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Speed Reading

Are you applying any of your speed reading techniques in any of your courses or work?


theknight16's picture

How To Read Faster And Better

If your teacher or your parents forced you to go through Word Power by Normal Lewis, great. The same author also has published a gem of a book called How To read Faster and Better and is an excellent book, especially for college reading and professional life.

Many times, we falter with either too slow in reading, or we read too fast by skipping a lot of parts. How to Read Faster and Better systematically takes you through the techniques to read fast, better and comprehend what is happening with a subject.

Some of the initial exercises seem rudimentary on the surface like taking a card and moving the card through the words, the eye movement exercises, etc. However, it all turns out well, as you chug along. This book changes the way you read forever - at least for me, it did and helps me a lot in business school.

Jay Pineda's picture

read only the important

I do speed reading usually when I read a story or a biography of someone. First thing I do is to scan the text and look for all the important details and happenings on the story. This is what you will really need on the exams.

To make it more efficient, use a highlighter and highlight all things which you think are important. All key terms, etc. Believe me, In a page you will only be able to highlight around 3-7 sentences. By this, you have eliminated all the "bloopers" which just make the text too long too read. After highlighting all important things, Go back and read again -only the highlighted items :)

Adelaide's picture

Speed reading

I only speed read if I'm going through a rather boring piece of text, mostly scholarly articles where the author looks up the weirdest words to use for the simplest theories/arguments.  It just drowns out the meaning of the text to me, so that I have to speed read and get past all the parts that don't contribute to the discussion at all.

I will say though that this skill really comes in handy when you take Praxis or GED tests.  From my personal experience, I've found that the Praxis is notorious for having these huge passages where you have to identify the meaning or discuss it in a meaningful way.  Since you only have two hours to complete the test, it's essential to go through it with a pen or a highlighter and pick out all the important-sounding sentences from the passages.  Just focus on those and you won't ever have to worry about running out a time for those types of tests.

java602's picture

Speed Reading

One of the biggest problems that students have in college is completing all of their reading assignments on time. Everybody expects to read in English class, but you will probably have reading assignments in classes like History, Art, Business, Science, and pretty much any other class you enroll in. Speed reading is a really useful skill when you have to power through piles of reading material.

The first thing about speed reading is that it does not work for every class. I do not recommend speed reading for English class, because you might miss important details and hurt yourself later. However in classes like History, you probably can be successful just by scanning for key terms and focusing on the material around them. Also be careful when speed reading scientific material. Much of the material can be confusing if not read slowly, and trying to blow through might just make it even more confusing.

Speed reading works best when you are reviewing material you are already familiar with. It can be really helpful when studying for an upcoming test. Speed reading is good for jogging your memory and refreshing your mind on old material. But remember: speed reading is a supplement, not a shortcut.

JamieS86's picture

 There is so much reading

 There is so much reading assigned in my program that no one is really able to read every line. Generally, the way people manage this is to read the introduction and conclusion carefully and skim the stuff in the middle. If there is a particular chapter or section that is relevant to your research, read it more carefully. This usually works pretty well.

 I wouldn't suggest this technique to someone who has a standard amount of reading, because it really isn't the best way to learn. However, in my case I typically read 3-4 books per week for classes, and reading at my regular pace would be impossible.

bandella's picture

Jamie and Java have it right.

Speed reading is a useful skill to have, but should by no means be your first approach to reading, especially if it's new material. Don't try it with English classes unless you've already read the book or article several times over, and you just need to look over it again as a refresher. You can sometimes get away with this in history courses, but it's really a case-by-case deal where you just have to use your best judgment about whether your professor is focused on the big picture or the tiny details.

I had a professor once who said he only got through the required reading for his comps in his Ph.D. program by a form of speed reading. He would carefully read the introduction and conclusion of every book, then go through and read the first and last sentences of every paragraph. If it didn't make sense or seemed like it was an especially crucial point, he'd read the entire paragraph. If not, he'd move on to the next. Then, finally, he'd look up reviews of the book in academic journals, both to check that he'd gotten everything he needed to get from the book as well as to see if there was something he'd completely missed. I've tried this technique myself with variable success; again, it's just one of those things you have to take on a case-by-case basis.

