The problem, however, is that you only rarely know this in advance. At the same time, modern education is to a large degree based on reading. Especially in the humanities and social sciences, reading a large amount of books and articles is actually the fundamental method for dealing with a topic. How, then, should you approach this? One of the possible methods that can be used is speed reading. The aim of speed reading is not to understand the whole issue, but to quickly acquaint yourself with the text and gain a certain level of understanding. The speed at which you read and the degree of understanding are the parameters that you’ll be following while speed reading.
Speed reading is not reading normally at a higher speed; it’s a certain and specific competency that allows you to go very quickly through a large amount of text and take from it the most important information. Although it’s often said that this method can be used to learn, we are assuming that for most people it will remain a technique that will help them gain a certain awareness of the text. However, it is difficult to use for analytical reading or for methods that can lead to remembering important information. On the other hand, it could help you gain a solid amount of information for an examination or writing an article that you can continue to work with.
In general, you can practice the following skills with speed reading:
- Vision span – shows how large a portion of text you’re able to observe without moving your eyes or whole head. This is an important skill that can easily be trained, for example by using two of the same pens or two fingers. Place them about 30 centimeters away from your eyes next to one another and move them apart at the same time until you can no longer see both. The moment you hit your limit, repeat the exercise. Usually about ten exercises several times a day are recommended.
- Eye fixation – how many syllables can you read at once? In languages that they know, most people read over each syllable or even whole words if they’re not too long. Learning to read whole words or even word pairs at once takes training and patience, but it really helps.
- Reading speed – what the majority of people are most interested in is reading speed. This, however, depends on the previous two skills and should be seen as a secondary manifestation of mastering them. Usually, there is a relationship between speed and error rate – the quicker you read, the less you remember from a text and the less exact the information is. A good balance between both parameters should be found for each text.
Something that should definitely be recommended for reading is having high-quality external conditions. It’s difficult to read without good lighting, straight seating or an adequate distance between the text and your eyes. It can be done, but the results are usually unsatisfactory. If you want to immediately improve your speed reading, try to work on this aspect of reading and train both fixation and vision span. Results will appear relatively quickly.
The way we see it, a speed-reading course on your PC is worth considering, as both fixation and vision span are trained much more easily digitally than on paper. For readers in English, we can recommend the free application spreeder. It offers many analytical functions, concise statistics and claims to help increase the speed of your reading up to three times.
Spreeder. Screenshot author: KISK.
How to train speed reading
- The first and perhaps easiest option is working in spreeder. The first three lessons are free and you can continue working in the library or buy the course.
- The second option is trying to focus on specific skills. The factor that probably slows us down the most in reading is a small vision span. Try focusing on reading whole words, not just syllables. If you’re using software to read (like Ebook Reader, Aldiko, etc.), try setting an adequate font size and color for the text and background. In this context, using pdfs to practice isn’t suitable; try docx or epub book formats.
- Tony Buzan claims that the greatest problem in reading is a lack of fluidity – although most teachers in basic school didn’t allow us to do this (and they had their reasons), he recommends going back to pointing at what we’re reading with a pen or something similar. You can make a fluent motion with your hand as you keep your reading tempo unified. You’ll find that when you use a finger, you’ll be able to read quicker.
- Work on focusing – if you need to read really fast, it’s important not to let anything interrupt you while reading. Try to get rid of notifications on your smart watch or mobile phone (airplane mode works great) and create an environment that won’t make you want to wander away from reading – even things like a warm cup of tea, which make reading pleasant, can distract you.
- Although it sounds banal, training is important for reading – if we read regularly, we’ll get better and faster. And, the more regularly we read the better. On a side note, it’s interesting that people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet read a lot. And they’re fast.
- Try to set a reading challenge – pick a period of fourteen days over which you’ll read at least 50 pages per day (you can modify this number accordingly). You’ll find this to be an achievement that you’ll be drawing from for a long time to come.
- Try real speed reading – grab any book and try to read it in an hour – don’t read systematically and don’t be afraid to skip over parts; read whole paragraphs and go as quickly as you can. There’s only one goal here – to get an idea of what the book is about, what’s interesting in it, and what would be worth coming back to.