I mentioned speed reading in the last chapter. Speed reading can be extremely helpful when it comes to preparing for your class. Speed reading will help you quickly read the chapter the night before class. People tend to avoid reading the chapter because it takes too long, but with speed reading, that will no longer be a problem.
Speed reading is the act of quickly noticing and absorbing sentences or phrases on a page at once instead of reading each word. How much information we process continues to grow every day, whether through magazines, books, social media,
websites, reports, or emails. All of this causes us to feel pressured to absorb the information quickly so that we are able to stay in the loop and make the best decisions. On average, people read 250 words per minute, though some people have naturally faster rates. Having the ability to speed read can nearly double that rate and we’re going to go into some different ways to pick up this skill.
How to Speed Read Speeding up your reading is all about controlling your fine motor movement.Every speed reading technique has a single thing in common: you try to avoid hearing and pronouncing every word in your head while reading. This is a process known as sub-vocalization. Instead, you skim through groups of words or lines because your brain is able to understand the words faster than you can say them. One great way to prevent yourself from sub-vocalizing is to focus on word blocks and not on individual words. This can be done by relaxing your face and allowing your gaze to soften so that you can see the entire page so that you won’t see words as single units.
As you work on this, your eyes will start to skip faster over the page. As you start to approach the end of a line, let your peripheral vision bring your eye over to the last set of words. This will keep you from pausing as you read, which means that you will scan over and down to the following line. We’re going to look at three simple tools to help you read faster, and then we will go into an actual conditioning practice that will make your reading speed faster.
The pointer method. Evelyn Nielsen Wood, a Utah school teacher, was one of the speed reading pioneers. In the 50s, she believed that she was able to read up to 2,700 words per minute if she used her finger to sweep along the line as she read. This quickly became known as the pointer method, and some may refer to it as meta-guiding or hand pacing. Another version of this is to hold a card under each line of text and pull it down the page as you are reading. The pacer and tracker method.
This is a version of the pointer method, but here you hold a pen that still has its cap on, and you trace under each line with it while focusing on the tip of the pen. This is supposed supposed to improve the pace that you read each line and help you focus on the words. You are supposed to spend only a second on each line of text, and then continue to try to up your speed with each page. At first, you probably will have problems retaining information,
but then your brain will become used to it and your comprehension will improve. The scanning method. Scanning involves you moving down the page quickly—typically at the center—and then finding specific phrases and words as you do. These could be key sentences, typically the first se
ntence of every paragraph, ideas, trigger words, numbers, and names. Expanding your peripheral vision is helpful when it comes to this method. You won’t focus enough to read each word, but your eye will end up landing on the important parts so that you can grasp the main idea. Using a mind map could be helpful so that you can organize your information.
The PX Project
This project that saw an average reading rate increase of 386% during a three-hour cognitive experiment. They tested people of five different languages, and dyslexics were helped to read technical material at over 3,000 wpm. This came down to a page every six seconds. To follow along with this exercise, and to notice results,
you will want to grab a book of more than 200 pages that will lay flat when opened, a timer, and a pen. A kitchen timer or a stopwatch that has an alarm is the best option for a timer. This 20-minute exercise needs to be completed in a single session.
A few points about this exercise: The amount and length of fixations per line have to be minimized.You won’t be reading across a straight line. Instead, you will read in a sequence of saccadic movements. Each of these little jumps will end with a fixation or a short snapshot of the text that is in your focus area.
Every fixation will only be one-fourth to a half a second for the untrained person. To see this, shut an eye and lay a fingertip on top of the lid, and the slowly draw a horizontal line with the uncovered eye. You will notice separate and distinct movements and moments of fixation.
Back-skipping and regression have to be eliminated. Untrained readers will engage in regression, which is conscious rereading and back-skipping—subconscious rereading—for around 30% of their reading time.
Conditioning drills need to be used to increase your horizontal peripheral vision and how many words are registered in each fixation. Untrained readers mainly use their central focus and not horizontal peripheral vision while they are reading. This means they eliminate about 50% of words that they could see per fixation.
Now, onto the protocol. First, you will learn the technique, then you will apply these techniques through conditioning, and then you will test yourself with comprehensive reading.