Although it's not the same thing as speed reading, one of my favorite techniques for poring through tons of research materials is to check the index. Trust me, the index will be your best friend while working on research papers. I'm the kind of person that has to go through pretty much every single piece of evidence I can find before I start drawing my own conclusions, which means every research paper leads to me checking out twenty or thirty books at a time from the library (you can imagine how much the poor librarians at the circulation desk hate seeing me walk in).

If the book is explicitly about my topic, I'll read the whole thing. If only a chapter or two is relevant, I'll only read those (along with the intro and conclusion, sometimes). If there are just short mentions of my topic, that's where index hunting comes in handy. Flip to the back and look through the index to see if there are any subjects listed that pertain to your own research topic. Then simply go to that page and see if you can use the material or not. You might have to read a little before or after that point for context, but it's better than reading the entire book only to realize you can only use a couple of pages from it.

Capslock077's picture

Speed reading

I use speed reading every single day that I read anything.  Which also happens to be everyday.  The nice things about perfecting speed reading is the ability to skim articles and pull out the pieces of meat that you were looking for. I also tend to tab things in my mind when I am reading so that it is easy to come back to when I need the information that I have found.  Speed reading helps me get through things quickly and efficiently while I am still able to understand what I have just read.  This makes studying easier than ever.

closetsocialist's picture

I found that, at least 80% of

I found that, at least 80% of the time, professors tested us on what was discussed in their lectures, and the reading was really designed for us to add additional relevant information in our answers. In later semesters, I rarely had time to read everything that was assigned, so I read through chapters picking up little bits of information that the professor might want to see included in an exam question. I didn't spend a lot of time analyzing the readings we had before classes, either. I sped through everything, contributed a few relevant words to the conversation, and made up for my inability to always be on point in class through written assignments.

I guess that strategy only works for humanities or social sciences majors, though. I can't imagine being able to do well in class not having read a chapter on statistics or chemistry.

yiliang95's picture

speed reading

Speed reading is the only way I ever go through courses like American history, where we had to read hundreds of pages each night. Indeed, it is one of the most useful skills you can acquire. I know people have different ways to speed read, but for me, I simply scan my U.S. History textbook pages for important information, such as dates and names. The first thing to look for is the thing with capital letters, as they are mostly nouns. If I don't recognize the word, I carefully read the sentence around them. Also, as the book is organized in paragraphs, I often skip the sentences that are sandwiched between "useless" information.

betterintheory's picture

not so sure

I loved that infomercial that used to always be on TV late at night, the one with the "World's Fastest Reader." That guy would read a thousand page book in about a second and a half, then they would quiz him on it, and he knew all about it. Sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is. While doing this type of speed reading might be a good technique for skimming over a brochure, it is not the best idea when studying a textbook, because you cannot pick and choose what information is worth reading. Even if this works for you, then I still don't think it's anyway to enjoy a work of literature.

Ashlynn Hall's picture

Speed Reading

I do not have a lot of experience with speed reading. Since I am taking my courses online, I have an entire week to finish everything that is assigned. Most of it is a couple of chapters that I can do in one day. I normally don't try to speed through my reading, because I like to have the time to absorb what I am seeing. However, that does not stop me from skimming. Some of the textbooks that I have assigned really only require of me to write down terms, usually located in the margins of the pages.

wedge1020's picture

Speed Reading vs. Enjoying Reading

I'm a notoriously slow reader. If tasked with a lot of reading in a short amount of time, I typically cannot deliver. But I also enjoy reading immensely and will spend hours doing so.

The advantage I seem to have is that I typically have a detailed recall of what I read (especially if it is interesting), so even if I am a bit slow in getting through the material, it tends to stick with me a lot longer.

I've tried a couple of the speed-reading programs out there but have never had the discipline to stick with them. In some respects, they always seemed to marginalize the importance of reading. I don't want to read to get through something faster. I want to read to live. Reading is a reward, not drudgery.

