Here's How to Increase Your Reading Speed
There's always hype around speed reading, some claiming it's so incredibly useful, some stating it isn't actually even possible, while others say it doesn't do much for you, since the faster you read, the less you understand and memorize of the text. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, as experts suggest, meaning that you can train yourself to read faster (not at the super-speeds some claim, though), while still being able to process the main ideas of the text and actually remember them afterwards.
Let's see a few techniques that can help you achieve this.
1. Mind Your Sub-Vocalization
Many speed reading advocates state that you should avoid sub-vocalization in order to be able to read faster. "What's that?", you may be wondering. Well, it's that little voice in your head that pronounces every word you are reading - and it seems it slows you down to a great extent. We bet you're hearing it right now, aren't you?
The thing is, it's not really that good to remove sub-vocalization altogether, since it's actually needed to comprehend the text - that's just how our brain works. Even expert speed readers do sub-vocalize, but they have simply trained to do it much more quickly than most of us. So it's not about eliminating that little inner voice, but about making it speak faster.
2. Look for the Main Ideas
Before starting speed reading, scan the table of contents or the text itself to get the title, subtitles, keywords and possible footnotes. Understanding the structure of the text and getting the main ideas will help you comprehend the content better and improve your reading speed. Also, it will let you know which sections you may want to read more carefully and which you can simply skim through.
3. Form Questions
This strategy is closely related to the previous point. You can improve your focus, speed and comprehension by turning the titles and subheadings you've spotted earlier into questions and then scanning the text body for the answers. This helps you concentrate on what you need to get out of the text and ignore the fluff you're not interested in.
4. Improve Your Fluency
Fluent word recognition is one of the most important factors that influence speed reading. That little inner voice we talked about earlier speaks much more slowly when it stumbles on unfamiliar words. Therefore, if you want to read faster, you must learn to recognize words swiftly.
And how do you do that? Well, there's no magic pill or secret strategy here - the best way to improve your fluency is through practice. Read, read, read, and then read some more! More importantly, read more of the certain types of text that you know are problematic for you, and your brain will eventually learn to recognize complicated words faster and easier, thus improving your reading speed.
5. Group More Words Together
Try not to read just one word at a time, as it terribly reduces your speed. Group them together and look at the general idea, and you'll see your reading improving.
Now, there's something we need to address here. Some advocate trying to read even multiple lines at a time, which, even if you actually manage to do it, isn't the best idea ever. This is because our brains can hold only around three to five "chunks" of information simultaneously, which means that, if you use this "multiple-line" approach, you won't be able to process and remember most of the content.
Bottom line, improving your reading speed is possible to a certain level and can be of great help, as long as you make sure you don't compromise comprehension - after all, what's the point of going through a text super-fast if nothing stays with you afterwards?