How to speed up your Reading Skills

Whether you flick through a newspaper, glance through a blog post or peruse a brochure, you most likely do some reading every day. But embracing dense passages of literature can be time-consuming, mentally demanding, and a strain on your eyes. If you like to read faster while still comprehending the content.

Here is some advice to develop efficient Reading Skills.

Preview the content

Viewing a movie trailer gives you some context prior to watching it and gives you a hint on what to expect. Similarly, previewing an article before reading it prepares you to quickly get a grasp of what you are going to deal with. The art of previewing a text involves scanning it from start to end, paying particular attention to headings, anything in bold or large writing, as well as bullet points. To get a big picture, skim the paragraphs with the Introduction and Conclusion. Identify transition sentences and examine any images or graphs. Try to figure out how the author has structured the text.

fast reading

Plan your approach

A strategic attack of a text will make a huge difference in how efficiently you can digest the information. What do you intend to get out of this text by reading it? Come up with some questions you like to know the answer to by the end. Also give some thought to the author: based on your first impression, what was his aim in writing this text. The writers’ goal, for example, might be to describe the entire history of Western Philosophy, while your aim is simply to answer a question about Kant’s Categorical Imperative. If your goal is more narrow in scope than the writer’s, venture out to only establish and read the pertinent paragraphs.

Likewise, vary your approach based on the format you are about to read. If you have a dense legal or scientific text in front of you, then take time to read certain parts more slowly and thoroughly than you would when going through a magazine.

Keep your mind open

Reading swiftly whilst maintaining good comprehension will require concentration and focus. Get rid of any external noises, interruptions and distractions – be mindful when your thoughts wander with the flow of your reading material. If you notice that you’re fantasising about the next football game rather than focusing on the content, gently bring your focus back to the text. Many readers read certain paragraphs passively, without putting their mind on it, then having to go back and re-read it again. This habit is called regression, and it will significantly slow you down and prevent you from getting a big picture view of the content. If you approach a text with care, you are going to realise immediately if you are having troubles understanding a paragraph, which will save you time in the long run.

No need to read every word

To increase your reading pace, pay attention to the sensory input from your eyes. Most people are able to scan in blocks of 4 cm, which, depending on the size and type of the text, usually encircles 3-5 words each. Rather than reading word by word, get your eyes to linearly scan the line, jumping from block to block. Also, use your peripheral vision to accelerate the reading around the beginning and end of each line – focus on chunks of words rather than the first and the last word.

You can learn this technique by pointing your finger or a pen at each word block as you go along. This will encourage you not to subconsciously vocalise as you progress. Subvocalization is the silently pronouncing of each word, which will slow you down and distract you from the core information.

No need to read every section

It is a myth that you must read every single section of an article of a textbook. Unless you are learning something significant, you can skip the parts that are not relevant for you. Reading selectively will help you to digest the main points of many texts more efficiently.

The good old summary

Your task is not over when you finished with the last word of the article. After you finish reading, take a pen and write a few sentences to summarise what you just went through, and try to answer any questions you had prior to the reading. Did you learn what you were hoping for? By spending a few minutes post reading to analyse and synthesise the information, and then to write down what you learned will consolidate the material in your mind. You can also draw a mind map or if you are a verbal person tell someone what you have just learned.

Practice makes Perfect

Approaching a text with a strategy, reading the content actively, and summarising the information effectively requires practice. If you want to better your speed, why not use a timer to test how many words (or paragraphs) per minute you are able to read. As you read faster and faster, don’t forget to check that comprehension is not lacking behind.
Happy reading!