For most readers, the average reading speed of 250-300 words per minute (wpm) can be a major downer. As much as anyone can, they want to maximize their reading time and improve their knowledge acquisition. This causes the challenge to learn how to increase your reading speed. After all, it’s a skill that comes in handy when you want to read more books in a shorter time.
It is frustrating only to absorb a portion of what you’ve read when you spent a significant amount of time reading. And it is even more challenging when you are running on a deadline. Speed reading helps you read at a faster pace and improve comprehension as you go.
Having to comprehend easily at a shorter time comes in handy when reading various materials. Be it for books, newspapers, online articles, publications, etc.—speed reading can help you learn more regardless of the purpose.
What is speed reading?
In learning how to increase your reading speed, you shall start with speed reading. This is the method of using different techniques for faster reading while retaining comprehension. This is done through the efficient recognition of phrases instead of analyzing each word.
According to Staples, these are the average reading speeds of Americans grouped based on their educational attainment:
- 3rd-grade students have 150 wpm.
- 8th-grade students have 250 wpm.
- Average adults have 300 wpm.
- 11th-grade students have 350 wpm.
- College students have 450 wpm.
- High-level executives have 575 wpm.
- College professors have 675 wpm.
- High-scoring college students have 800 wpm.
- Speed readers have 1500 wpm.
- World speed reading champion has 4700 wpm.
You can test your own reading speed through Staples or ReadingSoft to help you track your progress as you train yourself to read faster.
Perks of reading faster
Reading fast is not done just for the sake of finishing readings at one go; it is also done to save time without compromising the amount of knowledge you acquire.
There are chockful of ways speed reading can benefit you, and they include the following:
- Saves you more time
- Promotes memory growth and better comprehension
- Improves concentration abilities
- Helps retain memory
- Increases your vocabulary
- Develops critical thinking skills
- Builds up your knowledge in a short time
Bad reading habits to avoid
Before we jump into the different techniques on how to increase your reading speed, it’s essential to know first the culprits of slow reading. There are three common reasons why, and these are subvocalization, regression, and fixation.
Subvocalization refers to the voice inside your head while you are reading. You might not be reading out loud, but there is always a voice up there that talks internally.
Most people fall for regression or failing to understand the context halfway through the material. It’s almost like reading mindlessly, which results in needing to go back and read again.
Troubles in fixation confuse readers on which line they are reading. This requires them to go back, find where they left off, and delay reading. This issue can be easily resolved with the proper methods.
Techniques on how to increase reading speed
To effectively increase your reading speed, you shall practice some techniques to speed up your reading successfully. Here are some of the best strategies you can try to double your reading speed:
1. Minimize subvocalization.
When you allow hearing this voice in your head as you read, it eats up a portion of your time. You cannot help it, but you can ignore that voice through practice. Try reading now without that “voice.” You can actually do it, right? Now, practice reading with your eyes and learn to stop that voice from reading out loud in your head.
If you’re having a hard time, you can practice minimizing subvocalization by reading and listening to music or chewing gum. These distractions tone down that voice up in your head and force you to focus on understanding the content more aggressively.
2. Use skimming before reading everything.
Skimming is a reading technique that includes scanning the content quickly for essential ideas before reading it entirely. This lets you know the content you are about to read, and it prepares your mind as you go on. A study has proven that skimming improves one’s comprehension and accelerates reading speed.
A good habit to do is reading the first paragraph of important sections. Then skim through the middle parts and the end. This will help you piece together the ideas presented. It gives you an outline, prepping on you what’s about to come when you start reading thoroughly.
You might notice how long it takes for you to read a new material with unfamiliar content. You can conquer this by skimming through your readings first as a warmup.
3. Know what the content brings you.
As a result of skimming, you get to grasp the idea of the material. When you know what you will get out of reading something, you get psyched about reading it—resulting in faster and mindful reading. This lets you prime your mind to focus on the things you like. You will learn to go faster on details that do not excite you and slow down on the parts which you think are essential.