So, even if I am a slow reader, and there are ways to improve it, I feel I have a great balance with respect to enjoyment and retention, and I'd hate to mess that up, so I'll happily continue to be a slow reader; in many cases, slow and steady win many races.

MrFinance's picture

Important Skill to Have

There are still so many of us that when given a reading or a book, feel the need to read every word of the book from cover to cover and even worse try to memorize every word from cover to cover.

One of the keys to be learned in college is to determine what is useful information and what is not useful out of every reading.  Not to say that the books or readings are filled with useless information, but the student's goal in the class is to pass the class and to do this he/she needs to learn what is needed to pass the class, and as long as that is done, then the student will come out as knowledgeable, as he or she needs to be on that subject at that point in time of their life.

So speed reading is an essential skill, because there is only so much time in a day that can be dedicated to one course so you need to use that time efficiently.


Ashlynn Hall's picture


MrFinance wrote:

There are still so many of us that when given a reading or a book, feel the need to read every word of the book from cover to cover and even worse try to memorize every word from cover to cover.

One of the keys to be learned in college is to determine what is useful information and what is not useful out of every reading.  Not to say that the books or readings are filled with useless information, but the student's goal in the class is to pass the class and to do this he/she needs to learn what is needed to pass the class, and as long as that is done, then the student will come out as knowledgeable, as he or she needs to be on that subject at that point in time of their life.

So speed reading is an essential skill, because there is only so much time in a day that can be dedicated to one course so you need to use that time efficiently.



Whenever I am given text to read, such as my text book, or an article, I tend not to read the entirety. Usually with the text book, I skim through it, and try to pick out what I need to read. A lot of it is not very relevant to what I need for the week. The same idea goes with articles. I try to get just the overall feeling of the article and just sort of form an opinion on it. I like to read, but I don't like to strain myself reading something that may not be very interesting to me. A lot of people complain when they have to read two or three chapters, but realistically, you are only reading a fraction of the material on the pages.

johnelsontan's picture

Speed Reading or Concept Comprehension?

They've said it: Speed reading is all about quantity. Students, no matter how religious they are with their studies, no matter how zealous of a student they are or may they be nerds perhaps, when faced with tons of reading assignments only have one option: Speed Reading. Fortunately, the last time I had to speed read was way back in high school. I guess, it's because of my program that I have less to read. You see, I am an engineering student. As future engineers, we are not very keen with objective type things. I mean, for us, who cares? Every term can be goggled and in an instant be made available. What needed to be stressed to use is learning the concept. No wonder, most of our quizzes are application. Instead of knowing what a thing is called, we are more on knowing how it works and why it works

If you think it's easy, it's not. Imagine a quiz only composed of 5 problems, which is equivalent to 20 points each. Having a passing average of 70%, if you got wrong only with two of them, you are dead. Yet, if you think that is easier than reading 100 pages in a single night, then take engineering! I do; that's why I'm here. 

shelbymary's picture

Search for key terms!

If we're being entirely honest here, not everyone has the time to sit down and read through every piece of literature or academic writing that their teachers ask them to. Trying to balance your time in college is tough, and sometimes, reading doesn't take priority. When you don't have time to sit down and fully read a text, speed reading definitely comes in handy.

When you're speed reading something, I suggest first reading the introduction to the piece, and then the conclusion. These two areas are where most of the main ideas are either supplied or summarized, so it'll help get you in the mindset as to what kind of information you should be looking for. Then scan the rest of the piece, looking for words that are repeated often or ideas that seem to have a lot of emphasis placed on them. These are the key terms you should spend the most time focusing on.

If possible, try searching for a summary of the topic on You can usually find short summaries of the topic on the web. This will give you a more coherent, overall view of what you are supposed to be learning. After you've read a few summaries, then go back to the original text. You'll have a better understanding of the topic and will be better able to comprehend what you're reading.

Good luck!

PYETwentyTwelve's picture

e-course for Speed Reading

After receiving the Introduction and Unit 1, I am now all set to start this way of reading, that I have never put into action before, I have always done reading when pressed for time and that didn't help me much just made me tired because I knew I rushed for one reason only, and that was to take a test (I didn't always pass either because my short-term memory wasn't much help).

