- Being able to read fast is one of the most important skills you need at university. Because the number of textbooks you’re expected to read depending on what you’re studying can be huge. And I remember my first semester when I was in my first year at university. The module I was studying was world economics. And the lecturer gave us a long reading list. And I thought that’s fine I can read through all the books on that list, not a problem. But as I began to buy the books. I started to realize that each book was 300 400 500 pages thick. And so it quickly dawned on me there’s no way I’m going to be able to read through all of these in the space of a few weeks. And so I talk about study efficiently on this channel quite a lot .
- so if you have two students the same abilities same subject, the same everything. However, one student is trained to study extremely efficiently. They both study for one hour the student that is trained to study efficiently will be able to learn considerably more than the student that isn’t trained. And so this is a huge part of it. The average speed the student reads is about 200 to 250 words per minute. This is usually the speed of an untrained person.
- however, this figure can quite easily rise to 400 words per minute by taking a few simple steps which I’ll go over now. Seven advanced tips on how to increase your reading speed.
1) One minimizes subvocalization to increase speed.
- Now sub-vocalization is a very common habit that most of us do while we’re reading. But often we don’t even realize it. And I’ll be honest I’m guilty of it sometimes too .and it involves saying words in your head while reading. And it’s one of the main reasons why people read slowly and have trouble improving their reading speed. Another way of putting it that sounds potentially concerning is hearing voices in your head. Not like voices telling you to do bad things but it’s just an internal monologue like a habit of repeating what you read in your head. And it’s a common practice we did at school it’s how we learn to read so it makes sense why we do that. Five or six years ago I used to sub-vocalize a lot. And pretty much everything I read I would be speaking it quietly in my head. And I thought that’s how everyone read right. But at the same time, it would take me so long to readjust an average-sized book.
- It wasn’t until I started to consciously make an effort to minimize and eventually completely stop sub-vocalization .then my reading speed sped up significantly. And the issue with subvocalization is that we can only really read as fast as we can talk. Because we’re effectively talking to ourselves .and the average reading speed is 200 to 250 words per minute and the average talking speed is the same. Because most people say words in the head while reading they tend to read it around the same rate as they talk. And you can test this out for yourself if you like to try reading for one minute normally and then try reading out loud for one minute. If you’re like most people your reading speed and talking speed will be very similar. So minimizing subvocalization will mean consciously trying to stop the internal voices .slowing down your reading. And focus instead on extracting ideas .and absorbing information and processing the details of what you’re reading.
- You will focus less on what the words say and more on what the words represent. However, it is easier said than done. It takes a lot of practice but the next few points will not only help you read quicker. But also help minimize some vocalization.
2) Read with a pointer for speed.
- Interestingly bernard Wesler author of the book “speed reading for professionals” believes that reading with a pointer or reading a book with your finger is so effective. Because it calls upon your survival instincts to follow a moving object with your field of vision. If you’ve ever played a team sport like football or, cricket you know that you have to keep your eyes on many things at once. For example where the ball is, where the opposing team players are. Where your teammates are, where the goal line is. Where the boundaries are.
- You have to keep an eye on and track many things at once. And what’s crazy is you do it automatically .you just look across the field and automatically you start collecting information. And you can use your eyes to abstract so much information at once from different sources. Yet when it comes to reading some of us find it difficult to read more than one word at a time. Again I was guilty of this but it can be done .it is possible that while you’re reading one word you’re also reading the next word and even the word after that.
- And as such you’re not just reading one word but you’re reading three or even as many as six words at once .and Wesler stated “in just 10 minutes of practice your pacing becomes smooth and comfortable your learning speed will double in 7 days and triple in 21 days” .and Wesler advises the best way to learn to do this is by using a pen laser or pointer of some kind. Even your finger to underline each sentence as you read. Your peripheral vision will pick up six words on either side of the pointer. Allowing you to move through a sentence up to six times faster than reading each word. The pointer helps you create a steady pace and focuses your attention on the page. And I do a lot of my reading on an app called Blinkist. Which just give 15 minute summary of the whole non – fiction book.
3) Read in chunks
- I appreciate that using a pointer may not be possible. You may be reading on a Kindle or an iPad. Which means touching the screen moves the text. You could be reading off a lecture slide or perhaps it’s simply not working for you. I also know some people that say it feels kind of babyish to use your finger to help you read. And feel self-conscious about it but in any case, an alternative is called chunking or reading in chunks. If you take a sentence and focus on the first word chances are you can see the next word. Maybe even the word after that until eventually, it gets a bit blurry. And this is because the human eye has a small dimple called the fovea. And in that one spot vision is clearest.
- When you divide a sentence into chunks of three or four words your eyes see the center of the chunk most clearly. But can still distinguish the surrounding words think of reading a sentence in three or four chunks instead of reading every word individually. You can kind of see how much faster you would get through the material .it will take some practice but the idea mainly is you keep your eyes moving rather than a stop-start approach to reading. Keep your eyes moving to take in two words at once, to begin with then three words and it will improve your speed reading significantly.
4) Listening to music
- Now listening to music will not only help you minimize subvocalization. But listening to music may also help you concentrate better in general. So by giving our mind something else to focus on while reading limits the capacity to read the words out loud in your head. But music in general has the ability to keep us focused and determined. Music also eliminates outside distractions like other people’s conversations. For example, however, keep in mind that not all types of music are going to help you concentrate. You want to avoid listening to music with lyrics anything with a strong beat or distracts you. Because it is going to throw you off your concentration.
