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How To Read Faster And Comprehend More

Updated on May 8, 2013

One of my new year goals was to read two books per week. For me, this was going to be hard. I am the type of person that reads word by word and has to reread sentences in order to fully comprehend. In short, I needed to read faster.

If you enjoy reading, then you probably want to read more than one or two books per week. But more importantly, you probably want to comprehend what you're reading.

Ironically, my husband got the book Speed Reading for Dummies after Christmas. The poor guy hasn't even got to look at it yet. :)

Following are a few of the things I've learned to help me to read faster and comprehend more.

What Type of Reader Are You?

Speed (Words Per Minute)
Type of Reader
1 - 200
You talk and read at the same time. You probably move your lips when you read; although, you may voice out words in your head as well. The talking is what slows you down from reading faster.
Most people read somewhere in this time frame. Reading is not a favorite pastime for these people. You may talk a little while you read. You can definetly read more than one word at a time.
300 - 700
You do not read one word at a time, but rather, you read groups of words at a time. Your vocabulary is extensive, because you enjoy reading and have built up your vocabulary, which allows you to comprehend ideas and read faster.
700 or More
You have a god given talent, or you have learned how to speed read. You can look at sentences and read many words at a time to understand the meaning of the text. Your vocabulary is extensive and 'big words' do not slow you down.
This is based on comprehension. This means that if you read 700+ words per minute, but you can't remember squat when you are done, then you are not a speed reader in the true sense of the word. Speed readers comprehend what they are reading.

Stop Verbalizing What You Read

When I first met my husband, his reading habit drove me nuts. He read every word out loud. It was quite annoying, but what I didn't know is that I was doing it as well, I just wasn't vocalizing the words.

Your mind can absorb information much quicker if you are not sounding out each word. According to the author of Speed Reading For Dummies, we were taught as kids to sound out each word while we read, but we were never taught to read silently, so we carried this habit with us and adulthood.

Makes sense right?

Before you protest and say, "I don't talk while I read," let me tell you that I didn't think I did either. However, I quickly found out that I did sound out the words inside my head while I read. Doing this messed with my reading comprehension.

Because my eyes were able to go over the words quickly and read them at a quick pace, my mind, which was sounding out the words, was not able to keep up. This caused confusion with my comprehension, and it forced me to go back and reread sentences in order to comprehend what was written.

Now, I try to quiet the voice in my head that wants to sound out words; instead, I just try to read the words as they are, trusting that I have the ability to comprehend them without sounding them out. (I've had 30+ years of experience, so I think I should be able to comprehend them a bit without sounding them out!)

As a side note: I still find that I hear the voice inside my head. I'm not sure that voice could ever go away. Even as I'm typing this I can hear my inner voice 'saying' the words. However, I don't sound out the words anymore. I think that's the key to read faster. I try to read and 'speak' at the same time so that both my eyes and my inner voice are picking up the words at the same time. This simple act makes a big difference, and the more I practice it the more it allows me to read faster.

Pay Attention If You Want To Read Faster

The next time you and someone are watching TV, and you are deeply into the show, look over at the other person and notice their face. They are focused on the square picture and they do not see outside of the lines. Instead, they are actively participating with the images and words they are seeing and hearing on the TV. In other words, they are paying attention.

If you want to read faster, then it is a matter of making the words on the page a priority in the moment, just like you would a TV show.

I found that the realization that paying more attention will increase my reading speed was enough to cause me to pay more attention while reading. It's funny how that works, and I'm willing to be that the simple thought of 'pay attention' will increase your reading speed as well.

I also found the following suggestion to help greatly: Pretend that there is nothing going on outside of the pages of the book - as if the world stops inside the outline of those pages.

Also, if you are like me, and you are easily distracted, then you need to be in a place where distractions are limited if you want to pay attention. This includes having a well-lit area and sitting in a comfortable chair (but not too comfortable or you will fall asleep). Poor lighting and body discomfort can be a distraction, even slightly, and cause your reading speed to decrease.

Read in Clumps - Not Word By Word

This will blow your mind when you try it!

Most of us read word by word, or a few words by a few words, but not many of us read in clumps of words that hold a certain meaning. You will find though, that if your vocabulary is good, and you enjoy reading, then this will come much easier than you expect.

Inside the book, Speed Reading For Dummies, the author clumps off words in various articles so that you can see how clumps of words can easily be read and comprehended with just one glance.

To me, this is kind of like focusing your eyes in the middle of the sentence, instead of starting at the beginning of the sentence, in order to read. Using my peripheral vision helps me to read the sentence and comprehend it.

Take, for example, the sentence: I know what to do, but I can't make myself do it.

I imagine that some people read the above sentence word by word while others can look at this sentence and gulp it down in one glance.

Personally, I used to read this word by word, but now that I am trying to read in clumps I would read, "I know what to do," in one glance and, "but I can't make myself do it," in another glance.

In the end, when you are:

  1. Not verbalizing the words out loud or in your head
  2. Paying attention to the book you are reading (like you would a TV show)
  3. Reading in clumps instead of word by word

You will be able to read faster and comprehend more.

How To Speed Read - 6 Steps To Reading Faster


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    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thanks for stopping by ana. It's not that hard to increase your WPM; if I can do it than anyone can!

    • anagham profile image

      Anagha V Mahishi 

      5 years ago from Hubli, karnataka

      Hey there! Great hub.. Now I know that even reading has so much of science! I read approximately 300-400 words per minute...lot of information in this hub... Thanks..

    • Relationshipc profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Lol Matt. I'm with you on the mind wandering thing, but I'm positive that paying attention while reading (or rather making it a habit) will help me fix that.

    • MattWritesStuff profile image

      Matt Bird 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Solid hub; nicely done. For a short while I got in the habit of reading things out loud because I was encouraged to do so for writing broadcast scripts; thank god I got out of that habit. My girlfriend can still beat me at plain old reading most of the time, though, 'cause my mind tends to wander unless I'm completely engrossed in what I'm reading.


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