Blog Posts

How to speed read – a proven way to increase your speed.

No one can ever prepare a parent for two things: the immeasurable love that comes with having a child (so I am told); and the sorrow and confusion that comes when your child appears to learn in a different way from other children or so my Father tells me.

I am an educator and an educated Psychologist, who studied how the brain learns to read and what happens when a young brain can’t learn to read easily, as in the childhood learning challenge, developmental dyslexia.

The second biggest problem is understanding how our society understands the complex, unnatural miracle that takes place every time a brain learns to read; and second, the fact that many children with dyslexia have a different brain organisation – one that poises them for greatness in many areas; but makes them inefficient at learning written language.

It all begins with understanding that reading does not come naturally to human beings. We humans invented literacy, which means it doesn’t come for free with our genes like speech and vision. Every brain has to learn it afresh. Learning to read for the brain is a lot like an amateur ringmaster first learning how to organise a three-ring circus. He wants to begin individually and then synchronise all the performances. It only happens after all the separate acts are learned and practised long and well. In childhood, there are three, critical “ring acts” that go into the development of reading: learning about the world of letters; learning about the individual sounds inside of words (which linguists call phonemes); and learning a very great deal about words.

Now that we understand this, let us get to the speed reading and a formula that even works for me.

cat reading

If you are like me, you need information and like an addict, cannot get enough of it.  So how do I read as many books, as I do. With the formula I am about to share with you. My hope is that you get as much value from it as I have from it. Thanks to this formula I have traveled the globe many times, learned about NLP and nutrition while seeing more shades of grey then I could ever have expected and all in a week.

This is the power of reading and this is how to do it quickly, for time is the most valuable asset we have. 

Ask yourself how much more could you get done if you could read notes quickly, read books in lightning speed and then find ways to monetise and utilise what you have read? And the best part is that its not a magic trick, you do not have to have a cloak or know how to bend spoons. I can teach you that at an event one day or at one of my speaking engagements.

So what is it, if not a magic trick?

Increasing reading speed is a process of controlling fine motor movement—period.

This blog is a condensed overview of principles I learned from one of my mentors and it changed my life, for the better. Hope it can do the same for you.

Let’s get to it.

This is single 3-hour cognitive experiment, produced an average increase in reading speed of 386%.

It was tested with speakers of five languages, and even dyslexics were conditioned to read technical material at more than 3,000 words-per-minute (wpm), or 10 pages per minute. One page every 6 seconds. By comparison, the average reading speed in the US for example is 200-300 wpm (1/2 to 1 page per minute), with the top 1% of the population reading over 400 wpm…

I have never actually measured my reading speed but I would imagine it is impressive enough.

If you understand several basic principles of the human visual system, you can eliminate inefficiencies and increase speed while improving retention.

To perform the exercises in this post and see the results, you will need: a book of 200+ pages that can lay flat when open, a pen, and a timer (a stop watch with alarm or kitchen timer is ideal).

You should complete the 20 minutes of exercises in one session.

First, several definitions and distinctions specific to the reading process:

A) Synopsis: You must minimize the number and duration of fixations per line to increase speed.

You do not read in a straight line, but rather in a sequence of saccadic movements (jumps). Each of these saccades ends with a fixation, or a temporary snapshot of the text within you focus area (approx. the size of a quarter at 8 inches from reading surface). Each fixation will last ¼ to ½ seconds in the untrained subject. To demonstrate this, close one eye, place a fingertip on top of that eyelid, and then slowly scan a straight horizontal line with your other eye-you will feel distinct and separate movements and periods of fixation.

B) Synopsis: You must eliminate regression and back-skipping to increase speed.

The untrained subject engages in regression (conscious rereading) and back-skipping (subconscious rereading via misplacement of fixation) for up to 30% of total reading time.

C) Synopsis: You must use conditioning drills to increase horizontal peripheral vision span and the number of words registered per fixation.

Untrained subjects use central focus but not horizontal peripheral vision span during reading, foregoing up to 50% of their words per fixation (the number of words that can be perceived and “read” in each fixation).

The System:

You will 1) learn technique, 2) learn to apply techniques with speed through conditioning, then 3) learn to test yourself with reading for comprehension.

These are separate, and your adaptation to the sequencing depends on keeping them separate.

Do not worry about comprehension if you are learning to apply a motor skill with speed, for example. The adaptive sequence is: technique ‘ technique with speed ‘ comprehensive reading testing.

As a general rule, you will need to practice technique at 3x the speed of your ultimate target reading speed.

Thus, if you currently read at 300 wpm and your target reading speed is 900 wpm, you will need to practice technique at 1,800 words-per-minute, or 6 pages per minute (10 seconds per page).

We will cover two main techniques in this:

1) Trackers and Pacers (to address A and B above)
2) Perceptual Expansion (to address C)

Step one: To determine your current reading speed, take your practice book (which should lay flat when open on a table) and count the number of words in 5 lines.

