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How to Practice for Speed Reading

Now with all these methods you have in your hands, as stressed in all of the lessons, practice is needed to master them all and to develop the skill of speed reading.

In practicing, the reading materials, your vision and your schedule are all relevant factors which will contribute to your improved reading rate.

Almost any reading material can be used as a practice material for speed reading but for most methods, simple and easy materials should be considered first such as one page articles or children’s books for easy understanding. For the SQ3R Method, a material presenting headings and subheadings will be helpful to practice the eyes in locating those types of content while a material which you are not familiar with should be chosen when you are learning mind mapping for speed reading.

You should set a practice schedule of 15 to 30 minutes a day up to 1 hour, if you can to ensure the continuity of your progress and as much as possible, this should be done every day 7 days a week. A stopwatch will come in handy too so that you can time yourself to measure your reading rate real time. In measuring your speed, measure your comprehension too by asking what you have learned or understood from the material or by summarizing in your own words what you have read.

You can set one minute as a limit first, then count the number of words or sentences you were able to read within that timeframe. Do this repeatedly for 15 minutes and see if the number of words you read increased within one minute.

Utilizing online speed reading tests can also help you measure your reading rate.

Don’t neglect your eyes. Remember your eyes are your main tools in reading or speed reading for that matter. Exercise them daily before and after your speed reading practice and any other time of the day when you can, even for just 10 minutes a day. Moving the eyes up and down, left to right and in a clockwise or counter clockwise motion are the simplest eye exercises. But to make the exercise better, exaggerate the movements a little to ensure that the eye muscles are stretched. It’s just like how you exercise your body. Also remember to close them when you feel your eyes are already tired and remember to blink, especially when you are in front of the computer for long hours.

Remember to have fun all the time that you are doing your eye exercises and practice sessions for speed reading but keep distractions at bay so you can have more focus in learning the skills.

When you are not practicing, read at your normal pace but try to apply your progressing skills when you can but consciously build your vocabulary. When you land on a new word, look for its meaning and use it in your own sentence to grasp and understand it, so if you encounter the word while speed reading, it would be easier to comprehend.

Practice and perseverance will make your speed reading skills perfect

Speed Reading vs PhotoReading

Since you’ve started your quest on speed reading, you may have encountered the PhotoReading System developed by Paul Scheele. This is a product which promises to increase reading rates up to 25,000 words per minute1. This really sounds awesome and amazing if this happens. This may also be considered the dream of many who are pursuing advances in speed reading.

But is this really possible and if so, is this better than learning and practicing the speed reading techniques we’ve mentioned in the previous lessons?

PhotoReading involves 5 processes which are focused on utilizing the subconscious element of the mind to read and comprehend information in all kinds of reading materials. It emphasizes on the need to have a state of mind ready to absorb information as quickly as one second per page just by taking mental pictures of each page.

PhotoReading enthusiasts have stressed that it is not reading faster but learning in layers since the reader needs to go through the material several times using the various PhotoReading techniques until he has understood and absorbed the whole material.

This sounds logical but a study by NASA showed that PhotoReading doubled the reading rates with lesser comprehension compared to normal reading1. There was just not enough evidence showing that the mind can process that vast amount of information in a short span of time by convincing or as some of the processes in the system goes, by hypnotizing yourself to be able to control the brain waves to absorb more information.

At the same time, even if it shows that only 5 steps are needed to photoread an article or a book, several minor steps need to be studied and mastered within each of those 5 steps. And all those minor steps require a lot of time and practice before you can actually just do the 5 steps in PhotoReading.

This system needs more studies to be proven effective. But it may have a point in increasing speeds in reading and comprehension because of the natural abilities of humans to learn visually.

