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When starting to speed read, various techniques which increase reading speed should be acquired and then practiced regularly.

N.B. The suggested reading exercises below must be practiced for 20-30 minutes a day for approximately 6-8 weeks - this ensures that expertise in speed reading is acquired gradually.

Select a piece of unfamiliar generic prose to practice Speed Reading skills - reading research material slows down reading speed in the initial stages of acquiring these skills because the material will be of relevance to the reader (and hence of interest). The aim is to practice on unfamiliar generic material in the beginning stages and, once the skills are becoming more familiar, swapping after 3-4 weeks to apply the skills to material that is being read for research.

What type of reader are you?

  • How many hours a week do you spend reading?
  • When did you last learn a new technique to improve your reading?
  • What could you do with the extra time if you doubled or tripled your reading speed?

Reading Task One

The aim of this task is to calculate your current reading speed. The final Word Per Minute (WPM) score is the benchmark from which to measure progress. For one minute, read at your normal, comfortable speed. Calculate the reading rate (see below) and make a note of the score. Move to task two.

How to Calculate Your Reading Rate

Choose a piece of generic literature - when acquiring speed reading expertise for the first time, your material must be largely unfamiliar. Choosing something related to your research may slow down the reading process (through sheer intrigue!) when the purpose is to acquire the basic skills to read at a high speed. After practicing these skills for a number of weeks it's then advisable to start focusing on speed reading material that you read for your research.

Count the total number of words in the first five lines and divide by 5.

This gives the estimate of the average number of words per line. Count the total number of lines that have been read and multiply by the average number per line. When the reading rate becomes faster it's best to calculate the average number of words per page and count the number of pages.

Reading Task Two

The aim of this task is to calculate the fastest reading speed. Read for one minute at your fastest reading rate. At the end of the minute calculate the word per minute score and estimate comprehension. This score is the fastest reading score and provides an additional benchmark from which to measure progress.

Reading Speed & Comprehension

For the first two-three weeks of acquiring speed reading skills, the faster the reading rate, the lower the comprehension. This is normal. As speed reading skills become more innate, comprehension will gradually return back to the normal rate. As the subconscious brain learns to read at speed, the reader's mind is focused on the physical act of reading. This causes a negative effect on comprehension. As speed reading skills are acquired with practice, the reader begins to pay less and less attention to the physical act of reading and focuses again on the material that it being read, in the same way that he/she did before acquiring speed reading skills.

Reading Task Three

The aim of the third reading task is to increase reading speed by 'chunking' words together. Essentially this is a word recognition exercise and it's crucial to train the brain to recognise words on the page. Read for one minute by 'chunking' words together two/three at a time. This exercise is good for survey reading and scanning documents. At the end of the task, calculate the WPM score and make a note of comprehension.


Reading Task Four

The aim of the fourth reading task is to increase reading speed by using a pacer. A pacer is a tool which trains the eyes to move rapidly and evenly across the page. A pacer can be either a ruler, a note card or a pen. Again, it's useful to train the brain to recognise certain words on the page and being more familiar with the words/phrases of your discipline can help here. Read for one minute using a pacer to help the eye move from left to right across the page. This exercise is good in preventing the urge to go back and re-read sections. The pacer helps to increase comprehension and increase reading speed.