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Double Your Reading Speed in One Day

Philosophical Hall

I’ve had an on and off again relationship with speed reading. It’s kind of like that girl friend I like, but not enough to keep the relationship going past a month. Or perhaps it’s like that office acquaintance that I can’t get around to hanging out with outside of work. For this article, I decided to get serious on the topic and bought a few additional books.

I’ve read 3-4 books on Speed Reading and a handful of articles (probably much slower than I could have utilizing the information I was reading at the time). I did all of this research to figure out a simple speed reading system that I could use without hours of painful, reading training. I needed a method I could practice while I read in my normal life.

As in everything, what you put into practicing speed reading is what you’ll get out of it. I offer a chart at the end that tells you what speed you can expect to achieve with different levels of serious training. I do have a dream of one day achieving super-reader status. Imagine the sparks flying off your fingers as you race by at 2000 words each minute … 240 pages each hour… 1 book every 2 hours! But for now, I’ll settle for the Clark Kent version.

This article is for readers who like simplicity and want to double their reading speed. That’s easy to do with a few tips. To triple your reading speed or go even faster, I suggest doing a more rigorous speed reading technique as described in Triple Your Reading Speed or my favorite, Breakthrough Rapid Reading . These books separate speed reading steps into a series of exercises that you can master. They also require you to take time to practice the exercises. Now let’s get into the meat of the article.

 

 

 

Why do we read slowly?

The simple answer is because of two bad habits: subvocalization and bad eye movements.

Subvocalization: Vocalizing words in your mind.

  • Reading each word in your mind
  • Verbally speaking words
  • Mouthing words
  • Syncing breathing with words
  • Moving your tongue with words as if you’re saying them

Bad Eye Movements: Any time you break form the straight moving flow of reading.

  • Regression
  • Progression
  • Distraction

Subvocalization occurs when a person vocalizes words in their mind. Sometimes this is combined with verbally speaking the words, mouthing them, or breathing in tandem with reading. I consider all of these bad habits subvocalization. Subvocalizing is the enemy of sped reading. The problem with subvocalization is that it tethers the speed of your reading to the speed of your speaking. When you tie reading to speaking, you won’t read any faster than you speak. This bounds the maximum speed of reading to the maximum speed of talking, somewhere around 130-150wpm.

Bad eye movements can also get in the way of your speed reading. Pay attention to your eyes next time you read. How many words do you take in with one movement? The typical person only reads one or two words per eye movement. A strong reader can widen his visual window to read four to ten words with one eye movement. Some speed readers can take in multiple lines at once. For a line of 8 words, the reader who pauses on every word will stop twice as many times as the reader who can take in 4 words at a time.

Other problems that slow down your reading include regression, progression, and distraction. Regression refers to the times when you stop and re-read what you just finished. This may happen when you read hard words, unfamiliar ideas, or you may have stopped paying attention while reading. However, re-reading is counter-productive. Re-reading sections often slows your reading down and causes bad comprehension. Progression, or reading ahead of where you’re at, can also slow down your reading. Oftentimes progression skips up to look at strange words or unexpected phrases before jumping back to where the reader left off. Both of these habits cause you to waste eye movements and read the text in a way that decreases comprehension. Speed reading requires you to move through text in a continuous flow without looking forward or backward.

Distractions can also slow down our speed reading. When you’re getting ready to read, try going into a quiet place with good lighting and with no distractions. Focus fully on the text that you want to read. If this isn’t possible, at least minimize the distractions.

Calculate Words per Minute (WPM)

Go find a book you would like to test your speed on. You should use a book that’s relatively easy like a biography or a fiction book.

1) Time how long it takes to read one page at a normal speed. Change this time from minutes into seconds by multiplying the number of minutes by 60 and adding that number to the remaining seconds.
2) Count the number of words in the first 3 lines of text and figure out an average words per line
Average = The total number of words for 3 full lines divided by 3
3) Count the number of lines on one page and multiply by the average words per line to get the total words on a page.
4) Take the number of words per page divided by the number of seconds it took you to read 1 page and multiply by 60. This will give you words per minute (WPM).

Or use my quick calculator below:


If your number is somewhere near 130-150 words per minute (WPM) then you are likely subvocalizing (saying the words in your mind).

Speed Up Your Reading 1.5x

This simple first step quickly brought my time up by over 150%. Use your finger to train your eye to move straight through the text without looking backward or forward. Trace your finger directly under the line of text that you’re reading. Move at a consistent speed and jump down to the next line without re-reading what you already read.

With practice, if you keep your eyes with your finger and stay at a steady pace, you’ll prevent many of your reading distractions. However, this still doesn’t increase the number of words your eye can read for each eye movement. The next section will discuss how to take in more words with each glance.

Speed Up Your Reading 2x+

In order increase your reading further you’ll have to read more words with each eye movement. A simple way to do this is to use two fingers (pointer finger and middle finger) and make a “V.” Place this “V” on the first line of your book and move down one line at a time. Your fingers will divide the text into three chunks of equal length. This will also give you two focal points. Depending on the length of each row of words, you should be able to read the entire line in three eye movements. After you finish each line, move your fingers down to the next line.

First, try to read each line with three eye movements. Each eye movement should encompass one of the three sections before, in-between, and after your fingers. Once you get better you can try to focus only at the points of your fingers and take an entire line in two eye movements.

Try practicing really slow to maximize retention for a page or two and then read a page as fast as you can to maximize speed. If you perfect your technique moving very slow, then it’ll be easier to maintain comprehension as you increase your speed.

Although this is a simple method for Speed Reading, you’ll still need to practice until it happens naturally. Also, track your WPM and see how you’re improving. Set a time each day when you can practice speed reading for a few minutes. Once you’ve mastered the “V” with two focal points, you can remove your fingers from the page and continue using the same eye movements without your fingers to guide you.

My Numbers on Day 1

Below are my words per minute (WPM) after using this simple speed reading technique for a day.

169 – Original WPM
282 – Improvement with using one finger
343 – Improvement with using two fingers

If I have time in the future, I’d like to train to break the 1000 WPM mark. However, right now I’m happy with practicing a few simple reading hacks to double my reading. Below I included training tables from Breakthrough Rapid Reading. After reading a handful of speed reading books and articles, this is the one I would say is the most extensive and seems to be the best overall system.

Further Development

It’s possible to continue to increase your speed reading with training. To achieve the results below I suggest you purchase Breakthrough Rapid Reading by Peter Kump or Triple Your Reading Speed by Wade Cutler and work your way through the more rigorous exercises.


Here’s a table of possible speed reading rates given from Breakthrough Rapid Learning by Peter Kump.

Training Table


Daily Training                    After Six Weeks of Training

20 minutes                       400-800 Words Per Minute (WPM)
40 minutes                       600-1200 WPM
60 minutes                       800 to 1500 WPM
90 minutes                       1200-2000 WPM
120 minutes*                   over 2000 WMP

*note: Over 120 minutes of training during a day should be divided into two sessions to maximize focus.

Also, reading rate varies with the level of difficulty of material. This table represents speed reading in fairly easy material (biography, fiction, or many online articles).

Thank you for reading my post! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, or suggestions for future articles: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

This is the last article in a five part series, "How to Learn Everything". Click below to go back to the first article in the series.

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