On the other hand, speed reading techniques have been in used and studied since the 1950s. It is not considered as an unattainable skill anymore though it is still very amazing to lay eyes on a very skilled speed reader. It is a skill which has been learned and endorsed by famous persons like the late US Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

Speed reading methods focus on training the conscious part of the mind through simple processes which can be practiced in a short period of time. Of course, to master it would still require additional time and effort but not too much. The goals of speed reading are considered feasible too because even if some speed readers claim they can read 2000 words per minute with good comprehension, it is still realistic since a letter sized page can contain about five hundred to a thousand words.

In the process of learning speed reading, the memory is also enhanced because the methods aim to help retain understanding of the materials being read at a fast rate too. So it gives an added bonus as you go through each method.

Mind Mapping for Speed Reading

Mind mapping is a technique popularized by Tony Buzan. It is a graphical method of taking down notes1 wherein diagrams are used for the representation of things like concepts, words and activities. It can be used for a variety of things but most of the time applicable to studying, researching, planning, organizing and solving problems. In relation to speed reading, mind mapping helps the reader make associations faster for better understanding and recall of the reading material and its ideas. It contributes mostly to faster comprehension in speed reading.

A mind map is simple to create and is fun to do. Even if you are a beginner at mind mapping, you won’t have a hard time drawing one. The most basic parts are the main idea and sub-ideas. These can be presented in a radial, graphical or non-linear manner1and a plain paper or a Word document can be utilized. Colors, symbols, and labels enhance the mind maps and these help a lot in better recall too. Many software are now coming out to help draw mind maps but drawing with the hands are still the most effective and efficient way especially when it comes to remembering ideas. Mind map templates are also readily available online if you need reinforcement in creating your own.

Mind mapping complements speed reading in many ways. It trains the mind to keep the pace of the flow of thoughts and to note keywords. It also helps fill in the gaps which happens in speed reading because of the need to skip reading some words.2

To incorporate mind mapping in your speed reading, do these following steps:

Get a reading material which you are not familiar with. It may be a soft copy which you have downloaded on your computer or a hard copy which you have handy already. The important thing is that it is on hand. Write or type the title of the book at the center of the paper, either the center of a blank Word document with a text box or a piece of traditional paper wherein you can draw a circle or square in the middle of it.

If you did this in MS Word or other similar software, after entering the title on the page, close it fast. The point is to read the entire title in just a short span of time. If you did this on traditional paper, then remove the paper from your sight immediately after writing the title down.

Open another blank document or get a new sheet of paper and now write or type again the title of the reading material – article or book – without looking at the first document or paper where you have written the title first. Look at what you have written down again and check if it is accurate. If not then enter the title again and close the page fast again.

Repeat this until you get better at recalling the title in a short period of time.

When you have made progress with this, you may move to the next level which entails you to remember more information. Add two boxes or circles on your paper connecting it with lines to the title in the center. Then copy a sentence from the article or page of the book. Divide the sentence in two phrases and write each phrase inside the boxes. Now try to read the phrases like it is just one word.

In order to check your recall and understanding of what you have read, either, say it out loud and explain it in your own words to yourself or to someone else. Or write it on another blank paper in your own words. Then check the article to see if you remembered and understood correctly.

Continue practicing this and adding boxes or circles in your diagram as you go through reading the article or book. Not only are you training your eyes to capture more words immediately but you are also training your mind to understand and get ideas or thoughts faster.

The SQ3R Method

SQ3R or SQRRR is a reading method which has been used since 19461. It is a method not only meant to be able to read faster but to comprehend more from the material being read. SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recall and Review. It has been developed with college students in mind2 but has been adapted overtime in other facets where reading and comprehension is necessary. Its primary purpose is to improve concentration and memory skills while reading so the reader can better understand what he’s reading.

SQ3R has been adapted too as a speed reading technique because it answers the need to sharpen retention skills while reading fast. After all, being able to read fast will be useless if you would not be able to understand what you have read.

Spend a few minutes to look over the reading material carefully. Read the title, headings, subheadings, introduction and summary paragraphs, bold or italicized words or sentences, and even the descriptions of images if there are any so that you can get the main idea of the material.