- So, for example, I like classical music and I find that works well. But also like soundtracks from movies like Lord of the rings that are epic, dramatic, motivational. And I can get really fired up and sometimes it works .but sometimes all I want to do is watch a lot of the rings or abandon my studies altogether to join the fight for middle earth. And in the very beginning, I just listened to my favorite music. But the issue here is that some songs particularly older songs would bring back old memories or feelings. Maybe it was a song from my childhood for example. And this would be distracting .so really what I needed is music that I only associate with studying. So what worked for me ironically enough, was study motivation music videos on youtube. Because it was the first time that I heard them I only ever listened to them while studying. I came to associate this music with studying. And it helped me keep my focus and I found that while I was reading. Listening to music helped avoid the sub-vocalization and as such, I would read much faster.
5) Eliminates distractions can increase your reading speed.
- Now I’m not going to go too deeply on this topic. Because overcoming procrastination is a frequent talking point on this website. But by eliminating distractions at this source. You’ll stay focused on your reading. But what I’ve not talked about on this website is what is called the compound effect. And the compound effect is the title of a book written by Darren Hardy and he defines it as “the strategy of reaping huge rewards from small seemingly insignificant actions”. In the case of reading the more, you read the quicker and better you get. And that will probably come as no surprise to you which is why I’ve not wasted time going through it. But the same goes for eliminating distractions. If you get in the habit of eliminating distractions while you study. It will help you concentrate better and over time you will gradually get better and better to the point it becomes second nature.
- You won’t have to consciously make an effort to eliminate distractions. You will just do it and this will greatly improve your speed of reading as you won’t be distracted. And let’s quick-fire some practical suggestions.
- Turn off your phone, turn on the do not disturb mode, or put it on silent. Or perhaps just put it away out of grasp. Ideally using your laptop for music if you can close social media tabs and turn off any instant notifications you may get. So for example when I get a message on Facebook, I get a prompt on my laptop screen. But you can turn that off quite easily in the settings. Find the right environment for you to read. Sitting with a group of friends may not be the best place or in front of the telly. I like reading in a library or a coffee shop. I like being surrounded by people. And ambient noise rather than dead silence. But whatever works for you. If you’re studying something like chemistry or economics something intensive. You may need a quieter environment than if you are reading a novel for a literature course.
- Be prepared to make sure you have your water bottle filled up. You have your snacks. Your books. Your laptop charger. Everything you need to avoid distractions or things that are going to stop you from doing what you’re doing .once you start reading you want to avoid stopping.
6) Look after your eyes
- We often take our eyes for granted. Many of us likely don’t do any eye care .and if anything does things that harm our eyes such as being too close to the computer screen. Watching too much tv or playing video games for hours at a time without any breaks. And maybe we don’t allow ourselves enough sleep. Or expose our eyes to too much light. And we need to look after our eyes in general. But when it comes to reading. It can go a long way .it can help avoid tired eyes and keep them working better for longer. And therefore your reading speed will increase.
- So here are a few ways you can go about this first is to make sure that you’re always reading in a well-lit room. This is to ensure that your eyes are not strained to read every word. Which by itself will also reduce your reading speed anyway. So it just makes sense to read in well-lit conditions. And as suggested also make sure you sleep well. And avoid abusing your eyes being glued to the screen for long periods. Make sure that you give your eyes a break every so often. But a really valuable tip comes from speed reading specialist bernard Wesler who advises holding your book or whatever you’re reading at a 30 angle to your eyes. So never read material lying flat on a table or desk. And Wesley says reading from a flat material is painful to your retina. Causes eye fatigue and after about two hours often leads to dry eye and irritation.
- He even suggested adjusting the angle of your computer screen to 30 degrees also. And besides, before you start reading Wesley suggests you warm up your eyes. He says it sharpens your vision and activates your peripheral sight to speed up your learning speed. This daily one-minute exercise may help you avoid eye muscle fatigue.” Here’s how to focus on a single spot on a wall 10 feet in front of you. Keeping your head very still. And with your right hand extend it in front of you at eye level and trace an 18-inch infinity symbol.
- So a sideways eight and follow it with your eyes three or four times. Switch hands and trace the symbol with your other hand effectively awakening both sides of your brain. Drop your hand and trace the symbol 12 times in one direction with your eyes alone. And then switch moving your eyes in the other direction.
- Another method of warming up your eyes as well as your brain is to read something you enjoy. Like a novel or an autobiography and this will help you relax into reading enjoyably. Rather than going straight into text that could be highly complex and intellectual
7) Self-motivate and incentivize can increase your reading speed.
- It can be really difficult to force yourself to read especially if it’s not particularly entertaining. And even the most interesting subjects will sometimes have boring parts. You may feel tempted to force yourself down at certain times. And not allow yourself to get up until you’ve finished that chapter or that section of the book. But my advice is to not do this. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink and the same goes for reading.
- You can force yourself to read the words but. It’s incredibly difficult to force yourself to take in the information to take in the ideas and the concepts. And the likelihood is you’ll only frustrate yourself further. So instead you need to be flexible with your approach waiting for those moments you feel motivated. And then you read. Of course, you can’t wait forever which is why techniques for self-motivation such as watching study motivational videos. Speaking to your tutor or watching an inspirational film can help.
- But also reading for fun can help get in the mood as noted before. It’s also ideal to make sure you are carrying at least one reading book wherever you go. So when the mood strikes you can just get out of the book. And start reading. And I found this useful. As sometimes I’d leave my last class of the day to go home. And find a second wind to start studying. I’d whip out my book and start reading on the train. But also remember to reward yourself with things like your favorite tv show. Maybe a snack or a trip to the gym.
- It will help self-motivation and help you feel accomplished and satisfied after the reading is over. And the dopamine you feel after a good read will add reinforcement for you to do it again. Significantly increasing your reading speed will take time. And as mentioned consistent practice will have compound effects. And over time you will see the results. But make sure that you go easy and don’t sacrifice the quality of your reading for the quantity of the reading.
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