A few days ago, I started looking into speed-reading as a means of gaining more knowledge in a shorter period of time. Years ago, when I was still in high school, a friend of mine had told me that one of her goals was to be able to read more quickly. She had even enrolled in a night class at a community college in order to accomplish this goal. That was the first time that it had occurred to me that speed-reading was a “thing”.
I always felt that I read at a slightly more than average speed. Heck, I even have the test scores to prove this. However, I never truly embraced how useful this skill could be. If I could increase my speed and even my comprehension at those higher speeds, I could be at a strong advantage in my studies. I know, this has probably already occurred to many of you. Why am I so slow to realized the obvious?
I have always been a sort of lazy individual when it came to homework or doing anything that felt like homework. On the other side of the spectrum, if I want to look up the history of spoons, in about 30 minutes, I could present you with 5-7 different sources of it’s history, tell you where and why the first spoon was made and even branch off into my own research of various other utensils. I’d say that I’m a pretty efficient learner. What I lack is the motivation.
My motivation for wanting to increase my reading speed is knowing that the price of being an English major is having to read a lot of text in a brief period of time. Not only that, but having to being able to comprehend the text fully. My goal over the next 2-4 weeks is to drastically improve my reading and comprehension speed.
To start off, my base reading speed going word for word and having full comprehension was about 350 wpm. Please note, that for this initial test I read slower than I normally read in order to have the highest comprehension rate possible. The average reading speed for most people is anywhere around 200 wpm. My goal is to be able to read and comprehend comfortably at around 900 wpm.
I started off with Scott Young’s suggestion for practicing. Within a few days I had already doubled my reading speed and my comprehension is slowly starting to match my new speed.
To quickly summarize how to practice, you simply take a book or piece of text and read it as fast as you can for a short length of time, let’s say between 3-5 minutes. You must read slightly faster than you can comprehend all of the words and time yourself. This is important. Then when the time is up you go back and roughly average how many words there are per line of text – I do this by looking at the first 5 lines and counting how many words per line (wpl) there are, then picking a number right in between the lowest and highest number of wpl. You don’t have to be completely accurate, but try to use your best guesstimate. Now count how many lines of text you read. You want to get your total number of words by multiplying average wpl and number of lines. See? You do use math in real life. Now, divide this number by however many minutes you were reading for. If you’re still confused by this, feel free to look at this e-book Scott has put together. He gives a few tips on how to improve your reading.
If you want to take an initial test, I recommend trying this free online test before implementing any speed-reading practice techniques and then retesting after a week or so. This site also offers a program that you can purchase for more similar exercises. For those who don’t want to buy a program but still want to reap the benefits of a speed-reading practice program, spreeder is a really cool free alternative. Happy reading, everyone!