Change the title, headings, and subheadings and some sentences or paragraphs into questions. Read the questions given by the writer too. You may do this simultaneous to surveying the material. This requires conscious effort but doing so will keep you alert and focused on the material. This step will help you see where the material is leading to as well as its entire message.

Writing down the questions you’ve formed will be helpful and will add to your concentration and direction.

Now read the paragraphs with alertness to be able to answer the questions you’ve formed. Consciously search for the answers to your questions. As much as possible, answer the questions with your own words to demonstrate better comprehension.

You may also write down your answers but just minimize your notes.

Aside from formulating your answers in your own words, speak it now in your own words. Saying your answers aloud is another way to reinforce your comprehension of the material. This will make you remember more the ideas in the material because you are forced to think about the points which you have understood. Don’t look back at the book or your written questions or notes if you made some at this point. If you won’t be able to say it now then you won’t be able to say it again tomorrow and the week after.

Look over the whole material again along with your written notes or questions or just try to recall every question and answer you’ve formulated if you did not write them down.

If this method is used by students for their classroom lessons, then at REVIEW, they need to check for the significance of the material in their studies. But for speed reading, what you need to check on is how much you have remembered and understood from the material and how fast you were able to do this.

Again, practice is the main key to mastering this method. This also eventually helps eliminate the poor reading habit of rereading.


We have been mentioning the need to see or look at 3 to 10 words at a time. The average range is 3 to 4 words but depending on your eye span, you may be able to see up to 10 words at a time. But being able to read all these words at the same time is the method called “Chunking.” A good vision is needed to be successful at this method so ensure the health of your eyes.

The memory also plays a part in chunking specifically, the working or short-term memory because you will need to remember the previous sets or “chunks” of words you’ve read for you to be able to understand the text you are reading.

Since you will need both your eye span and memory to master the skill of chunking, you will need to group words in just enough numbers such as 3 to 4 words. Too many words will make it difficult for your working memory to process the information so you will have a hard time understanding what you’ve read.

It’s also best to be familiar with idioms and it’s an advantage if you have a wide vocabulary. Recognizing idiomatic expressions will enable you to understand faster the meaning of the set of words if it’s an idiom. Knowing the synonyms or expressions which has the same meaning as one word will also hasten your pace. For example, the text is “the reason for this…” When you see this chunk then you may just read it as “because”, because that is the meaning of “the reason for this.”

One way to start practicing chunking is by dividing a page into three columns, you may write a vertical line till the end of the page to see each column. This way you are dividing the words into three sets per line or sentence. You may now start practice reading the chunks from the first till the last column.

Another way to do chunking is to focus only on the middle column and let your peripheral vision, also known as your side vision which is your eyes’ ability to see the outside of your gaze, read the first and last column. Do this slowly in the beginning because you would want to ensure your comprehension at the same time avoid eye strain.

The most advanced way to do chunking is to read diagonally. For this method, you need to read the right side of the first sentence first then move to the left side of the next sentence and so on. This way you are reading the sentences as phrases only.

Practicing chunking by reading and remembering number sets is a good way to start training for this skill. Practice with 6 to 7 digit numbers then increase it to 9 to 10 digits. The main idea in using numbers is to remember all the numbers by grouping them. For example, read the numbers 3457856. You may group this as 345-7856 or 345-78-56. Then try to remember it and write it down. Then do it with words now in a page or article incorporating the easy to advanced chunking methods mentioned above.

Be patient in practicing and learning chunking because this really cannot be developed overnight. But when you are determined to get better then improvement won’t be that far from happening.

Be Guided by a Guide

Having a guide in reading has been a method used since it was first taught in pre-school years. We were told to point our fingers on the word we were reading so as not to get lost in the text. For speed reading, using a guide is for the purpose of maximizing the efficiency of the eyes. You can use different objects to serve as your guide but often the hand and fingers are sufficient enough.