Now, I know there is more to read fast than just getting to the point in an article or book.  I now know that some preliminary work is needed for speed reading to accomplish a lot, if I consider my purpose, look for specific words, become an impatient reader (which this step wasn't really me), but I guess being a speed reader would cause one to appear to be impatient and reading different materials at different speeds, while practicing to increase how much you can read in a single sitting should always be taken into consideration.

I have been one that love to read but reading faster while comprehending along the way is something that I would like to master and taking the necessary steps with the Speed Reading e-course can be beneficial in the bigger scheme of things.  I expect this course to be helpful because I have some upcoming reading assignments that need to be completed.  Now, I am on the lookout for Unit 2 e-course:  How do People Read?

JasmineRose's picture

Speed Reading

There are only two reasons to why I would choose to speed read: the text is boring or it's a last-minute skim. I have usually done this with reading assignments in classes that are boring or do not interest me. One class in particular I remember doing a lot of speed reading was in my Islam class. The reading assignments were way too many and with so many other priorities int he way I just didn't have time to accomplish so much reading. Also, I remember vividly forgetting reading assignments and would quickly skim the text before group discussions. Usually the teacher could rarely tell that I didn't read the night before.

The key to good skimming is to read and make sure you know each sub topic in each chapter or lesson. This will give you an idea to what the reading was about. Then lightly go through each chapter and sub topic to catch the main points of what the reading is all about. Usually the most important factors that you need to know is: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Everything else is usually irrelevant. Also, if there are any important highlighted key words then become familiar with those also. 

JasmineRose's picture

Speed Reading can sometimes not be beneficiary

Although I do condone speed reading in some circumstances, I just can't see myself doing it in my New Media Communications course this semester. It is one of those courses that has a vast amount of information that you need to be knowledgeable of in order to complete the work. Just today I downloaded a two .pdf files and visited two online articles. The files alone are about 8 pages each and the articles are longer than three thousand words. Because I am currently in my master's program I want to do the best work I can, so I know that actually planning ahead of time to get all my reading done would be best. Plus, this is what I love to do and is something that will benefit me in the future. Therefore, I want to know s much information as possible and be ahead of the game at all times. 

Speed reading is absolutely fine, but if it's a course that is detrimental to your degree then try to make extra leisure time to get all the reading you need done and out of the way. You never know, you might discover something you like about the text that makes you want to revisit it in the future. 

Jay Pineda's picture

You are right, I have also

You are right, I have also learned that in college, it is very important to sort out all information which is presented to you. You should be able to seperate the important ones and the least important, the relevant and irrelevant, and the last which i think is the most important when it comes to seperating information is  whethere it will appear on the test or not! lol. It is true that a huge perecentage of information presented on the textbooks are almost useless and does not need to be memorize or read. Or maybe, you just need to scan and read some of those when you have nothing to do just so you know what it says.

There is just one dilemma when it comes to speed reading though. It is when those items you thought would not be on the exam is actually a part of it, and what's even worse is that the part you have reviewed and focused on is not even on the exam. So the results? You wasted your efforts on reviewing something which is not a part of the test.  So when it comes to speed reading, do not totally neglect information which you think is not important, read it even just for a while.

UniGeek's picture

I'm terrible at reading fast.

I'm terrible at reading fast. I do try to read faster at times. I don't know what any of the "official" techinques are, but I have like, one.

The technique I use is to just kinda skim over all the words, don't really take anything in. Just kinda get into a natural flow of the words and don't go back to read each word individually. Of course, this way, you absorb less detail but you get the jist of a piece. Really it's best when you are trying to search a piece for a specific area or just trying to get a genral sense of what the passage is discussing.

I think the best way I have, of getting through a lot of reading, in a short amount of time, is just to listen to an audio recording. Whatever the topic is, chances are there is an audio book about it. Usually if it's in the public domain, then you can almost just skip buying the book totally.

Once you have an audio book you can just put it on your mp3 player and take it with you, wherever you go.

Yeah, I basically don't read that fast, so I try to get around it whenever I can. But on the days when I have to read, sometimes listening to certain types of music help.

Jay Pineda's picture

We do the same!