4. Get a marker.
Reading gives you a tendency to slip through the paragraphs when you do not have any markers at hand. Try placing a pen or finger on the exact point where you are and move along as you continue reading. Not only this secures you at the right place, but it avoids your eyes flitting through random areas—losing your focus.
You may also use an index card to guide you. It covers the lines you may mistake reading. It keeps you on track. By doing this, you prevent yourself from rereading because you read the wrong lines.
5. Read in phrases.
Our eyes can read multiple words at a time. In addition to avoiding subvocalization, reading through phrases lets you speed up without losing comprehension. It takes a lot of effort to master this technique, but you can start by looking at every fifth word at a time. Once you master the habit, you can advance to taking in more words for faster reading.
To make chunking words into phrases, you may draw two vertical lines down a page, dividing the content into three sections. This division will serve as your guide to group the words. Then, you can proceed to read them in groups. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t need to draw lines anymore.
6. Put your peripheral vision into good use.
The previous techniques work together when you have properly used your peripheral vision. The peripheral vision lets you see the parts around the content without losing your focus at a specific point. This is a crucial factor in covering words as much as you can, so be wise with it.
To practice good use of peripheral vision when reading, you may skip chunking here. Instead, focus on the center of a line and utilize your peripheral vision to read the rest. Doing it on the entire page will help you finish faster. And you’ll realize that you were able to comprehend everything just as well as fully reading.
7. Steer clear from distractions and focus.
Distractions disrupt your comprehension and slow down your reading, so find a spot that induces comfort. Unwarranted noise, bothering smell, uncomfortable posture, or any obstructions all contribute to a decreased focus. Be sure to instill a peaceful mind before reading to read fast and retain information as much as you can.
8. Do not reread.
Sometimes, if you are not concentrated enough, you will fall into deep confusion and reread until you understand a particular statement. That’s a common pitfall for a slow-paced reader. In addition to concentration, you can avoid this through acceptance that you do not have to fully understand everything in the first sentence. That is because as you go on, things will fall into place and start to make sense. You’ll realize how much time you wasted on rereading some parts.
It’s a tough habit to break, especially when you are not aware you’re doing it. To help break away from the practice, use a marker to guide you. As mentioned previously, having a pointer on hand will prevent you from reading the wrong lines. It keeps you in place, not making you reread the content.
9. Improve your vocabulary.
Often, unfamiliar words are thrown into readings, which might cause others to stop and look them up somewhere. That’s a major slowdown for a reader. If you want to be efficient in reading faster, you have to work on your vocabulary and familiarize yourself with complex words and jargon.
Enriching one’s vocabulary takes time. However, you can gradually improve yours when you read more about that specific subject. The familiarity makes reading seamless since you understand everything at one go.
10. Set a goal and track yourself.
Sticking to a goal you have set will help you reach the doubled speed you’ve been wanting. You can gradually increase your target each week to avoid burnout. Remember to track your progress and monitor the things that need improvement. This way, you will be able to identify how soon you can attain your goal.
To monitor your progress, you can do regular timed runs. Set your timer as you read one page and count how many words you read. Do this often to break your fastest records.
11. Employ personal techniques.
Speeding up your reading pace will always depend upon your choices and vulnerabilities. You could try everything written here, but some may not work. You can even try enrolling in a class to work on your reading speed and succeed. The decision is yours as long as it works for you.
There isn’t a wrong technique if it works for you. Just remember to monitor your progress to assess how specific methods help you increase reading speed. If they don’t work, try other variations of the techniques we shared.
12. Read up!
Read more and more content! You won’t get better results if you do not make a move. It will take time for sure, but consistency will add up to your progress. After all, you want to increase your reading speed, so work hard for it.
In a nutshell, doubling your reading speed doesn’t just increase your efficiency, but it also allows you to learn more and improve your existing abilities. And to be able to do that, you shall exert an ample amount of effort to reach that goal.
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