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3 Ways to increase your reading speed and comprehension

Use these 3 tips to  boost your reading speed but also maintain your reading comprehension

For part 1 on increasing your reading speed click here.

Before you attempt to increase your reading speed you have to understand that there are limits on how quickly you can perceive information. This means that no matter how rapidly you scan through a text you can only remember as much as our brains allow us. Secondly, increasing your reading speed only works as much as the text you are reading allows it. Books of fiction, or highly abstract text, such as philosophical ideas, are much harder to speed read. Finally, when you are reading in your leisure time, do you really want to skip through most of your book, especially if it is entertaining and captivating? With those ideas out of the way let’s discuss three interesting ways to increase your reading speed.

1. Familiarize yourself with the subject matter you are about to read.

know your subject matter

For example, if you plan on reading a whole book or textbook, read up as much as you can on the author – her/his style of writing, the literary period of his/her time, and most importantly summaries and/or literary analyses of their work. Granted, these will spoil the book for you (e.g. if you have to read certain books for literature class) but they will increase your comprehension and allow you to read the contents faster.

Speaking of contents, it is also a good idea to always check the table of contents of any type of book you are about to read. They are there for a reason and that reason is to serve as a map. If the chapters are named each chapter should serve to give a brief description of what the text will be about.

In the case of fiction it may be hard or even impossible to guess what the chapter will be about hence why it’s difficult to speed read fiction. However, if you are familiar with the chapter in advance (you have read a summary of the chapter) things get much easier. If you are reading nonfiction, e.g. your textbooks, they often should include keywords of some sort, which you should treat as an addition to summaries i.e. they are get you thinking in a specific direction, to familiarize you with the content you are about to read. In short, the idea here is to work from the specific (chapter titles, keywords, chapter summaries) to the general (all of the content of the book).

2. The next step is to simply cover the text you have read.

cover what you read to increase your reading speed

Have you ever read a single sentence, or better yet, a paragraph, multiple times only to find out that you have no idea what you have just read? Worse still, have you reread a line…multiple times again having no idea what was it about? This happens because you lose focus and your mind starts to wander while your eyes keep on reading.

The problem is you need both your vision and mind to be on the job. An easy fix to that is to use a blank sheet of paper or any other solid object with no text on it to cover the lines you have read. That way you make sure you don’t accidentally reread a line or lose your focus. Bonus points if you also point at the words you are reading with a pen or pencil because as we already discussed the human eye is attracted to movement.

3. Finally, prepare your environment.

prepare your environment

Make sure you are in a comfortable reading position. Avoid feeling stiff by stretching your muscles and also take regular breaks or change your position. Sometimes you let yourself read for 1-2 hours and in the end you feel so stiff that it hurts. Avoid that by moving around. If you prefer to stand while reading, consider using a book stand. Also, eliminate all distractions such as background noise, your phone or even your pet. Although all these tips are not directly related to increasing your reading speed, they allow you to keep your focus. One last tip is to avoid reading in your bed because…. well… you wouldn’t want to fall asleep while studying!

In conclusion

There are viable direct and indirect ways to increase your reading speed. Applying them may help you reduce your reading time and improve the quality of your reading. Know that there are limits because we are simply human. A machine may scan a body of text in seconds but we will probably never surpass that. However, there are working ways to increase your reading speed and it’s a shame to waste so much time in ineffective reading. What are your thoughts and experiences related to speed reading?

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