Short on time? For the key points of this article about speedreading tips, stick to the bold text and the conclusion.
Top 3 speedreading tips:
- Stay focussed to limit backtracking
- Draw vertical lines to reduce the number of saccades
- Practise often to shorten fixation time
Is speed reading a myth? Yes and no. Can you increase your reading speed with clever speedreading tips? Without a doubt! Can you double or triple it? Probably not.
First, let’s bust the myth. If you’re hoping to reach 1000 wpm (words per minute), you’re not in the right place. We don’t sell lies. While there are definitely a few tricks to improve your reading speed, it’s unlikely you’ll reach a supersonic reading pace while retaining comprehension.
Our advice? Don’t pay for overpriced speedreading courses. They often promise to teach you how to read 1000 wpm. The average reading speed, however, is only between 200 and 300 wpm. Accelerating your reading speed drastically will result in a significant loss of comprehension. Even professional speedreaders get only around 60% comprehension at a rate of 1000 wpm.
I started with a reading speed of 310 wpm (average of three tests). After some weeks of practice, I bumped up my average reading speed to about 400 wpm. Would you like that too? Apply our top three tips on how to read faster.
How does speed reading work?
Your average reading speed largely depends on three factors.
Fixation time is the time you spend looking at one word. It’s usually about a quarter of a second. Reduce fixation time to read faster.
Saccades are the leaps you take from one fixation point to another. The bigger your jumps, the faster you read.
Regressions are the eye movements that make you return to something that you’ve already read. It’s pretty clear that this is not beneficial for reading speed, but it’s unavoidable. Even the best do it.
Most speed reading courses will tell you to read down the middle of the page or scan the text. They are confusing reading with skimming. Not all speedreading tips are BS, however. Our top three tricks will have a short-term impact on your average reading speed.
Tip 1: Limit backtracking to read faster
Backtracking or making regressions while reading is normal. Even the most-skilled readers backtrack. Fortunately, there are some ways to limit backtracking.
- Read with intent. When you want to read, you’ll be more focussed. Setting a reading goal may help to read faster with better concentration.
- Read with interest and be curious. Keep wondering what’s next to keep your eyes on the page.
- Read with a pacer. Remember how you’re not supposed to use your finger to follow your text? That’s a lie. Do it.
- Our eyes are trained to detect motion. Following a pacer increases concentration.
- Use your left finger/hand. The left side of the body is connected to the right side of the brain. This is the more creative half. You’ll have a more vivid reading experiencing, boosting comprehension.
- Read in a quiet place when you have plenty of time. It will reduce distractions.
Applying these tips will help you to stay focussed and limit regressions. Don’t ban them completely, however. They are still needed to guarantee a 100% comprehension.
Use techniques to stay focussed and limit backtracking to improve reading speed without losing comprehension.
Tip 2: Draw vertical inlines to read faster
Although I said it’s difficult to reduce fixations, there’s one easy trick that helps. Take a book and draw vertical lines on the page. Start your line after the first word of the first sentence* and go all the way down. Do the same at the end of the sentence. Instead of reading from start to finish, you’ll try to read from line to line.
*If the word is too short or too long, go to the next sentence.
When I first tried this technique, I felt a change in less than 10 minutes. It’s not easy at first but you’ll get into it very quickly. As you improve, you can draw the lines further inwards to reduce saccades even more.
How to read a book fast? Draw vertical lines with a one-word indent. Read from line to line to reduce fixations.
Tip 3: Become a better speedreader by practising
Becoming better at speedreading requires practise. In order to read faster, you need to read a lot. This will help you in many ways.
First, you’ll get used to processing text and your brain will tire less quickly. Second, you’ll start to recognise and interpret words more quickly.
Research shows that better word recognition is one of the key factors to decrease fixation time. You can improve word recognition with a lot of practice.
A popular way of practising is by using the rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) technique. An app like Spreeder will project texts word by word. Your eyes have no option but to follow. The key here is to build up slowly. Start with a speed of 300 wpm and move up by 5 or 10 wpm each time. When you feel that you’re losing some comprehension, go back.
Read often to become better at recognising words and processing text.
Bonus: What about subvocalisation?
Subvocalisation is one of the main adversaries of speed reading. Reading the text in your head slows you down. There is ample proof. So if banning inner speech makes you read faster, why is it not in the list? Because this article provides tips on reading faster without losing comprehension. Not subvocalising makes you read faster but not better.
‘When it comes to understanding complex materials, inner speech is not a nuisance activity that must be eliminated, as many speed-reading proponents suggest. Rather, translating visual information into phonological form, a basic form of language, helps readers to understand it.’ (Reyner et al.)
In other words, changing the text from visual to auditory input increases comprehension. If you’re looking to read fast without losing comprehension you need to subvocalise. However, if you want to scan for information, avoid subvocalisation. I use this consistently when I go through sources for our articles.
We tested several techniques and speedreading tips. These seemed to be the most convincing ones. Remember that I read about 310 wpm before? After practising these techniques for a few weeks, I could easily read about 420 to 450 words per minute. However, I lost full comprehension.
Only by slowing down to a speed of just under 400, did I regain full comprehension. Still, I improved my reading speed by about 30% and I didn’t pay a single penny!
I believe that you could do even better! I had some prior knowledge, so my reading speed was probably well below 300 wpm a few years ago.
Do you want to test your average reading speed? Here’s a free test to keep track of your reading speed: http://www.freereadingtest.com/
Don’t forget that speed reading requires practice. At first, it will cost a lot of effort and you will get tired easily. Proceed. Soon enough, you’ll be reading a lot faster without comprehension loss.
Have you ever tried any of these? How did it work for you? Did it facilitate your flow? Have you become a true speed reader? Let us know in the comments!
How would you rate the speedreading tips on this page?
Written by Kjell
Edited by Loki
Sources and further reading/watching about how to increase reading speed:
- Dellis, Nelson. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q0we4LjSws&list=PLTwM19ISWSJnzFJnoJ6aMUI6XUDjb52nC&index=11&t=0s
- Ferriss, Tim. – https://tim.blog/2009/07/30/speed-reading-and-accelerated-learning/
- Reyner et al. Sage Journals –https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1529100615623267
- Weimer, Carrie & Vaughn, Kalif. Northern Kentucky University Journal of Student Research – https://inside.nku.edu/content/dam/gero/docs/NYSA/Nysa_2_2019.pdf#page=4