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Some more speed reading tips

The terms "reading" and "speed" raise immediate semantic questions. What is reading? Seeing every word? Or only skimming through the material hitting the key words and highlights? What is speed? Does it include time for reflection and emotional reaction and time for an occasional chuckle? How much of a motivational buildup preceded the actual timed reading sequence? How familiar was the reader with the material before the timed reading sequence began?

A reader's ability to increase speed significantly depends upon many variables -- intelligence, physiological and psychological traits, motivation, diligence in out-of-class practice, general background of knowledge and previous reading experience, etc. No one can predict how much any one person will improve from pre-test to post-test. It's fun, and sometimes dramatic to quote the averages, but there are always those above and below them.

Prepare for reading.

Before starting to read a chapter or an article, look it over for a few minutes; find out how long it is, what it is generally about, what topics will be covered, what sorts of subheadings, diagrams, or illustrations they are, and so on. Generally, you can read faster if you have some prior knowledge of what you are reading; previewing can also improve the retention of the speed reading.

Reading speed, not just one reading speed.

Speeds must vary with the nature of the reading task and the reader's familiarity with the materials. The student who thinks he can "speed-read" a complex technical assignment filled with unfamiliar terminology is misinformed. And many college reading assignments are just that. Likewise, the student who thinks he can speed-read the great works of English literature and really grasp the language which makes them great is misinformed. He may speed-read to uncover the plot, but he will in no sense have grasped the finer subtleties revealed by the author's use of language or experienced the emotion revealed therein. While it may be possible to perceive emotion at very rapid speeds, it is impossible to experience emotions at those same speeds. The easiest material to really speed-read is that which is factual, informative, clear-cut, non-technical, and familiar to the reader.

Motivate yourself.

Reading speed, to a certain extent, is controlled by a person�s expectations; if you needed three hours to finish reading Chapter 1, you will anticipate that you will also need three hours to read Chapter 2, and that is undoubtedly how long it will take. You can improve the reading speed a little if you simply make yourself aware of the importance of reading faster, give yourself a pep talk before reading (�I want to finish Chapter 6 in 1/2 hours, and I know I can do it!�), and push your mind to read more quickly while reading.

Avoid distractions.

When you are reading, keep a note pad nearby to write down any important thoughts or chores that need to be done, so you do not need to keep worrying about them. If you read at home, it might be helpful to remove posters and pictures of family members that can provoke distracting thoughts. Read in a place where you are unlikely to be interrupted by talkative friends.

Read for only one hour before taking a break. As with any activity, your reading becomes slower and less efficient if you do not take an occasional break to refresh the mind; a five-minute break every hour is a good. You might come up with a specific, well-defined action to define your break, like a walk.

Read during the daylight hours.

Individuals may differ, but research studies repeatedly show that most people are much more efficient readers during the day, for reasons ranging from biorhythms to cultural patterns. One typical result is that a passage that took one hour to read in the daytime will take the same individual about two hours in the evening. So, instead of saving reading assignments for the nighttime, take advantage of breaks in your daytime schedule to do as much reading as possible.

Read at a regular pace,

and avoid rereading. It is important that readers do not stop and reread passages, even if they are difficult or puzzling, as this interrupts and slows down the reading process. (If necessary, passages should be reread only after the entire article or chapter has been read.) To eliminate the habit of constant rereading, readers can use various devices to pace themselves, such as a finger or pen moving across each line, or an index card held above each line and pushed down the page. Such devices should not become permanent habits, but they can be adopted temporarily to break old habits.

Experiment by reading in different places. While everyone needs a place to read that is free of distractions and conducive to concentration, people do respond to different places in different ways. Some readers require the familiarity of their place of residence; others work better in a quiet study area or the library; still others can read effectively amidst the hustle-bustle of a crowded public area like the Commons. Some readers demand absolute silence; others read better while listening to music. If you experiment by reading in different places and under different conditions, you might find a new sort of place that improves the speed reading and comprehension.

Make reading a daily habit.

Just as experienced runners only improve if they run regularly and frequently, readers also need to read habitually and often. Engaging in intense bouts of reading during the reading, followed by long periods of little or no reading during breaks, will not leading to better or faster reading. You should try to do some reading every day, at the same time of day, so that reading becomes a regular habit. For some people, subscribing to a newspaper or magazine can help in encouraging daily reading; you always have some palatable reading material on hand, and since you have already paid for it, you are more likely to make the mind read it.

How to improve the reading speed

In order to understand how you can increase the reading speed, you first need to know about the causes that can decrease the reading speed. Many factors can slow down your reading speed:

  • Word-by-word reading
  • Slow reaction time
  • Lack of retention (resulting in having to re-read sentences and paragraphs)
  • Lack of reading practice
  • Deliberate slow reading in order to try to maximize comprehension
  • Slow comprehension.
  • Vocalization (the need of a reader to �voice� the words as they read them to be able to comprehend the text)
  • Inability to maintain attention (my biggest issue)
  • Attempting to remember everything rather than remembering selectively.

Many of those symptoms will probably lead to a lowering of your comprehension also, so it stands to reason that by eliminating a number of these causes should result in a higher comprehension rate. So the key to speed reading is not to simply move the eyes faster over the words - that will likely exacerbate the causes of slow reading and result in reduced comprehension. No, the key to speed reading is to address the above causes in conjunction with actually reading faster, and develop a more effective reading habit.

The reading process

Reading becomes interesting if it contains information that the reader wants to know. Readers make sense of what they read when they are able to link the ideas expressed by the author with what they already know.

When you read, you use the knowledge of:

  • The world
  • The sentence structures of the language
  • The letter - sound relationships to help you find and construct meaning.

If all of these are familiar to you, then you will be able to read quickly with little attention to detail. When any of the three are not what you expected, and you need to know the material, then more careful reading is required. It takes energy to be an efficient reader, but far more is learned and retained by using this active approach..

Browse and Play

Browse through the publication--front wards or backwards--so that you get to know what's in it and where it's located. Notice the layout and how the information is presented. Notice the table of contents and any special sections. Don't be too serious--it's best to be playful. Think of how you can use it reading for information. Notice which articles up your interest, but don't read them yet. Catch titles, subtitles, pictures, and charts.

So much to read

Lengthy reading lists for softwares and essays can be frightening, particularly when the subject is unfamiliar. What appears to be an impossible task becomes possible when you start asking yourself questions about what you need to find out, and then select reading that relates to your questions.

People have different beliefs about reading depending on their experience. Some believe that they must read a book from beginning to end, or read and understand every word. However, others start at the end to see if they will like the book, or else read the most exciting bits!

For most people, tertiary study demands a great deal of reading, and new skills need to be learned in order to cope with the workload. Only rarely will you be expected to read all the references. If the thought of all that reading is daunting, don't hesitate to ask a lecturer or study skills tutor to help.

Reading for main purpose

This advice sheet helps you identify the main points of a text. This sub skill is particularly useful if you do not want to bother about details

Devising a reading plan

This advice sheet helps you plan your reading project. First, it explains the four key components of an effective plan. Then it shows examples to give you a better idea on how to make a reading plan.

Use books and articles on subjects you have some familiarity

When you first learn to Speed Read, use books and articles on subjects you have some familiarity with or subjects you have come across before but haven't reviewed recently. Later on, you can challenge yourself with new material.

Speed Reading takes you on a journey to comprehend the author's meaning, by paying attention to what is important and by absorbing fill-in words and sentences on a visual level.


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