Evelyn Wood, “the Pioneer of Speed Reading”, developed this method and eventually it has been called it metaguiding.2 Now it’s also named the pacing method. She discovered the technique by accident as she was picking up a book she threw on the floor because of frustration about her slow reading speed. She brushed off the dirt from the pages of the book and when her hand moved across the page she caught her eyes following the gesture and focusing better at the page. This started the development of this speed reading technique which is still effective until now, especially for beginners.

Over the years, several variations on the metaguiding technique1 have been developed and all are as effective as the original one. You may use either one or all of them as you move on your learning.

This is very simple since all you need to do is to place your hand on the page and move it across the sentences. You’ll notice that you are able to focus your vision. You may vary your hand position and movement. You can also cup your fingers ensuring that all of them are aligned with the index finger just left out a little. You can do this position and drag your hand over 3 or more words at a time. Again, don’t try to read very fast immediately. You may do it slowly first then increase your pace as you get better because you are developing faster comprehension at the same time. The dragging motion can be from left to right or from top to bottom.

This method is almost the same as the sweeping method but this time the fingers and hand are lifted by the arms in a hopping motion. Your aim here is to read blocks of text or a set of 3 to 10 words at a time then jump your hand over the next block giving your eyes its fixation. You will be able to gain a steady pace by doing this but use your arm to move the hand over the page and not the wrist to reduce the risk of injury. And like sweeping do this method with a slow pace first then as you practice more, steadily increase your speed.

The Zig-Zag or Loop
This method is just like scanning wherein the main idea is to get and understand the main ideas in the material. The movement of the cupped hand now will be diagonally wherein you will need to catch 3 lines in a paragraph then move on to the next one, making an invisible zig-zag on the page. This is good for easy material or one which has a subject which you are already familiar with but for harder or new material try to use the methods mentioned earlier.

The Card
This method or tool is best used to maintain one’s focus on the set of words or sentences. Instead of the hand, a card or a piece of paper is used to cover the words which have been read already. This helps break the habit of rereading. You can move the card with a pace just like that in the sweeping method.

Practice is the main key to all these methods and you may apply one or all as you see fit with your capacity.

Develop Your Eye Span

As we have mentioned earlier, eye span is crucial to a faster reading rate. Using the eyes’ full capacity is needed to be able to catch more words at a time. So first and foremost, ensure your eyes can see clearly or you have the necessary aids like glasses or contact lenses for clearer vision.

Each stop of the eyes on a reading material is called fixation. The eyes can also see both horizontally and vertically. The horizontal and vertical span normally reaches 1 to 3 inches in diameter but this can be larger for others and can be developed overtime by many. Measure your own eye span by getting a page and focusing your view on the middle. Mark around the areas of the page which you can still clearly see with a pencil. Don’t worry about comprehension at this point yet. This is how far your eyes can clearly see in a page or your eye span.

To increase your reading speed, do this exercise: as you read through the page, your eye span also moves along with your eye movement. Blinking is part of this process too. What you need to do is every time you blink change the focus of your eyes to another set of words which your eye span can reach.

Now a point to remember in developing your eye span for speed reading is not to focus too much in widening it but what you need to focus on is the amount of words you are able to read and understand each time you move your eye span or that is when you blink.

Proper pacing is important at this point too. You should not try to do this too fast. Your eyes may get strained and you may not be able to comprehend well enough. Some studies also show that dyslexia may develop when this is done hastily. Yes, you do want to develop your speed reading skills at a fast rate but developing the eye span should be done carefully. Don’t exert your eyes too much and adjust to its capacity. I cannot stress enough the need for you to ensure that you understand the set of words that your eye span can reach each time it moves. Since the normal eye span is a maximum of three words. Start with this range first, if your measured eye span is not greater than 3 words. Practice reading and understanding the set of 3 words for a day or 2 before going beyond 3. If you think your comprehension is still low then continue on the 3rd or even the 4th day with the set of 3 words until your comprehension becomes better.

