Speed Reading

Student readingLike it or loathe it, you will find that you are asked to read an enormous amount of material during your time at University. You'll also have the sometimes challenging task of working out for yourself which bits of this material are most relevant to the particular task or subject area that you are currently working on, and which are not.

In order to get the most out of any text or set of texts, you need to be ready to adopt a range of different reading strategies depending upon the task at hand and the amount of time you have available to complete it. Often this will require a process of selection and targeted reading that may be different from the ways that you have read in the past. There is no magic formula to become a faster and more efficient reader, but there are a number of techniques that you can practise that will, over time, help to increase your reading speed and the quality of your reading.

"Do I need to read it all?"

Sometimes the answer will be yes. Some reading is mandatory for classes or coursework and if this is the case then you will probably need to read it all with focus and attention. You might want to consider taking notes on it too. However, much of the reading that you do as part of your coursework will not require reading every text from cover to cover. Instead, reading is often a process of scanning, skimming and selecting the priority texts and parts of texts for deeper engagement. Speed reading will help you to get an overview of a text quickly to help with this process of selection. Reading for memory will help you to dig deeper and improve your focused reading.

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The following techniques are ways to practice speeding up your reading. Try them out over time and they should begin to have a positve impact on your overall reading speed.

Pacing Techniques:

Pacing techniquesUse a pen, your finger or a ruler to help you pace yourself through a page of text. The pacer will help your eyes to move more smoothly and efficiently across the page. Pacing techniques include:

  • An ‘s’ or ‘z’ shape through the lines of text
  • A horizontal pen /ruler / card down the page
  • fingers / pen down the side
  • pen / 3 fingers down the centre

Read further:

Read for 1 minute and mark where you get to. Next;

  • Add an extra third of the text and mark your new finishing place
  • Read again from start and reach your new goal
  • Repeat 3 more times
  • Going faster than comprehension speed
  • Can change by reading new text each time

Read faster:

Read for 1 minute and mark where you get tp. Next;

  • Read the same amount of text in 50 seconds
  • Repeat, reducing the time to 40, then 30, then 20 seconds
  • Can change by reading new text each time

Reading with attention:

Read text with comprehension for 3 mins and mark where you get to. Write down one bullet point about what you’ve read. Next;

  • Mark out a new section of the same length and read this in 3 minutes and write another bullet point
  • Mark another new section of the same length and add on a quarter more text. Read this in 3 minutes and write out bullet point. Complete twice more
  • Think using the pacing techniques. Try and retain comprehension and attention while putting pressure on your reading speed
Top Tips

Reading on a screen

  • Declutter the screen and close extra windows
  • Use large-point text for reading on screen
  • Use an easy-to-read font (sans-serif)
  • Avoid left/right scrolling in window

Reading on paper

  • Use a pacer
  • Vary reading speed according to the demands of the text and the goal of the reading
  • Increasing reading speed on paper will increase reading speed on screen (and vice versa)
  • Practise!
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