Ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading materials you need to get through? I know I’ve had moments where assignments seemed like a lot to handle at first! Improving your reading speed and comprehension can be a great way to help these tasks go by more quickly.
Speed-reading refers to the process of quickly recognizing sentences or phrases in a short amount of time, rather than reading word-by-word. The average reading speed is 250 words per minute. With practice and honing in your speed-reading skills, you can increase that rate to anywhere from 400-700 words per minute.
If comprehension is key, remember to take your time when you read to absorb as much information as possible. Trying to achieve a reading speed above 500-600 words per minute may mean sacrificing comprehension, though this varies for each person.
Note that skimming and rereading can be more effective than reading alone if you need to understand the majority of the context. A normal reading rate for comprehensive is 200-400 words per minute.
When it comes to improving your speed reading and comprehension, it is typically difficult to gain skills in each area simultaneously. The best way to approach this situation is by working on speed reading skills first and knowing that comprehension while speed reading will follow with additional practice. Keep reading to discover 15 ways to increase your reading speed and comprehension.
1. Start with Easy Material
To begin developing your speed-reading abilities, use materials in which you are familiar with the vocabulary and that your brain can easily process.
Using something too far out of your comfort will result in regression in the form of needing to re-read sentences to understand the context.
By starting with easy-reading options, you can get focus on improving your reading speed without having to focus on comprehension.
2. Avoid Subvocalizing
Subvocalizing is when you “hear” each word in your head. By shifting away from this habit, you will be able to comprehend the content of what you are reading much faster.
If you find yourself moving your mouth as well as hearing the words as you read them, you can try putting a finger or pen over your mouth to get away from that tendency.
3. Focus on Lines or Groups of Words
You can understand words more quickly than you can say them. Focus on lines or groups of words rather than individual words themselves. To do this, relax your face and expand your gaze.
This will allow your peripheral vision to start analyzing text and your brain will start to read words as phrases rather than individual units.
4. Practice Speed Reading Without Distractions
As with developing any new skill, finding a space that supports learning is extremely important. Before you begin each practice session, set yourself up in a space that’s free of distractions or interruptions.
This will allow for better focus as you develop your speed-reading and comprehension skills and allow you to progress faster.
5. Use a Timer
By setting a timer each time you read, you can begin to set goals for yourself and track your improvements. A good place to start is by setting a 10-minute timer and seeing how many pages you can get through on the first day.
Add one page a day for the first week, followed by a page every few days after that. This will give you a measurable benchmark and help you monitor your progress.
6. Cover Up Words You’ve Already Read
Using a notecard or a piece of paper to cover up lines you have already read. This will allow your eyes to focus where you want them to, as well as assist you in keeping your place.
You will also get the feeling of satisfaction as you are able to move the card down faster as your skills improve.
7. Use the Pointer or Tracker and Pacer Method
Similar to covering up what you have read, the pointer or tracker and pacer method is a great way to quickly improve your speed reading and comprehension skills.
Using your finger or a pen to train your eyes where to go as you read allows you to process and go over information more quickly.
This will also assist you in focusing on groups of words, finding keywords or important phrases, and allows for easier transitions between lines of text.
8. The Scanning and Previewing Method
This technique involves knowing what to look for ahead of time by identifying what you need to locate in the text. In this sense, your brain will learn to absorb more information as it recognizes keywords or phrases while speed reading.
Remember to slow your reading speed to allow for better comprehension as you come across these keywords or phrases. Another way to use this method is by taking note of headings when available. This will help you infer the context of what you are reading and allow for easier comprehension.
9. Expand Your Vocabulary
Being able to comprehend while speed reading means you need to understand what exactly the context is referring to. When using this technique for more complex topics, be sure to keep a dictionary handy to ensure that you can reference unknown words to allow for a clearer understanding of the context.
This will ensure that you can keep up a faster pace of speed reading by not needing to go over information twice because you didn’t understand the words being used.
10. Focus on the Beginnings and Endings of Paragraphs, Articles, or Chapters
Oftentimes, key information will be presented near the beginnings and endings of paragraphs, articles, or chapters.
By focusing your attention on these spots, you can be sure to retain essential elements of what you are reading and process the middle information more quickly.
However, remember to look for keywords or phrases in the middle of the text as well so that you don’t miss important information.
11. Recall the Information Out Loud
Whether you get to the end of the page, article, or your assigned pages for your practice, take a moment afterward to summarize out loud the information you have just read. This will ensure that you can assess comprehension and know if you need to incorporate additional techniques to improve your speed-reading abilities.
If you find recalling the information difficult, perhaps slow down slightly so that you can maintain enough comprehension as you work to improve your reading speed.
12. Use the SQ3R Method
The SQ3R method stands for survey, question, read, recite, and review. This method incorporates many of the tips previously listed to ensure that you are comprehending the material you are reading. Survey means to understand what you are reading and identify the key elements to look for.
Questioning gives your brain context to look for to obtain the knowledge you are seeking and keeps you mentally engaged with the context. Read means to go over the context utilizing whatever speed-reading methods are helpful to you.
Recite is to recall what you have learned when utilizing the previous two steps. Review means to see how much of the information your brain has processed has actually been remembered.
By incorporating these five steps into your speed-reading practice, you can ensure that you are able to comprehend what you are reading.
13. Active Reading
Another tool to boost your comprehension abilities is to underline, highlight, and write next to the text as you go along.
This will allow you to identify key points and provide reference points should you need to go over the material again in the future.
Personally, I like using this method as it ensures that my eyes stay relatively focused on the context rather than glazing over!
14. Take a Break When You Need To
As strongly as you may desire to improve these skills, know that you can let your mind rest if you find yourself slowing down or starting to incorporate old habits.
By stepping back from speed-reading and allowing your mind a moment to reset, you can resume practice when you’re ready with a clear mind and better focus.
15. Practice Makes Perfect
As with any skill, speed reading and comprehension takes time to develop. By making time every day to practice, you will see improvements much faster than if you only make time intermittently.
Be patient as you develop new skills, choose reading materials you like to make the process more enjoyable, and remember to celebrate your small achievements.
Speed reading and comprehension can be a useful tool in so many areas of life. From students to working professionals to the leisurely reader, most people can find a use ramping up their words per minute.
As you begin incorporating the methods I’ve shared with you, you’ll start to notice the pages flipping by. And remember, it’s okay to slow down and read for the sake of reading from time to time!
Image credits: Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash
Katie McCaulley is a writer, musician, artist, and yoga instructor. After graduating from college, a passion for exploring took over which allowed her to call many places in the United States home. She currently lives in New Mexico with her husband and two fur babies. Katie finds joy in helping others and living life to the fullest. When she’s not working on her latest project, you can find her paddle boarding, hiking, snowboarding, or dancing in the front row at her favorite shows. As a forever student, learning new things is something she strongly values, and hopes to be able to share her knowledge with others in a positive and impactful way.