Do you have a major assignment deadline looming around the corner and have yet to pick up that assigned reading? Perhaps there’s a novel you’ve been meaning to start, but every time you try, your eyes can’t seem to focus on the words. Or maybe you want to be more productive and consume knowledge that can help your self-growth at a faster rate? Either way, you’ve likely experienced regression – the unnecessary re-reading of material to ensure you’ve read something right.
Although reading has several benefits for the mind and body, not everyone has the time nor the mental capacity to finish reading an entire textbook or novel in a short time. If you’ve been having trouble with meeting deadlines and maintaining concentration lately, improving your reading speed can help you crush your goals a lot sooner than initially planned.
Whether you’re a student, someone who reads books for a living, or just an individual who wants to meet their goals faster, maintaining focus for extended periods of time can be a stressful endeavor. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of ways to learn how to read faster and improve your level of comprehension long-term.
Speed reading is the act of speeding up the reading process to complete long texts in a shorter amount of time.
As a skill, speed reading can benefit your mental health by improving memory and brain performance. Reading faster can strengthen your brain and allow you to solve problems and understand information faster.
Reading speed, or average WPM, can be increased by implementing several methods, such as thought management, eliminating inner monologue, and using external resources.
What is Speed Reading?
According to Forbes, the average reading speed is around 300 words per minute (WPM). The average talking speed is identical, meaning that people typically read at the same rate as they speak. However, speed reading takes normal reading up a notch, bringing the WPM rate to 400 to 700 words.
In short, speed reading is the act of increasing the rate of words read per minute to complete a text in a shorter amount of time than usual. Rather than reading every word individually, speed reading is more like reading multiple words at a time, at a faster speed.
For people who read lengthy texts daily for school or business purposes, a slow reading speed can get in the way of meeting many of your goals. In this case, speed reading is an effective method of completing tasks faster and increasing productivity in the workplace and beyond.
Why is Reading Speed Important?
Although there’s no race to the finish line when it comes to having the fastest reading speed, increasing your WPM can be highly beneficial to your mental health. Besides helping you finish tasks quicker than usual, speed reading is a valuable skill that can improve memory and brain performance.
Considering the brain is a muscle, exercising it regularly will allow it to grow stronger and more effective. As you strengthen your brain through speed reading, your thinking process will become faster. In time, you will be able to solve a problem almost instantly as your brain will quickly retrieve stored information within seconds.
With a healthier brain, you may be able to understand information better and improve your confidence levels over time. The next time you’re trying to cram in the last few pages of a syllabus or a long work document, try working on your reading speed to reap the benefits.
How to Increase Reading Speed
Reading is generally a simple activity. However, accelerating your reading speed requires a few improvements to basic reading strategies. If you’re getting ready to hand in that upcoming book report with only a few days to spare, here are some tips on how to read faster and improve your level of comprehension.
Focus on the positive
Despite what school may have conditioned you to believe, reading doesn’t always have to be a chore. As such, focusing on the ways that reading can be fun may make you read faster out of pure enjoyment. As you cram in a semester’s worth of information, try looking at reading as less of a mandated activity and more as an exciting way to improve yourself by learning new things or building a new skill set.
Another way to think positively about reading is to look forward to the outcome. Instead of brooding over how much reading you have left, focus on the aftermath of the intended goal. For instance, if your goal is to read three chapters of a book in one night, think about the full eight hours of sleep you will get if you finish before a certain time.
Manage your thoughts
Whether you’re trying to study for a big test, reading a novel for fun, or trying to get the most out of a self-improvement book, your thoughts can be both your friend and your worst enemy. An overactive mind can bring forth poor concentration and an inability to retain information. This can cause you to gloss over text without understanding anything and then have to go back to re-read what you just skimmed over. Doing this continuously can significantly slow down your reading time.
Eliminate unwanted thoughts by being mindful when your mind begins to stray. When you notice your thoughts wandering off, simply acknowledge the regression and gently bring your attention back to your reading. In time, you should begin to become conscious of when you don’t understand a certain subject, then be able to take action and carefully approach the section later on with a renewed outlook.
Enhance your environment
Many people are equipped with the ability to read at any time and any place, but others aren’t so lucky. If you’re more like the latter, removing distractions in the form of harsh lighting and irritating noises can significantly improve your pace of reading. Then, opt to replace these distractions with calming alternatives to improve the atmosphere of your reading environment.
Recognizing the impact that your environment has on your ability to focus can go a long way in your academic, personal, or professional life. For instance, an essential oil diffuser can infuse the air in your room with calming and focus-driving scents such as lavender and eucalyptus. Fairy lights or tealight candles can also bring a warm, inviting tone to your reading space. Choose decorations that fit your desired aesthetic and allow you to concentrate effectively.
Plan a strategy
Reading may seem like a simple task at first – you pick up a book, scan the words on the page, and convey the meaning behind them in your mind. However, a looming deadline can make it much harder to concentrate on the task at hand. In this case, approaching your text with a detailed strategy can help you process information more efficiently.
