Do you read fast? If yes, do you also understand what you read? If no, do you want to read faster?

Speed-reading, with high level of comprehension, is an acquired skill that can benefit any kind of test-taker or a layperson. But, before I mention some valuable strategies for speed-reading, you must test your current reading speed. So, look at the excerpt below and read it as quickly as possible, while understanding its meaning, and also time yourself using a mobile phone or a stopwatch.

Jane Goodall was born in London, England, on April 3, 1934. On her second birthday, her father gave her a toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. Jubilee was named after a baby chimp in the London Zoo, and seemed to foretell the course Jane’s life would take. To this day, Jubilee sits in a chair in Jane’s London home. From an early age, Jane was fascinated by animals and animal stories. By the age of 10, she was talking about going to Africa to live among the animals there. At the time, in the early 1940s, this was a radical idea because women did not go to Africa by themselves. (108 words)

Now, calculate your reading speed in words per minute.

Here are some facts that might interest you

  1. The average person reads at a speed of 200-250 wpm.
  2. A speed reader reads 650 wpm.
  3. A fifth grader reads with a rate of 170 wpm.

Here are some quick tips to improve your reading speed

  1. Read in groups of words (Chunking), NOT word by word
  2. Read at thinking speeds
  3. Whenever important information comes, increase your concentration
  4. Keep adapting and adjusting reading speeds
  5. Minimize the number of stops or fixations per line

Example of Chunking

Instead of <In> <the> <real> <world>, <there> <is> <never> <enough> <money> <to> <meet> <all> <needs>.

Try this <In the real world>, <there is never> <enough money to> <meet all needs>.

Do not

  1. Skip or skim through text
  2. Regress or unnecessarily reread material

Here are some advanced tips

  1. Do not subvocalize (make a sound while reading) or read along in your head - Your inner voice reads slower than your eyes. If you find it tough to get rid of this habit, try humming when you first start practicing.
  2. Use your finger or a pointer to follow words - You may think it slows you down. But, doing so will keep you paced and distract you less.
  3. Use peripheral vision (see around what you are reading, not just read what you are reading) - Instead of moving your eyes only from left to right, imagine there is a vertical line in the middle of the text. Keep your focus on the imaginary line. Check the number of words you can comprehend on either side of the imaginary line, while still focussing on the imaginary line. This may slow you down at first, but you will get much better.

Now, try to apply these techniques and read the excerpt below, and record the time.

At first, she was able to watch the chimpanzees only from a great distance, using binoculars. As time passed, she was able to move her observation point closer to them while still using camouflage. Eventually, she was able to sit among them, touching, patting, and even feeding them. It was an amazing accomplishment for Jane, and a breakthrough in the study of animals in the wild. Jane named all of the chimpanzees that she studied, stating in her journals that she felt they each had a unique personality. (88 words)

If your reading speed has improved, then the technique is already working. Otherwise, keep practicing the techniques on the next reading material you lay your hands on.

Happy Learning!