A Guide to Speed Reading Techniques

As children, we learned to read first by looking at each letter individually and slowly progressing to taking in whole groups of letters as words. Reading, when your eyes had to move from letter to letter or even from word to word was a very slow, laborious process, but it got the job done for us as children. As adults, we read by taking in whole blocks of words at a time. The more skilled we are at reading the larger the blocks of text that we take in at a single glance. Good readers seldom move their eyes back to a previous block of text that they had already read. Poor readers, on the other hand, frequently reread blocks of texts that they had read earlier.

As children, we read between 1 and 100 WPM (Words Per Minute). The average, untrained adult, reads between 200 and 250 WPM. The average college student can read between 250 and 350 WPM. People who really enjoy reading and have high comprehension can read between 350 and 500 WPM. A good reading speed to aim for is between 500 and 800 WPM. This is a speed that can be achieved and maintained without regular speed reading drills and the retention rate of what you read is good at 75 percent. Top speed-readers who practice their speed reading drills regularly can read between 800 and 1000 WPM. At that rate, your rate of comprehension is rapidly approaching its maximum level. World champion speed-readers have achieved rates as high as 1200 plus WPM but the effort to reach and maintain that speed and comprehension may not be worth the effort for the ordinary adult reader. So how fast do you read and what’s your comprehension rate? Take the free reading speed and comprehension test online at http://www.readingsoft.com/#menu.

Learning to speed read with increasing comprehension is a matter of practicing the techniques and drills on a daily basis. There are two basic approaches that you can take to learning to speed-read: hard-copy books or interactive software programs. Personally, I think that the latter approach is the better of the two because almost all speed-reading software programs automatically charts your progress for both speed and comprehension, which is a big plus for the self-directed student. If you would like to try one of these interactive software programs before buying one, go to http://www.rocketreader.com/download/RocketReaderDownload.html and download one of their free trial programs.

The key to speed reading and comprehension, no matter which approach you take is knowing what you are trying to glean from a book or magazine article. By knowing what information is of value to you, you can skim quickly over what is trivial or superfluous, and concentrate on what you really need to know. To illustrate my point, let’s say that you have been an auto mechanic for most of your adult life and have used a wide variety of engine analyzers so you know all the basics of how they are used so when you open the manual to your new state of the art computerized analyzer, you can skim over all the basics and concentrate on how your new analyzer is different from the previous ones that you owned and used. That is the information that will be most valuable to you and that’s what you need to spend your time concentrating on, comprehending and retaining.


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Aaron Tabuchi
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Mark Cruz
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Nettie Bullitt
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Posted on May 11, 2010