Begin reading with a strategic goal in mind. What do you want to achieve by the end of reading this material? If you plan to learn something specific, aim to focus the majority of your attention on those sections of the text. For example, if the book is about life in Victorian England, and you wish to learn only about the nutrition of people in England during the nineteenth century, then read only the passages that pertain to your specific learning goal.
As children, we are usually taught to read by vocalizing words. When we begin reading in our heads later on, this same childhood practice causes us to continue speaking the words in our minds. Although this practice is completely harmless, this inner monologue – also known as subvocalization – can end up slowing our reading speed in adulthood.
When you were younger, you were likely taught that every word played an essential role in your comprehension of the material. In reality, your brain can still process information simply by looking at a word rather than by saying the word in your head. In the same way, your brain processes the meaning behind the word “Stop” at a stop sign without speaking the word in your head, reading long texts can be sped up by processing words automatically.
Read in chunks
Similar to the idea of eliminating inner monologue, training your brain to read in chunks can significantly increase your reading speed. The average person can scan a page in 1.5-inch chunks, proving that it’s possible to skip several words at a time while still processing the main idea. In fact, if you’ve ever skimmed through a wall of text to look for a certain part, you’ve used word-chunking to read faster.
Practice the word-chunking method by trying to read three words as a whole. Take note of how quickly you can read a page of text when you aren’t focusing on each individual word. Then, take it one step further by drawing two vertical lines down your page, separating the text into three sections. Starting from the top left section, focus on reading the words in each section as one big chunk. Continue doing this down the page until you notice your reading has gotten faster than before.
Use a marker
Do you find your vision zigzagging through paragraphs, and it’s difficult for your eyes to stay focused on one sentence? In elementary school, you likely became aware of the finger method. This involves placing a finger over the first word of a sentence and moving it along with each subsequent word to help you focus on one word at a time.
Luckily, a similar method can be done for adult readers who struggle with flitting their eyes around a page. Simply place an index card below each line of text and move it down as you read. This will ensure that you concentrate on finishing each sentence entirely before continuing on to the next one.
Take frequent breaks
Contrary to popular belief, taking a break to rest every now and then won’t slow down your reading ability. In fact, studies show that several forms of memory rely on the replaying of information. This means that your brain functions better in shorter bursts of reading rather than in long intervals, with frequent breaks in between.
At first, it may seem contradictory to your overall purpose, but taking breaks from reading is essential to maintaining focus and retaining information. Regardless, this doesn’t mean that your breaks should be filled with mindless activities. While rest is critical to your learning ability, it is during this time that your brain is rehearsing what you learned previously. On your break, consider listening to a podcast or audiobook to continue self-improvement.
Use a timer
As you improve your reading speed, you may be reading quicker, but you could still be struggling with retaining information. It often takes a great deal of practice to read faster and comprehend more at the same time. In this case, using a timer to perform a reading speed test can allow you to measure how many words or pages per minute you can read. As each timer goes off, check in with yourself periodically to ensure you understand the material properly.
Alternatively, if you finish reading a section before the timer sounds, reward yourself with a treat. This can be anything from a piece of candy to a ten-minute power nap. In time, this will encourage you to read a section as quickly as possible before the timer goes off.
Use the Headway app
One of the best ways to improve reading speed and comprehension skills is to get help from an external source – and these days, an app is where it’s at. If your goal is to increase your reading output in as little time as possible, download the Headway app to gain access to short but informative book summaries that give you the main points of a book in under 15 minutes.
A fun and interactive approach to increasing the number of books you read every month, Headway offers several learning resources in the form of challenges, goal trackers, and self-improvement summaries. This app allows you to boost your knowledge, read faster, and discover new ways of learning in ways that are highly personalized to your needs and preferences.
Speed reading may be a process that takes time and effort to achieve, but following the proper methods can help you increase your WPM slowly but surely. In turn, your mental health will improve, your productivity levels will soar, and you will retain information better.
Looking for more ways to build potential and change your mindset? Visit our website to learn more about how to fit continuous learning and improvement into a busy schedule.
Can I improve my reading speed as an adult?
It is possible for anyone, at any age, to improve their reading speed and comprehension. The brain may change in terms of memory and mental abilities as you get older, but using effective strategies can help you improve your reading speed regardless of age. For many people, this may involve eliminating many of the poor reading habits picked up from childhood and replacing them with habits that are scientifically proven to improve your reading level.
How do I calculate my reading speed?
To measure your reading speed, all you need to do is complete the WPM test. This can be done by reading for one minute and counting how many words you read in that minute. The number you get is your WPM speed. Alternatively, you can estimate your reading speed by multiplying the number of lines you read by the average amount of words in each line.
How quickly can I learn to speed read?
Using the right techniques, you can learn to speed read in as little as one day. Depending on the method you choose, reading quicker can either come naturally to you or with enough devout practice. Consider a speed reading course, reading programs, and applications to get you started on accelerating your reading speed.