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How to read with speed

Updated on February 21, 2016

How to read with speed

Speed reading is the ability to read a certain amount of material within a short time, and yet understand what you have read. To acquire the skill of speed reading, you need to know how long you have taken to read a given as well as the number of words the text contains. Then calculate your reading speed in words per minute by the number of words in the text multiplied by the number of seconds in a minute divided by the number of seconds taken to read the text. Remember that it is not enough for you to merely get to the end of the text speedily. You must show evidence that you can interpret the text by being able to answer questions based on it. You must score 70% and above in the comprehension test on the text before you will be considered acceptable as evidence of adequate understanding.

One of the very useful techniques that facilitate speed reading is eye movement. Research has shown that a fast reader makes fewer eye movements than a slow one, and that a fast reader's eye take in several words at a time. A characteristic of a fast reader therefore is his ability to chunk a text into meaningful planning of sense groups, each taken in by one fixation of his eyes. Such sense groups are more easily turned into coherent messages which makes reading understanding faster. Word by word reading, or the taking in of senseless chunks at a time, on the other, impedes reading speed and understanding.

Another important characteristic of good speed reading is flexibility. This means matching reading speed with reading purpose. If your purpose is to study and understand a text thoroughly in order to interpret and make a critical analysis and evaluation of its content, you certainly have to read it fairly slowly. Studies have shown that study reading speed ranges from 60 to 3000 words per minute, depending on the complexity of the text and the background knowledge of the reader. On the other hand, if your purpose is merely to grasp the main points of a text or to search for specific information, you will find that you have to read fast, between 3000 and 8000 words per minute.

Scanning and skimming should be considered in speed reading. Scanning is a process of glancing rapidly through a text to search for a specific information like name of a person or thing or date of an event. You can also scan in order to acquire an "initial impression", for instance whether the text is suitable for a certain purpose. For example, whether a book on animal production has a section on the raising of guinea pigs. It is not very necessary to bother about the distinction that exists between the two because one thing is clear in each case- you are not reading in the normal sense but rather forcing your eyes over the printed text at a speed which only allows you to take in, at best, the beginnings and ends of paragraphs, chapter headings, subtitles etc. When you scan, you run your eyes through a text quickly for the purpose of locating specific information. During the process of locating specific information, it is always necessary to read the entire text with care. You are, in actual fact, trying to find the paragraph the information you are looking for could be seen.


How to read with speed

Scanning and skimming denote that some words in a text may be ignored or skipped. This may be strange to you particularly if you are used to giving each word in a text equal attention. Skimming is a method of glancing rapidly through a text to determine its gist. For example, determining if a research paper, report, or term paper is relevant to your work. Remember that when you skim,you are not determining the field of the work, you can do this by scanning. You can also skim when you want to gain superficial information of matters that are not important to you.

It is important to note that when you skim through a text, it is advisable to look at the beginning of each paragraph. It is necessary because the very first words used frequently gives clues to what the text is all about. In skimming, you also gain a lot because the few words you understand here and there can be sufficient to make you understand the text. This exactly happens when you run your eyes over a text to get a gist of it. Skimming helps you to predict and anticipate when reading a text.

However, reading speed can also be adjusted. Reading speed goes hand in hand with comprehension. If you read very slowly, you will likely read with poor understanding because your brain may be unduly taxed and the beginning of the sentences or paragraphs can be forgotten by the time you come to an end of the text. Good readers do not read word by word. They make fewer eye movements because their eyes takes several words at a time. Most importantly, good readers cut the text into chunks or large bit of sense units and then take these chunks consisting of several words each at one fixation of the eye per chunk.

Meanwhile, since it is your desire to acquire the techniques of fast reading and comprehension in order to facilitate your studies, you also need to get rid of any impediment to your goal. Any habit that reduces your silent reading speed makes you become a poor reader. One of the bad habits to get rid of when reading with speed is sub vocalizing. It is a mark of poor reading to form the sounds of the words you are reading with your lips or to murmur the words in the hearing of the person next to you. Beginning readers do this as a means of support of the spoken language which they are used to. Advanced readers do not have to sub vocalize as it slows down reading speed and comprehension.

Another impediment to speed reading is finger-pointing. Children and beginning readers also tend to use finger or any form of pointer such as pen or a pencil to direct their attention to the words they are reading. This habit makes you read word to word which is a sure way to slow reading and understanding. If you had this habit as a beginning reader, now is the time for you to drop it because your purpose of reading at present is different from what it was when you were a beginner. Your present purpose is to understand meaning and not to put letters together to form words or to pronounce written words.

It is also a bad habit to let your eyes move backwards over what you have just read instead of pressing steadily forward. Even if you think you have not quite understood a particular bit of what you have read clearly, you are advised to press on. Experience has shown that a missed idea could be deduced from what follows, as most good writers often repeat their ideas in various forms. Regression is a mark of laziness and lack of concentration. It impedes comprehension and interrupt progress in thought. It should be avoided as far as possible, unless, of course, it is done for the purpose of trying to discover the answer to a particular question in the process of an active search.

As a prospective good reader, you should avoid the habit of interrupting your reading each time you come across an unfamiliar word by trying to look it up in the dictionary. It is clear that if you do this, you will break the trend of your thought and slow down your reading speed. You should rather infer the meaning of unfamiliar words from the context. Leave off looking up unfamiliar words, considered essential, until you come to the end of your reading unless the understanding of the text completely depends on your immediate comprehension of knowing such words.

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