How to Improve Your Reading Speed

The ability to quickly read large quantities of text appeals to many. It might be due to a desire to read more that would make people want to speed up their reading. It can also be a challenge, seeing how fast they can get at reading. Still, there are lots of misconceptions about the speed at which people read.

For one, it will depend on the type of task we want to achieve by reading. People who are trying to learn something will read more slowly than people who are simply trying to understand a text. Then, there’s the fact that we can’t speed up our reading indefinitely. There’s a boundary somewhere around 900 words per minute – three times as fast as reading for comprehension – where the eye simply can’t keep up with the desire to go faster.

But for anyone looking to bring their reading speed to a new level without having to go to a speed-reading course, here are a couple of tips.

Be Prepared to Read a Lot

Whatever techniques you apply to improve your reading speed, you can be certain that you’ll need to read a lot for them to sink in. For avid readers, this might not be a problem. For the people who are in it just to improve yet another ability to above-average levels, it might be well beyond what they’re used to reading in a day.

There’s no prescribed number of words you should read, but remember the principle – the more you practice, the quicker you’ll be. Just don’t forget that we’re generally taught literacy to achieve text comprehension, as that’s usually the reason we read. Don’t sacrifice speed for comprehension, at least not too much.

Reduce Subvocalization

There’s this thing that most of us do when reading when we “say” every word in our mind as we read them. This is called subvocalization and it might be an intrinsic part of the skill of reading – but it also might be the thing slowing you down.

You’ll never completely get rid of all manifestations of subvocalization, but you can try to reduce them. The usual technique is to start doing something else with that inner voice of yours when it starts reading words one by one. You can, for example, start humming. Or you can use it to count.

Start Reading Clusters of Words

Believe it or not, your eyes can focus on more than just one word at a time. They can go up to three or four, and if you learn how to make yours do this, it can significantly increase your reading speed. And yes, you’ll need to practice this a lot, too.

How do you do it? When reading, try to avoid the words that don’t supply any specific information, focusing instead on groups of important words. It’s different from looking for keywords like you do when skimming, but it is a process of selection and grouping.

Don’t Backtrack!

Finally, you should know that people have a natural tendency to, once in a while, go back and re-read what’s already covered. Whether you’re doing it to make sure you’ve understood everything, or you’re looking for a specific bit of information, it’ll slow you down the same.

Stay focused on what you’re reading at the moment and make sure your comprehension is at the level you need it to be. Good advice would be to use a finger to guide the eye while reading – it will help your eye stay focused on going forward, instead of moving back now and then. And remember — as with all other methods, practice makes perfect.

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