Reading slowly isn’t fun. When you are a slow reader, it takes ages to get through a book or a study session. Reading for pleasure can become a slog, and the simplest research seems to drag on forever.
Reading is in fact so central to success in any field that it’s become a staple of measuring basic educational success. You may be a great careful reader, but how can you become a faster reader?
While it's easy to dismiss “speed reading” as hocus pocus, there are solid evidence-based methods for increasing the speed of reading and comprehension—up to a point. You should just be careful about the dangers of speed-reading for students if you don't do it correctly.
The speed-reading methods we will introduce here aren’t particularly complex or difficult to implement, but they take time and effort to develop and increase in efficacy. Give them a try and embark upon your journey to read faster and better than ever before.
How to read faster with these 4 speed-reading methods
Most readers tend to absorb words one at a time, moving along a page and piecing these individual building-blocks together into a sentence that has meaning. To become a faster reader, you need to instead expand your focus horizontally.
Instead of only focusing on a single word at a time, start to read several words at once. Start with two, but try to move on to three or more. This is made a lot easier if you're reading in narrow columns rather than text strewn horizontally across a wide page.
While grouping multiple words at a time may seem unnatural at first, some people develop this ability spontaneously. It’s something our brains are fully capable of, it just takes practice to master. This is called chunking, and it can speed up your reading considerably.
Ever noticed how children are taught to read using their finger on the page to move from word to word? In adults, this is one of the methods for becoming a faster reader. Using your finger or a pen, move down the center of the page as you scan the chunks to the left and right, then jump down to the next line. It’s a simple operation, but it keeps your brain focused on the correct line and can increase your speed.
One of the best ways to ensure you can quickly read and digest a text is to have a good understanding of where it is going. You have to understand the framing in order to be able to quickly process the details. With that in mind, a great way to increase your reading speed is to ask the questions: What is this text about? What are the central themes? What is the central thesis? Who wrote it?
These and similar questions will increase your reading speed by decreasing the amount of brainpower that is devoted to these questions as you digest the content.
4. Avoiding sub-vocalizing
Many readers go through a process of mentally vocalizing each word as they read. In other words, they say each word in their head. This is an inefficient process, and you can increase your reading speed by working to eliminate this habit.
Instead, work to simply take in the meaning of the word without mentally pronouncing it. Again, this will seem unnatural at first, but it can make a big impact on how quickly you can read.
Pro Tip: Or even try Bionic Reading, which is especially useful for people with ADHD!
Is speed reading for you?
There’s more to reading than finishing a textbook quickly or just understanding the words on the page. We introduce active reading in our guide on how to read a textbook, so that you can actually remember what you read.
The bottom line is if you just need to skim something to get the gist of it, speed reading is probably a great tactic to develop. But if you need to know something in deep detail, feel free to read it carefully.