Speed Reading: the Who and the How
Did you ever wonder how doctors, CEOs, professors, and scientists absorb the latest information for their profession and still have time to do the job we know they must be doing? Many successful people don’t read at a leisurely pace, the average of 300 words per minute (wpm) that the average adult accomplishes. Some can speed read, but all read at a level beyond most of our comprehension. Time is money after all, successful people know this and they learn to do things accordingly.
Why Speed Read?
Staples sponsored a speed-reading test which showed this data:
- Third-grade students read 150 wpm.
- Eight grade students read 250 wpm.
- The average college student reads 450 wpm.
- The average high level executive reads 575 wpm.
- The average college professor reads 675 wpm.
- Speed readers can read 1,500 wpm.
- The world speed reading champion reads 4,700 wpm.
- The average adult reads 300 wpm—barely more than an eighth grade student.
According to a Forbes article entitled, “Do You Read Fast Enough to Be Successful?”, author Brett Nelson says that the average person will spend two hours of every day reading emails, blog posts, newspapers, text-books, magazines, novels, etc.
Just imagine if you could read 1,500 words per minute instead of a mere 300. That would equate to 24 minutes of your time every day, leaving you time to exercise, eat well, sleep, spend time with your loved ones, or anything else you wish to spend that 96 minutes. Hey, you could even take in a movie!
Speed Reading Resources
Just searching online to research this article I found countless resources:
- A combo pack of DVDs, CDs, CD-Roms, with a handy guide and workbook
- Many online speed reading courses
- Speed reading online software
- Wiki posts on speed reading
- Speed-reading tests
- YouTube videos on speed reading
It’s no wonder in our fast-paced world with short attention spans we must learn to do things better, stronger, faster, more efficient than the generation before.
Techniques for Teaching Speed Reading
We often think that one technique will lead to reading at the speed of light but as with anything, there is more than one way to do it, and it will take time to achieve the results you want.
- Read groups of words at once. This cluster technique teaches you to use less eye movements, expanding your eye-span.
- Use your finger to pace your reading. Move your finger faster than you normally read along the text to read faster.
- Skip over small words and read keywords only. Skip over the articles and determiners: a, the, of. You can still grasp meaning without these grammatical elements.
- Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) is often used in speed reading software by presenting groups of words at a rapid pace for you to read.
- Tachistoscopic Scroll Presentation (TSP) is also often used in speed reading software by scrolling words rapidly.
- Read at a set pressure time. You force yourself to read faster by setting a timer to read a set passage in.
- Break bad reading habits that slow you down. Subvocalization is where you read the words in your head as though speaking them. Regression is rereading a line of text. Both of these vastly slow down your reading time.
- Skim before you read. For nonfiction, skim to find main ideas, then read line by line. You get the underlying structure and have that in mind when you read the article or book. This does not work for fiction.
- Turn headings into questions. When you read headings as questions you begin to focus on important main points and the details that fill in the rest of the meaning.
- Find patterns of the idea before reading. Again, for nonfiction look for the structure and pattern which are predictable: a problem is introduced, with a thesis; effects come next, followed by the cause, and finally the solution. The introduction and conclusion are often repetitive of the internal information. Although the thesis at or near the end of the introduction can help you grasp the idea of the piece quickly. My degree in Professional Writing trained me in technical, journalistic, and non-fiction writing—we all write this way.
- Be flexible. You can’t read all works at the same rate. Allow as much time as needed for what you need to learn. Speed through irrelevant portions. For instance, contracts must be read slowly, but news articles can be skimmed.
Richard L. Feldman, Ph.D., Speed Reading Expert at Columbia University, says to use a combination of these strategies, find what works for you, and continue with it while you improve to the level you are happy with.
Who Can Benefit from Speed Reading?
The truth is that anyone could benefit from being able to speed read. But those who live very busy lives and their work depends on reading must learn to read very fast. Writers must research, we spend much more time reading than we do writing—we often get paid by the word or piece—the more time we can spend writing the more we have to live on. Editors must read all the time to find errors, typos, continuity of sentence structure; looking for clarity along the way—they must be able to read fast to do their work.
Professionals must be able to read peer reviewed journal articles to stay fresh and keep their education level up to date. These articles are a tough read and are highly technical. They don’t get paid to do the reading but must do it to stay relevant for what they get paid to do.
Programmers must read through code which can be extensive, being able to do this quickly can assist them in finding errors, and testing, which is a very important part of their job. Take this course in speed reading for IT.
You have the power to read faster. It will take work, but you are an amazing person with the ability to do many things if you will do just one thing: try.
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