Each of these steps needs to be seen as different parts and they have to be kept separate. You shouldn’t worry about comprehension while you are using motor skills for speed. The sequence should go like this: technique, technique and speed, comprehensive reading test. When you start, you need to practice this technique
technique at three times the speed of what your ultimate goal is. This means if you read at 300 wpm and you want to reach 900 wpm, you will want to practice the technique at 2,700 wpm. Pacers and trackers will be used to fix the first two issues, and perceptual expansion will address the third. First, you have to figure out your baseline.
Grab your practice book, the one that should lay completely flat when open, and count how many words are in five lines. Divide the words by five, and this will give you the average number of words in each line. Now you need to count how many lines of texts
are on five pages, and then divide that by five to get the average number of lines on each page. Multiply this number by your average per line word count and you will have your average number of words on each page. Mark the first line that you start at and then use your timer to read for exactly a minute.
You should read at your normal pace, and your goal is to read for comprehension. After a minute, multiply how many lines you read by the average number of words in each line to figure out your current wpm rate.
You can minimize the duration of fixations, regression, and back-skipping with pacers and trackers. To see the importance of a tracker, let me ask, did you use your finger or a pen to count the number of lines or words in the baseline calculations? If so, you used it as a tracking visual aid to guide you along accurately.
This isn’t any more relevant than to condition your reading speed by getting rid of inefficiencies. For this exercise, I suggest using a pen. Hold this pen in your dominant hand. With the cap on, underline each line of text while keeping your eyes fixed on the pen’s tip. This will work as a tracker, and it will work as a pacer to keep your speed
consistent and decrease your fixation length. It is best that you hold the pen flat against the page of the book. This next step takes two minutes. Now you will practice using the pen as a pacer and tracker. Underline every line and keep your eyes focused on the tip. Don’t worry about comprehension right now.
Every line should be gone through in a second, and you should increase the speed with every page. You can read, but you should not take longer than a second on each line. This next step takes three minutes. Repeat the technique you just used, but this time
keep each line to a half second, meaning two lines in a second. There are some that won’t comprehend anything, and that is fine. This is conditioning your perceptual reflexes. This exercise is for speed and is created to help your system adapt. Your speed should not decrease. Allow a half second for each line and do this for three minutes.
Keep your focus on the pen and concentrated on your speed. Keep yourself focused on the exercise and don’t allow yourself to daydream. Now we will work on your perceptual expansion. If you find that your eyes focus on the center of your computer screen, you will notice that you can still perceive the sides.
If you train your peripheral vision to notice things more effectively you will be able to improve your reading speed by 300%. Readers that are untrained will use up to a half of their peripheral field on margins by going from first to last word, spending about 25 to 50% of this time reading margins that have nothing in them. For example,
let’s say that you were reading this sentence: “Once upon a time, students liked to read four hours each day.” If you start reading at “time” and ended at “four,” you would eliminate six words and double your speed. This can be easily
easily implemented and combined with pacing and tracking to improve your reading speed. This step takes one minute. Use the pen and pace yourself at a consistent speed of a second per line. Start the line with the second word and end each line one word from the last. You are not concerned with comprehension at this point.
Each line should only take you one second. Try to increase your speed with every page. You can read, but make sure that you don’t take any more than a second per line. This step takes one minute. Continue to use the pen to track across each line
and keep it at a second or faster per line. This time, start at the third word of the line and end two words from the last. This step takes three minutes. This time, start each line at the fourth word and end the line three words before the last.
Continue to track yourself and keep each line to a half a second, meaning one full second per two lines. It is okay if you don’t comprehend anything. Focus on speed and technique. This is to condition your perceptual reflexes and to get your system used to reading faster. Do not allow your speed to decrease. Keep it at a half second per line
for the full three minutes. Keep your eyes focused right at the tip and focus on your speed. Prevent yourself from daydreaming; you have to stay focused on the exercise. Recalculate your words per minute speed. Mark the first line you start at just like you did in your benchmark test. Set your timer for a minute.
Read at your fastest comprehension rate. Once the time is up, multiply the number of lines you read by the average words per line count to get your new words per minute. You have now finished one round of improving your reading speed. These are only a few techniques
techniques that can help you read faster, and you can go through these steps for a few days in a row to continue conditioning your eyes. It is best if you are using speed reading to study that you shouldn’t read three different assignments in the time that it would normally take you to read one. Instead, you should read the same assignment three times for the recall and exposure improvement.