Four useful techniques to improve your reading speed

In today's fast-paced world of globalization and information overload, speed-reading could be a very handy tool in our mind's arsenal saving us lots of time and energy. Below are a few tips that you may apply to speed-read anything from your daily newspaper to your important assignment at work.

[1] Concentration and Focus: Good concentration and attention is the key to read swiftly and at the same time comprehend a good amount of the information. But having said that, the comprehension of the reading material will also depend on your vocabulary or word-power, and your familiarity with the topic in question. With practice, you may be able to increase your reading speed from that of an average reader (about 100-200 WPM or Words/Minute) to more than 800 WPM by sheer concentration alone.

[2] Avoid Sub-vocalization: Sub-vocalization is the inner silent voice that goes on inside your mind while you read, and unless you have got a genie sitting in your head, you are making that voice! If you observe yourself carefully while reading, you internally repeat the sound of the words that you are reading, though it is just a whisper. The trouble with this is that it slows you down to sub-sonic level or the speed of sound. This is much slower than your optimum mental capacity which means to grasp information at the speed of thought! All you have to do is to break this ill-habit of sub-vocalizing to yourself each time you read. To make it easier, attempt to take in the meaning of the text or "thought-units" in them, rather than the vocal sounds. You will find that your mind is not only able to pace faster through the material, but also able to better grasp the substance in it.

Readers are broadly classified into three categories according to the amount of sub-vocalization they indulge in while reading:
    (i) Motor readers: These readers sub-vocalize heavily to the extent that the sound of the words are actually visible as movements on their vocal organs (lips, tongue, larynx, vocal-cords, etc.). If you are one of them, then you should know that reading with such vocalization, you will struggle to achieve speeds beyond 100-150 WPM with little or no comprehension.

    (ii) Auditory readers: These readers sub-vocalize silently. However, though no movements are apparently detected on the vocal organs, sub-vocalization is still heavily made. The reading and comprehension speed of these readers is above that of Motor readers, but still much lower compared to Visual readers which should be your goal.

    (iii) Visual readers: These readers sub-vocalize very minimally or not at all while reading. With practice, such readers will break the sub-sonic level of reading and will usually achieve speed-levels of above 1000 WPM. Instead of taking in individual words at a time and sounding or repeating them, Visual readers tend to see the words as "thought units" and grasp in as many words as one eye-fixation would allow. Usually, this is in the range of 9-14 words.

[3] Avoid Regression: Regression occurs when you pause to re-read the text again. This not only causes you to slow down by doubling the time it requires to read that text, but also causes a break in the continuity or the flow of information that was being grasped by your mind. Make a conscious attempt to avoid this habit each time you get a compulsion. Regression occurs due to one of the below three reasons:
    (i) You sub-vocalized. Hence your eye movement was much faster than your sub-vocalized sound, which could not keep pace. As there was a distortion between what your eye saw and what your ears heard, your flow of comprehension was disturbed and you had to regress.

    (ii) Material is difficult to understand: Writing is a two way communication between the author and the reader. If the author does not live up to his part of the contract and produced some incomprehensible gobbledegook so that you have roam back and forth to make sense of it, then it is his fault and not yours! On the other hand, sometimes you may not understand a well written text as it contains many words outside of your vocabulary. Hence, improving your vocabulary should also be in your priorities which is the next technique.

    (iii) Your compulsive behavour caused you to regress. You habitually regress several times due to either lack of confidence that you could not understand the read material properly, or else you believe in the myth that the only way to get good comprehension is to read slowly, purposefully and repetitively. You have to gradually and consciously let go of this compulsive habit if you have it. Each time you get this compulsion, remind yourself to skip regression and proceed forward. This is the only way to break this habit pattern. There is always plenty of time to come back and revise once your reading is done.


[4] Improve your vocabulary: Improving your vocabulary will take you a long way in the quest towards speed-reading. As you gradually increase your word-power, any unfamiliar text could be read at the "visual speed" of above 1000 WPM. Since your brain already has the underlying framework or elementary information, all it has to do is let the flow of "thought units" flow through your visual-cortex into your neural network or mind, and this happens at super-sonic levels.
    But this won't happen overnight. Improving vocabulary is a life-long commitment. Some of the things you can commit yourself  to do on a daily or weekly basis are:

    (i) Speed-read newspapers, magazines or other technical material and note down the unfamiliar words.

    (ii) Try to increase word-power by studying random new words at regular intervals. There are several online websites to help with this such as www.dictionary.com.

    (iii) Learn a foreign-language.

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