Speed Reading Techniques

Techniques to help improve reading speed

Taking steps to improving your reading speed can be easy with practice and a simple understanding of the various speed reading techniques.

Eye span

The most important concept to grasp is eye span. Also known as 'fixation', eye span is the number of words that you take in as you look at words.

Here is an example of an eye span of one word:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'

Increasing your eye span makes greater use of your natural peripheral vision, treating each group of words as a 'unit' helps your reading move along faster. So, instead of reading word by word, you can read every group of words as a whole.

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'

Generally, increasing your eye span to include two words would help you flow twice as fast. A three word eye span, three times as fast.

It can take a little practice to increase your eye span and as with any technique, it is a skill which is better developed into a pattern which becomes a habit. Much like a workout which you should slowly build yourself into, rather than try to take on too much and burn yourself out (or in this case fail by moving too fast).

Subvocalisation

You are probably aware that when you read, an inner voice follows the words as your eyes move across words, silently speaking out what you are reading. This is subvocalisation. This technique was a natural stage in learning to read when we were taught to read out loud. Subvocalisation is the primary hindrance which limits our reading speed and is one of the first hurdles to tackle and stop doing to be on your way to effective speed reading.

Most programs can help you stop subvocalising by increasing the rate in which your eye moves across text. At first it may feel like you are brushing over the text and not truly understanding what you read. This is because your mind has to adjust to the new technique. It does get easier with practice.

Visualising and recognising words

Converting words into images is another effective concept to improving reading speed. In principle the words no longer become a series of letters, but symbols like Egyptian hieroglyphics. This enables you to not 'read' the word, but simply just to 'see' it. Recognising these words means that when you see the word you already know what it means.

How to practise speed reading techniques

Replacing old habits which we have been taught all our lives can be difficult; particularly as we have been taught and conditioned to subvocalise and read at an average pace.

You can give yourself an advantage when practising by doing well to create the optimal conditions for your reading. Good lighting, appropriate text size, comfort and feeling good. Remember, making your reading an enjoyable experience is one way of improving your reading speed much faster.

Other speed reading techniques

There are many techniques and approaches to improving your reading speed. Many of which you can begin practising straight away. Remember: start slow. Improving your reading speed is not a race and you have plenty of time to improve.

Finally, remember that you may not always want to read at high speed. Immersive reading such as novels are better savoured slowly. Reading at high speed is often better for handling dry content such as study material and computer work.

Remember to have fun. Learning speed reading techniques is easier this way.