Hey there, That is what  I also do normally! I just skim all over the words in the page too fast - too fast that I can finish 1 page in 15 seconds! LOL. I would definitely agree with you that this is a very very effective way of reading when you are not looking for something specific like for example, you need the definition of all words in the book. I usually do this when what I need from the book is the concept or just the story itself. This works best when you are working on a book review and you need to get it done very fast. You can actually get the juice out of it without taking too much time reading it.

Listening to audio books are a great idea to! I haven't tried it yet but I am sure that this will be very effective. Listening to audio books will actually save you a lot of time- you can actually do it while you are walking and on your way to your classroom. It is just like listening to music on your ipod. You don't have to give it your 100% attention, but you will really be able to understand and know the topic which is being discussed.


TBanton's picture

Speed Reader

I've been speed reading since about 11th grade in high school. I've always been a fast reader, but we had a competition to read the Canterbury Tales as quickly and clearly as possible so I had to improve my speed reading skills. It seemed like a silly little contest but it definitely helped me out in my collegiate years. Whether it was glancing over an article/study guide right before a test or trying to get through three or more chapters in a day, speed reading is a helpful tool.

Speed reading is even better when paired with note-taking. Textbooks have thousands of words and likely, all of them won't be read so it's best to pick and choose the topic highlights. When I was reading my biology texts, I would write down anything mentioned more than twice. Why? Because this was an obviously important subject and something that would be needed in my general knowledge bank. And if I had time, I would speed read a section/chapter but go back and do a detailed, slower reading just to verify what I'd seen. Sometimes, when I read different topics in the same day, they'd kind of crossover and I'd get confused. But checking my notes and simply reading it again solved that issue.

emontgomery's picture

My Personal Opinion about Speed Reading

It’s funny. I had a conversation about speed reading just recently with one of my professors. As I told him, a part of me wishes I could speed read. As an English major, there are so many books I have to read for school. There are even more books I want to read for my own benefit. However, my professor made an excellent point. He reminded me that by speed reading, I would be missing a lot of the subtleties within the work. I think other English majors would appreciate this. We have to write essays where we analyze the words in the piece and try to pull apart all the meanings it could possibly have. If I could speed read, I would probably miss a great deal of information that could help me really explore the piece. In fact, it’s like going to a high-end restaurant. Would you want to scarf your food down or savor each bite and explore how the flavors and textures work together?

That’s all I’m saying really. Speed reading can be beneficial if you’re recapping information. I would suggest reading subheadings and the first sentence of each paragraph. Moreover, most textbooks have a summary at the end of each chapter. Still, I would suggest reading everything. Professors tend to pull out the most obscure bits of information for tests. You could be shooting yourself in the proverbial foot by not doing so. I would also mention that people went through a great deal of time to put all those words down. They might actually be important.

Hearty Marial's picture

my crazy speed reading moment

The good thing about Speed Reading (only when you are already good or even perfect at it) is that, you can ready as many as 15-20 articles per day that needs review, summary or something that needs to be passed within the day. I tried it once when I was still enrolled under the program of Bachelor of Arts major in History. I don't really know what kind of spirit took over our Philosophy in History professor during that day, when he required us to read 20 articles about 20 different philosopher and create a summary out of it, good thing he cut it down to 15. We can actually finish it when we are givin enough time, he knows that, but I think he was trying to kill us that time. I had to read the philosophies of John Locke, St.thomas Aquinas, Aviccena, Zeno, Confucius, Rene Descartes and many more. Thanks to my ex-professors training in Speed Reading wherein yes, you have to read fast but make sure you are very much good in giving attention to details so that all you have to do is highlight those and before going to the next paragraph, note them all, and continue the processa long the way. This would help you arrange, sort things out to be able to compose a summary with details given, enough to cover the entire article. This is what I did, and fortunately, I was able to finish those just an hour before the  passing of the summaries. But you also have to make sure that you read on areas where no one could destruct you or interrupt you for this may destroy everything, you might get lost or something, so make sure you read on a perfect area for perfect output. 

moustafaa's picture

I used to apply my speed

I used to apply my speed reading techniques in my study & work as well as it helps well to get an overall idea and sometimes full solutions to troubleshooting problems and general life problems as well.

