Do you ever wish if it were possible for you to read the text faster & understand everything the same way?
On a daily basis, an average human being comes across a lot of texts in the form of articles, documents, assignments, etc in addition to the text that is consumed in the form of entertainment/pleasure. Of all the text that is consumed by an average human being, the comprehension and retention rates vary on a huge scale from person to person. What if you could finish off all of your readings assigned in a day a little bit earlier? Have you ever considered how fast you read compared to your peers?
Well, all the answers to these questions could possibly be answered by the science of speed reading. Given the mammoth of information that is floating around on the internet, we definitely don’t have time to read everything that we care about.
Dilemma with offline reading apps:
I’ve even had people telling me that apps like ‘Pocket‘ and other ‘read later’ apps are not working for them since they don’t again come back to the saved article after getting lost in the debris of information.
Reading is one of the habits that helps people inhale information at an insane speed while others are mystified by the nuances of TV shows. While the numerous benefits that reading has to offer, the speed at which one reads significantly impacts how often they read.
What is Speed Reading?
Although speed reading could be traced back to the 1950’s, this skill has gained significant mention over the past couple of decades. With the rise of modern apps claiming to help you read speed, speed reading is now all the new fad! Emerged in the 1950’s by the claims of Evelyn Nielsen Woods, an American teacher, and researcher, who forced herself to boost to a record-high speed of 2,700 words per minute from her average 250-300 WPM pace. Speed reading is the technique that makes use of skimming through text, meta guiding with an aide of a finger or elimination of subvocalization to achieve higher than average reading speeds.
An average human being reads a text at an average speed of about 200-300 WPM. From 400-600 WPM is where more efficient readers fall in place. Anything above the 600 WPM and around the 1,000 WPM reader is the ones who read texts at an insanely fast pace. While speed reading sounds amazing, another important thing to be taken into consideration is the comprehension or the retention rate. Simply skimming through text without understanding the gist of the text is not considered an efficient speed reading. Comprehension rates for an average reader tend to be around 60%, anything above that is good and below it is a sign of a disastrous reading session.
You can make use of one of the tools like Staples’ ‘What Speed do you read?‘ to check how fast you read.
Tools to help you Speed read
- Spritz is one of the recent applications to have significantly gained notoriety for having made claims regarding how their app could help people read faster. This web, Android and iOS app makes use of Optimal recognition point (ORP) of a word and displays words in bouts of motion according to the WPM you choose.
- Spreed is a Google Chrome extension that works in a similar fashion as Spritz mentioned above. Select all the text you wish to read and Spreed will allow you to read at a much faster pace.
Apart from the digital tools, elimination of subvocalization is one of the most commonly mentioned methods of speed reading. All the while people read, most of them recreate spoken words with their lips, even when the mouth is closed. This is known as subvocalization and it slows down the reading speeds of people. Elimination of subvocalization is the process where people train themselves to read text without spelling them over again in their minds.
Meta guiding or reading texts with the placing of a finger over the part of the text currently being read is another popular speed reading method used widely. Evelyn Woods made use of skimming the text and used chunking or reading groups of text at a single time to achieve her sky-high reading speed.
How to improve your Reading speed
Can speed reading be achieved efficiently?
Yes, it definitely can be.
With training, you can achieve higher than average reading speeds with no particular difficulties. Although there have been claims of achieving higher than 600 WPM reading speeds, those are rarely efficient, given the loss of comprehension that it usually accompanies with.
Although the research of Spritz claims their iteration as one of the best models of speed reading, there is evidence against it when it comes to reading effectively. There is scientific evidence supporting the fact that skimmers have a lower retention rate compared to their non-skimmer peers. Also, a significant research by Keith Rayner in the field of eye movements while reading contribute to the fact that speed readings over 600 WPM with a better comprehension could not exist, because of the limitations of the human eye.
So how can you still improve your reading speed?
Identify the purpose of your reading beforehand
One good way to begin with your speed reading training is to understand what is the text that you are about to embark upon. Identifying the purpose of your reading session will go a long way in helping you improve your reading speed. If the text if from a study material that you are supposed to have a better retention rate for the long-run, speed reading should definitely be avoided, as it is proven to affect the comprehension rates in readers.
If you are reading any text which is something you need to just skim through, covering only the essentials of it, say, for example, a newspaper or an article, give the tools mentioned above a try. Knowing the purpose of your reading session is important before you begin with the speed reading techniques that you’ve come across.
Skim the text once before you read
An experiment on the preliminary effects of skimming has found out that skimming a piece of text before actual reading is one of the best ways to improve both reading speeds and comprehension rates. Now this is one I particularly follow if I have to go through a 1000-page textbook and also retain everything that I read. Skimming through text is not entirely a bad idea, provided it is complimented with another round of thorough reading.
Selectively picking up the essentials from the piece of text during skimming helps people improve their reading speeds, as shown by the study.
Make use of subvocalization and Meta guiding techniques
As mentioned earlier, subvocalization is something that slows down many readers. Repeating the text in your mind slows down the reading speed of a person and elimination of subvocalization is the only way to counteract it.
Using subvocalization techniques, users can improve their reading speeds from the average 200 WPM to as high as 500 WPM. Anything above 600 WPM is improbable with subvocalization techniques and must be avoided for reading texts that need to be retained at a later point of time.
Meta guiding through the movement of fingers over the piece of reading being done is another proven method to improve reading speeds. Eye fixation on a particular piece of text occurs when you do not use the techniques of meta guiding.
Don’t try to overdo the 600 WPM mark
One test conducted among the ‘self-proclaimed’ speed readers found out that none could cross the 600 WPM mark while maintaining a respectable comprehension rate. While improving your reading speeds should be one of your top priorities, overdoing it won’t help you much anyway.
While you must try to improve your reading speed between the range of 250-500 WPM, Overdoing it over the range of 600 WPM will only affect your comprehension rates.
So now that you’ve understood how speed reading works and the pitfalls associated with it, what is your average reading speed and comprehension rate? Shout out your thoughts and experiences below with different speed reading techniques that you came across.