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drdoombot's avatar

Do you speed read? What techniques do you use?

Asked by drdoombot (8095 points ) August 5th, 2009

I’ve been practicing speed reading to get through my TBR list more quickly. I found 10 Days to Faster Reading by The Princeton Language Institute and Abby Marks-Beale to be quite good, with lots of different techniques for reading faster while retaining comprehension. I went from an average of 350wpm to around 700wpm.

The technique that has been most successful for me was increasing my eye span. Most readers tend to jump from word to word as they read. Increasing your eye span lets you “see” several words with each jump. To see what I mean, try this: using a regular paperback book, try only allowing your eyes to jump from the beginning of the line to the middle to the end of the line (three jumps total), and repeat on the next line. Do this for a while and you’ll find that you’re absorbing more words than you seem to be looking at (your brain fills in the “the’s” “a’s” “of’s” etc., for you). With enough practice, this becomes easier and you comprehend more.

Does anyone else have speed-reading techniques that have been successful for them? Books that have helped them increase their speed? Programs or workbooks?

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16 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I taught myself to read, and I usually just scan the page, with my eyes stopping and moving back and forth at things that look like they might be more interesting. A really good book will have me reading every word, because it is well written.

For more important things, I have to have Hubby read them, because I skip too many words to make sense out of legal documents and such.

ragingloli's avatar

i usually skip entire words and try to make out the meaning with the words i read.
i

gggritso's avatar

I’m planning to try this out on the weekend.

cyn's avatar

I read the first page of the book- the last page of the book in a minute…
I skip the middle

basp's avatar

I learned to speed read in highschool. We learned the eye span method that you mentioned with the aid of a contraption that had a light that shown on the sentence you were reading and moved down the page at a rate one could set.
Now I use a ruler or straight edge to move my eyes down the page and ‘read’ the whole line at once. (one single jump, in your terms).
Another thing, when using a ruler to move your eyes down the page, place the ruler on the top of the line you want to read nstead of underneath. Letters and words have most of their nformation in the top half and your eyes can get that info to your brain for processing if you concentrate n the upper half of the word/letter. Try this experiment…. Write a word on a piece of paper. (the word ‘information’ works well). Take the paper and fold it so that the fold divides the word n half,upper and lower. Ask a friend to tell you what the word says only showing them the bottom half. Then show them the top half and see if they can read what the word is. Most of the time, they will not be able to tell you the word with the bottom half of information but will be able to tell you the word with the top half of the information.

Iconoclast's avatar

I advise you to read the following at normal speeds: http://www.skepdic.com/speedreading.html

drdoombot's avatar

@basp Actually, two of the methods you describe: reading the top half of a word and placing a straight edge above the line, are techniques described in the book I mentioned in my opening post.

I’m curious; how did you learn to take in a whole line with one “jump?” At most, I think my eye span can see 5 words with a single glance.

@Iconoclast I’m sorry, but I find it hard to agree with that article when my own experience has proved otherwise. Reading speed should not be increased at the cost of comprehension, but you don’t lose comprehension with all speed-reading techniques. And it happens to be true that comprehension increases with practice.

basp's avatar

Drdoombot
I learned speed reading in high school. That was forty years ago (give or take a year). I have had a lot of practice. I started out doing a lot more ‘jumping’ than I do now.
Some tips… Skip over the unimportant words and go straight for the nouns, verbs, and major modifiers. Pass over the conjunctions, articles, and minor modifiers.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I learned speed reading by sitting on the arm of my Dad’s chair as a boy and reading over his shoulder. To keep up, I had to learn to read fast, or he would turn the page when he was done. That was forty years ago. I don’t remember exactly how I do it since it is automatic, but I think I simply read a sentence in large clumps, focusing on the important words.

Darwin's avatar

I don’t know how I learned to speed read. I just know that when I was last tested in 6th grade, the fastest the machine would go was 700 wpm, and I was still making 100% on the tests. Thus, I apparently can read faster than that.

I do know that I don’t read word to word, that I do take in whole chunks of sentences at a time. I also know that when I read I am completely into the book and don’t notice the real world. And finally, I know that ever since third grade I have absolutely loved reading so I have read a lot.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Darwin same here, if I get into a book, the rest of the world just disappears. John Varley and Anne Rice write in that way.

Grisaille's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra Gaea Trilogy for the mother fucking win. Lurve.

derekpaperscissors's avatar

Whenever I read long articles online, i use the Zap Read bookmarklet. Eventually I upped the # of words flashed, and the speed. After a while, whenever I read anything online or not, I’ve noticed my speed reading has increased. I think Zap Read trains your brain so even though you’re not using it, you’d still be able to read fast.
Also, do read this to learn about Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes.
Read by phrases, and read into a paragraph a few words after the first word, and a few words before the last word. If your brain is trained right, you’ll pick up the “missing” words through visual memory, peripheral vision, and collective understanding of the phrases.

As an extra bonus,
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I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, t he olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rgh it pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs psas it on !!”

MrBr00ks's avatar

It depends on the book or what I’m reading, if Im more into it, my reading is much faster. I don’t know what method I use, just the natural one Im born with. Maybe one day I will properly train myself.

NewZen's avatar

@tafka evelyns_pet_zebra – re. dad – me, too.

Kayak8's avatar

I don’t speedread per se but much like @Darwin I was given the same series of reading tests and was faster than the machine. I am aware that I take in the shapes of words (I have read so much at this point in my life that the shape of many words is just imprinted in my brain).

The only time this gives me problems is when an author has several characters whose names start with the same first letter. For example, I recently read a book that had a character named “Amanda” and another named “Audrey” and I had to stop every time I hit one of those names to think which character it was.

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