Actually, while you are reading a line, your eyes are primarily focused on the word that you are currently reading. i call this your point of primary focus. However, our eyes are capable of keeping an area on either side of their primary focus in surprisingly good focus. This entire area, starting from some distance to the left of the primary focus and ending some distance on its right is called the field of focus. It is also known as the perception span or the peripheral view.

Most people have a field of focus that is about three to four words of normal length. Some people have a larger field.

I would like to reveal one of these techniques for you to use when you are in a hurry and have no enough time to read with your normal speed, an easy method used to do skimming is to use the zigzag hand movement which expands your focus while looking for the topic sentence in a paragraph and key words.

dani.ala.lang's picture

speed reading exercises

When I was younger, my mom gave me a book on speed reading and it has helped me so much.  If you have the time and money (although the books are pretty cheap) I would suggest getting one.  It comes in really handy. A lot of my friends ask me if I acutally retain what I read since I read it so fast, and the answer is I actually retain more.  Since I speed read, I don't get lost reading the same paragraph a million times and I also only pick out what's important.  When you read, try not to read each word out loud in your head.  Try to focus in the middle of a paragraph and pick up the words without moving your eyes from the center. 

There are a few speed reading exercises that I do online to keep it up.  I find that word searches are helpful to practice.

That link has a bunch of practices that you can do everyday to speed up your reading.  Don't strain your eyes. When you first start it's easy to strain them, so if you feel like they're getting tired, take a break.  If you strain your eyes too much reading fast or slow is going to be impossible, so be sure to take breaks.


MuhammadDanish's picture

Now, take a moment to study

Now, take a moment to study the first two pages of a few of your favorite books. How many particular details from the above list do you find in its first two pages? Likely, you find most. Particulars build context, and context is essential and all-powerful because it fills in the gaps for your reader without boring exposition. Vanessa Redgrave once said of acting—an art I argue shares much with writing—“If you don’t understand the social-economic realities of the character—their education, how they were raised financially, and what they did to get an education or not—you can’t understand the character.” In other words, if you don't understand the particular details of your characters, their actions, and their world...

Well, it's not an option. And the most efficient way to convey this understanding to your reader is through your choice of particular details. You decide. Does the character arrive driving an El Camino, or a Saab.

johnk146's picture

Sounds like a useful skill

Although I've never partaken in a speed reading course, I certainly can observe the value in such a skill. You are faced with so many insurmountable blocks of text throughout your career that the ability more efficiently parse and dissect the information will save you a lot of time for other academic pursuits. Speed reading will not be only a useful skill in self-study, but can also be useful during examinations as well, and not only as an indirect benefit. Exams within college, and exams to get into college, are often time constrained. The ability to navigate through text at a quicker pace will prove to be an invaluable skill to gain the edge over your peers.  As with any new skill, I'm sure that it is one that requires a lot of time, concentration, and practice to master, and the older you become and thus more entrenched in the way your brain processes information, it is a skillset that will be harder to acquire with time. But from the looks of it, it is definitely a worthwhile investment, so take those first steps now and seek out a speed reading course! I myself will look into enrolling in one as well, although I'm a bit late into the game. Maybe the ability to blaze through text will help make up for lost time!

footballchick29's picture

speed reading

It took me years to perfect my speed reading skills. It really is a matter of knowing exactly when and how to use the skill. I do not recommend speed reading through any kinds of contracts or legal papers, which seems to be what most people do. That could pose serious consequences. I tend to speed read through course material that I am already familiar with. Many courses tend to repeat a fair amount of information, so to save time I will speed read. Rarely have I found somehting new. I also speed read though lit reviews and research studies for the most part. It was actually those documents that I had to really train myself to speed read. They are set up the same way for the most part so I knw what areas I can skip. For example, the first few paragraphs in a lit review consist f just an overview of information on the subject. Therefore I do not see a need to read it. I also agree with others that it can be a useful skill for test taking. If you can get through the "fluff" in the exams it gives you more time to concentrate on the answers.