Relax and strengthen your eye muscles with eye exercises1 like moving it from left to right and up or down even for just 10 seconds per set each day. Many other eye exercises2 are available online too. Do take advantage of these. Ensure you get 6 to 8 hours of sleep not only for your eyes’ health but also for your mind’s health for better and faster comprehension. Take vitamins especially vitamin A to keep the eyes in good condition. When your eyes are healthy, your vision is clear and it can focus easily. This contributes to widening the eye span without difficulty.

Break Poor Reading Habits

While learning how to read from pre-school onwards, we have developed reading habits and since these are habits, often we tend to do this unconsciously when we are reading. These may be beneficial when we are just reading naturally and not trying to read faster than the average but if we are learning how to speed read then we need to avoid these common habits because they are factors which will slow down our pace. This is one of the first things which need to be done or I must say, removed because our reading pace becomes constant once we reach the age of 12 so we have had these habits for quite some time already.

Sub-vocalization may be the oldest known reading habit. This is done by many because of comprehension reasons. They just cannot concentrate and understand what they are reading without reading each word out loud to themselves. Pronouncing the words limits your reading speed. Observe yourself if you practice this and if you do, be conscious when you start doing it and stop yourself immediately. Practice reading silently using only your eyes and mind. Sub-vocalization is beneficial for developing verbal communication skills but not for speed reading improvement.

Don’t read the text again once you have read it already. Many do this, again for comprehension reasons but this slows down your reading pace. Just continue reading the next texts. Use a card to cover the finished and unfinished words if you like or go to a quiet place and practice reading there. This will help you improve your concentration and as you read more, you will enrich your vocabulary too. With the combination of better concentration and richer vocabulary, your comprehension will eventually follow. This may take some time and again practice is vital. So take heart.

Don’t give into distractions. This habit may be alright for other types of training or work you may be doing but not for speed reading because focus is a primary key for speed reading improvement. It’s best to set a specific period within your day when you will practice or train for speed reading. Once you have decided on your schedule. Turn off all things which can make you lose focus such as your mobile phone and the television. Eat before practicing so your tummy won’t distract you too.

Insufficient Eye Movement
Our eye span is about 1.5 inches which means it can see 4 to 5 words in an average page. But more often we tend to gaze at one word at a time. This goes hand in hand with the other old habit of sub-vocalization which is reading word by word. To fully use your eyes’ capacity, relax your gaze on the page, this way you get to see blocks of words instead of just one. Practice doing this and you’ll eventually be able to glide over lines of words till the end of the page.

Reading everything
We have been taught to read from left to right, from top to bottom. This is needed and explained in schools for faster comprehension but if you are vying to speed read then changing this habit to skimming is necessary. Skimming involves reading the headings, subheadings, bullet points, bold and italicized words on a page because these are often the important points of the reading material. The point to remember in skimming is to understand the main idea being relayed in the article and to forget about the fluff or other flowery words written to further explain the point or exaggerate it. As long as you get to understand the message of the article then you don’t need to read the other examples or explanations anymore on the page or article. Rereading may need to be done at this point but only on the critical parts which give a complete explanation already of the author’s message on that page so that you may disregard the other paragraphs or sentences explaining the same thing.

Break these old and poor habits to be more efficient in speed reading along with increasing your comprehension while reading at a faster rate.

Checklist for Improvement

Learning speed reading or simply how to read really fast needs preparation like all other training because you will not only need to prepare your mind but also your body and environment. Self-motivation is a primary key in learning this skill because “your desire to improve…your willingness to try new techniques and your motivation to practice”1are all needed for continuance of your training. Come to think of it, any kind of self-improvement you want done requires those elements mentioned.

Here are the other things you need to check on first for your speed reading improvement:

Eye Check
Our eyes are the primary tools for reading. Vision span is essential in learning how to speed read so clear vision is needed. If you have an undiagnosed vision problem then this needs to be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, vitamins or medication. You may not know if it is the cause for your current slow speed in reading. Visit your ophthalmologist now while you’re at the beginning of your speed reading course. This will not only help you in your course but also keep your eyes healthy and sharp too.

