Our brains are marvelous things. Yet keeping them sharp can be a challenge.Learning how to speed read can help. By reading faster, you can increase your knowledge and be far more productive.
The average reading speed hasn’t changed in over 200 years or so. As an average human, you can process about 250 words per minute. This equates to about two minutes per page for a common typeface and spacing.
Can you increase the number of words average by speed reading? If so, what happens to the brain, will it actually get stronger? There are several schools of thought on the speed reading ability, and while it can be an entertaining trick, will it actually increase knowledge?
We look at these questions and more and teach you how to practice speed reading for yourself. Let’s find out if you have what it takes to become a brain powerhouse from speed reading.
Is Speed Reading a Hoax?
Some swear by their speed reading techniques. Others question whether it’s really possible for humans to read that way. While some claim it boosts your IQ, others insist it won’t. Some swear you’ll retain everything you read, others say you’re just skimming the surface.
But the truth about speed reading is that it depends on what you want to get out of it. Do you need to get through piles of reports or get up to speed on a topic quickly? These techniques can help. If you want to savor the world’s greatest literature, speed reading’s likely not the best way of going about it.
It is hard to say who is right and wrong. We’re just giving you the basics on how to speed read so you can test out these theories for yourself.
Here are five tips from Thomas Frank, a popular YouTube vlogger on “helping you do awesome at school or college.”
Learning How to Speed Read? There’s an App for That
Speed reading and its concepts have been around for hundreds of years. Now that we’re in the digital age, we’ve got all these techniques at our fingertips. In fact, you can buy and download dozens of mobile apps right now. They all promise you can read faster, improve brain function, raise IQ and build a stronger brain.
You can start with the Reading Trainer. This online course is among the most highly-rated speed-reading apps. It supports iOS, Windows, and Android, and costs just $3.49.
If you’re serious about speed reading, it may be worth your while to download and try an app or two.
Crawl Before You Walk
Speed reading is a learned skill. It isn’t something someone either has the ability to do or doesn’t. Just like running, you have to learn how to stand first, then walk and eventually run.
Speed reading is the same way. Learning the process is the easy part. Practicing over and over again until the steps become natural is where you will improve. You can’t expect to read this article and then pick up War and Peace and finish it before dinner. It just won’t happen.
However, with patience and practice, you can begin to grow more confident in your abilities and read faster and faster over time.
So, what are the techniques?
Our eyes take in more information than our brains can process at once. We learn, over time to discard details that aren’t important and retain those details we need to process the information.
Reading is the same way. For instance, you can’t read while your eyes are moving. When we read our eyes jerk back and forth momentarily focusing on a single word or letter and then moving on to the next.
Further, we see more to the right than we do to the left. So when you read your eyes are trained to scan further ahead to have an idea of what is coming up next. Our brains fill in the blanks. With speed reading, we train our eyes and brains to focus on the meaning and less on the actual words.
You will be able to scan every second or third word and read only the fourth or fifth, allowing your brain to make sense of the sentence still.
Here’s a video on how would-be speed readers can focus more intensely.
Sub-vocalization is the mimicking of reading out loud. Even if you read in your head, your throat muscles and even your tongue will still make tiny movements as if we were reading out loud.
This can even extend to our lips moving and mouthing the words as we read along with our eyes. This process slows down our reading speed as our brain must conceptualize the information from our voice (even if silent) as if we were reading aloud.
Learning to not sub-vocalize can be the hardest part of speed reading. You can do other things with your mouths such as chewing or making the throat work on other things like humming a tune or gargling. Occupying these movements with other things not related to reading allows our brain to ignore their signals and we can read faster.
Don’t Allow Eye Regression
As we read, we need to comprehend what we have already read. This happens without us really knowing it. As we read lines, our eyes will jump back to previous lines or paragraphs to make sure we are still allowing our brain to keep up and fully understand what is being fed to it.
This eye regression, or eye movement to previously read the text, will slow our overall reading time. To prevent this from happening you need to train your brain and your eyes that once the words are read, they are gone.
You can easily do this by reading with an index card, moving the card over the page as you read, covering the words you have already gone over. This method also takes practice not to be a distraction. Once you have it mastered, though, you won’t notice the index card anymore, and eventually, you won’t even need it.
When your eyes stop regressing, our comprehension will decrease slightly, but reading speed will increase.
Comprehension and Retention
One of the trade-offs for speed reading is not being able to retain what we read, and in extreme instances not being able to understand what we just read.
This usually happens when our reading speeds exceed 600 words per minute. The faster we read, the fewer words we are actually taking in. We skim a page and try to train our eyes to pick out important words.
By selectively reading only what we need to get through the sentence or paragraph, we increase our reading speed but lose a lot of the context.
When To Read Faster
You don’t always want to read at a fast pace. Reading for fun, for example, will not benefit from reading 1000 words per minute. You won’t have the joy of the entertainment of the story because you will bypass so many details that make novel reading enjoyable.
Newspaper articles, magazines, and even textbooks, though, can easily be speed read while still maintaining the information that is being presented by the article, or chapter. This is because, unlike a novel, articles have headings, subheadings and generally include summaries in the last paragraph.
By skimming the text at a faster pace and concentrating more on the headings and final paragraph, you can read faster and still understand what information was being conveyed.
You are most likely a neurotypical person. In the movie Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman’s character was not neurotypical. When he read (reportedly at 20,000 words per minute) he was able to separate the use of his eyes.
Rain Man’s left eye read the left page, and his right eye read the right page. This allowed him to read quadruple speeds and still retain the information. The ability to have perfect recall also helped. Unless you have these abilities, you should aim your words per minute to about the 400 to 600 range.
This range will allow you to still blaze through text twice as fast, or more, than the next person in the room and still comprehend and understand what you just read.
Skimming, skipping words, and focusing online on headings, subheadings and important words in a paragraph are the main techniques used by speed readers.
While competitive speed readers increase their reading speed to over 1000 words per minute, their comprehension and retention are near zero.
If you want to increase your reading speed, aim for anything higher than 400 words per minute and less than 600 words per minute. This range will allow you to comprehend and recall the information you are reading.
Speed reading takes practice, just like any other learned skill. Cover words already read, learn to read every third or fourth word in a sentence and to skim over portions of the text that aren’t helpful to the understanding of the information.
With enough time and devotion, you will be able to scan text at 600 words per minute and still be able to recall what you read and what the information meant.
And if you decide speed reading isn’t right for you, there are always audiobooks.
Featured image: CC0 Public Domain Conger Design via Pixnio.