Divide this number of words by 5, and you have your average number of words-per-line.

Example: 62 words/5 lines = 12.4, which you round to 12 words-per-line

Next, count the number of text lines on 5 pages and divide by 5 to arrive at the average number of lines per page. Multiply this by average number of words-per-line, and you have your average number of words per page.

Example: 154 lines/5 pages = 30.8, rounded to 31 lines per page x 12 words-per-line = 372 words per page

Mark your first line and read with a timer for 1 minute exactly-do not read faster than normal, and read for comprehension. After exactly one minute, multiply the number of lines by your average words-per-line to determine your current words-per-minute (wpm) rate.

Step two: Regression, back-skipping, and the duration of fixations can be minimized by using a tracker and pacer.

To illustrate the importance of a tracker-did you use a pen or finger when counting the number of words or lines in above baseline calculations? 

If you did, it was for the purpose of tracking-using a visual aid to guide fixation efficiency and accuracy. Nowhere is this more relevant than in conditioning reading speed by eliminating such inefficiencies.

For the purposes of this blog post, we will use a pen. Holding the pen in your dominant hand, you will underline each line (with the cap on), keeping your eye fixation above the tip of the pen. This will not only serve as a tracker, but it will also serve as a pacer for maintaining consistent speed and decreasing fixation duration. You may hold it as you would when writing, but it is recommended that you hold it under your hand, flat against the page.

1) Technique (2 minutes):

Practice using the pen as a tracker and pacer. Underline each line, focusing above the tip of the pen. DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH COMPREHENSION.

Keep each line to a maximum of 1 second, and increase the speed with each subsequent page. Read, but under no circumstances should you take longer than 1 second per line.

2) Speed (3 minutes):

Repeat the technique, keeping each line to no more than ½ second (2 lines for a single “one-one-thousand”). Some will comprehend nothing, which is to be expected. Maintain speed and technique-you are conditioning your perceptual reflexes, and this is a speed exercise designed to facilitate adaptations in your system. Do not decrease speed. ½ second per line for 3 minutes; focus above the pen and concentrate on technique with speed. Focus on the exercise, and do not daydream.

Step three: If you focus on the center of your computer screen (focus relating to the focal area of the fovea in within the eye), you can still perceive and register the sides of the screen. Training peripheral vision to register more effectively can increase reading speed over 300%.

Untrained readers use up to ½ of their peripheral field on margins by moving from 1st word to last, spending 25-50% of their time “reading” margins with no content.

To illustrate, let us take the hypothetical one line: “Once upon a time, students enjoyed reading four hours a day.” If you were able to begin your reading at “time” and finish the line at “four”, you would eliminate 6 of 11 words, more than doubling your reading speed. This concept is easy to implement and combine with the tracking and pacing you’ve already practiced.

1) Technique (1 minute):

Use the pen to track and pace at a consistent speed of one line per second. Begin 1 word in from the first word of each line, and end 1 word in from the last word.

DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH COMPREHENSION. Keep each line to a maximum of 1 second, and increase the speed with each subsequent page. Read, but under no circumstances should you take longer than 1 second per line.

2) Technique (1 minute):

Use the pen to track and pace at a consistent speed of one line per second. Begin 2 words in from the first word of each line, and end 2 words in from the last word.

3) Speed (3 minutes):

Begin at least 3 words in from the first word of each line, and end 3 words in from the last word. Repeat the technique, keeping each line to no more than ½ second (2 lines for a single “one-one-thousand”).

Some will comprehend nothing, which is to be expected. Maintain speed and technique-you are conditioning your perceptual reflexes, and this is a speed exercise designed to facilitate adaptations in your system. Do not decrease speed. ½ second per line for 3 minutes; focus above the pen and concentrate on technique with speed. Focus on the exercise, and do not daydream.

Step four: Mark your first line and read with a timer for 1 minute exactly- Read at your fastest comprehension rate. Multiply the number of lines by your previously determined average words-per-line to get determine your new words-per-minute (wpm) rate.

Congratulations on completing your cursory overview of some of the techniques that can be used to accelerate human cognition (defined as the processing and use of information).

Final recommendations: If used for study, it is recommended that you DO not read 3 assignments in the time it would take you to read one, but rather, read the same assignment 3 times for exposure and recall improvement, depending on relevancy to testing.

Try it out and let me know, also share, like and comment if you found this to be of value.

woody allen

JOIN THE NEWSLETTER
Get the latest news, updates, and podcasts delivered to your Inbox

Simply enter your first name and email address below and click the subscribe button...

We 100% respect your privacy

1 Response

  1. I always wondered some people reading so fast in my college,I joined the community and slowly learned about the courses they are using, definitely some techniques worked and I was able to multiply my reading speed,some techniques worked very well like skimming,Pointer technique and avoiding subvocalization,although it’s a matter of practice it’s a skill certainly need to be learnt and I am very happy now as I enjoy book reading always.

Leave a Reply