Rate Check
Check your current reading rate. You need to know this to be able to gauge your improvement through each step. You may do this by getting a timer or stopwatch and an article or section from a book. You may choose to read the whole article for example, and time how long it took you to read it entirely or choose a specific number of minutes or just one minute and count how many words you were able to read in that specific amount of time.

Online speed reading tests are also helpful to gauge your current ability. These are rampant in the internet so searching for one is easy. Often, comprehension rate is also measured in the tests. This will help keep you motivated as well because you get the chance to know how much you understand in your normal reading rate and when you have started on improving, you will still get to know how much you can retain even with a faster reading speed.

Remember to read at your normal or usual speed during this first stage to measure your rate precisely. Do it two or three times to be able to get an average of your current speed.

Distraction Check
Concentration is also another primary key for speed reading. Some people reason they read and understand better when there is music or some other kind of sounds or people around them but distractions affect the rate of your reading. Lesser distractions can increase your reading speed and retention rate so a quiet place is the best location for learning and practicing speed reading. Other distractions may be your mobile phones or the television. Use earplugs if you think distractions cannot be reduced or controlled that easily. Your mind and body needs to focus and pay attention at the same time to the reading material so both of them need to avoid any kind of distraction.

Speed Reading is Essential

Speed reading is a skill that not many realize they need, simply because it has been a long time belief that speed reading is inborn of a person and those who get to learn it, really has it in their natural abilities or simply their talent. But this is not the case, speed reading can be learned by anyone and it only needs proper training and a determined heart. Like all other skills, it needs enough time and practice to become efficient at it.

I mentioned that speed reading is an essential skill because reading is a basic skill every person should know and information is just all around. Reading has been slowly taught to us starting in pre-school. It is a skill that will help us thrive in this information-filled world. It’s not an exaggeration because from the time we were born, we were faced with information already. Even if we still were not able to comprehend it, we were weighed and measured. This was written down. And most especially our certificate of live birth was written down too. Though information can be learned through spoken words and hearing, those words will still be written down before and after it is spoken. But more of it is already written down before being taught so it will be ready for reading. Even the blind reads using Braille.

Information just surrounds us because it is human nature to desire to learn, to know what is around us. So reading is really needed and if we don’t know how to do it we’re put in tight spot and our capacity to move with this world is limited.

Speed reading then gives us an advantage when we know how to do it. We get to assimilate more information faster and become more efficient in what we do. Efficiency then results to productivity which is a major benefit whether we are talking about studies or work or even a vocation.

Imagine being able to read learning resources in college in a short amount of time. You’ll be able to finish more reports and other paper works faster and still have enough free time for going to the mall or night outs with school mates without the need to cram when the paper is due. Or being able to review more of your lessons even in a small amount of time before the exams and still able to comprehend and memorize. Or just be able to read more books of your interest like novels, romances, adventure, or sci-fi without it taking more of your time. Think of being able to learn more training materials faster than your co-employees. You’ll definitely have an edge over them since you have already learned in advance. You can easily go with the flow of the training when it’s discussed and this is a great plus for your career advancement.

Come to think of it, speed reading is not only about getting more information but it’s also about time which is so precious in today’s world. Time, let’s admit it, really flies fast and we need to accomplish many things within a day. Having the skill to read faster than the average can save you more time and energy for that matter. You get to have time to do other important things than just learn or take in information. Sometimes, it’s hard to relax when you still have a lot of things you need to finish for the day whether in work or in school, especially when you have a family to take care of too. Being able to read at a fast pace can help a lot in this. You get to finish off your tasks which need reading and comprehension and still have time to de-stress yourself to be ready to face your family and the next day again.

All these are not only wishes. All these can be a reality when you learn speed reading. Many who welcomed the chance to learn speed reading and made progress are experiencing better productivity in school and at work and have the needed time for their family, friends and for themselves. You only have more to gain with speed reading.