point in your book.
- Count the number of words in 7 lines and divide it by 7 to workout the average number of words per line.
- Now count the total number of lines you have read in one minute.
- Multiply the number of lines with the average number of words per line.
- The result is your average speed.
A. Total number of words in 7 lines = 56
B. Average No of words per line 56/7 = 8
C. Total number of lines you read in one minute = 26
D. You average speed = BXC = 26*8= 208 words per minute.
So your reading speed is 208 words per minute.
What if you double or triple that speed? If you triple it, a 3 hour book will take you one hour to finish. If you read 3 book a week, you will be able to read 9 books a week!
Comprehension and Speed Reading
Some people think that while speed reading is just like skimming and one may not be able to retain important ideas or one may miss vital information after reading. This is not the case. Speed reading is different from skimming. In SR, you do not miss anything; you simple change your habits. You get rid of your old habits and acquire new habits by applying certain techniques. The truth of the matter is your comprehension and retention gets a lot better than in the normal and traditional way of reading.
How to Increase Your Reading Speed?
There are certain techniques which can significantly improve your speed. There are some online softwares which can test your speed. Alternatively, you can test your own speed by following the formula explained above in this article. Some companies even run commercial courses to learn the techniques and improve your speed reading. The following techniques are some of the very important ways to increase your reading speed.
1. Eliminate sub-vocalization
Since childhood we learn to vocalize words during reading. This is something natural and necessary for learning in our early childhood. With the passage of time, this becomes our habit. Many people even murmur each word as they read. Other do not move their lips or tongue but vocalize each word in their heads. This slows the speed immensely.
In order to read faster, you need to eliminate this. You need to practice without vocalizing each word even in your head. Just grasp the meaning. Initially, it looks difficult but with a little bit of practice it gets easier and soon becomes a habit.
2. Move Your Eyes Less
Again we have the habit of looking at word and moving our eyes from word to word. We fix our eyes on each word and then move to another. Such fixation and movement of eyes again and again is time consuming and hence slows the reading speed.
To overcome this problem, you need to look at the whole sentence rather than looking at each word. You can look at the middle of the sentence and your eyes can catch words and at each side and grasp the meaning. If you find it two hard you can divide a sentence in to two points and look at each point separately. As you get more experienced, switch to looking at the middle of the sentence.
3. Focus on a Group of Words
As said earlier when you read each word traditionally, you focus, vocalize and then read. Instead of focusing on each word, focus on a group of words without vocalization. It feels hard in the beginning, but practice will make you perfect.
At this stage the comprehension may be lower, but as you keep on practicing you will adjust.
4. Do Not Go Back
Going back over text which you have already read is a waste of time. This happens when you do not have confidence of grasping the meaning. You may feel you have not understood what you have just read and may fee the need to go back or start over. It may simply be a fear. Trust your comprehension and move on.
How to practice these techniques?
Habits do not change overnight. It takes practice, time and patience to switch off old habits and take on new ones. Once we overcome the initial barrier, it is just a matter of time. With speed reading, it does not take a lot of time to master these techniques.
It is a good practice to take a test of your speed and comprehension each time your practice these techniques. Once you see progress, you will feel a sense of achievement and stay motivated.
It is recommended to practice only one technique at a time and master it before moving on to another one. An hour reading using a single technique will bring about significant changes.
Patience is the name of the game.