Speed Reading

Like 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 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, 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. 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.

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The following techniques can be applied to your reading and will help you to read faster, further and more attentively.

Pacing Techniques:

  • Use 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
  • 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 to.
  • 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 in phrases:

  • Pick a text and try to read every three words at a time
  • Increase to larger chunks of words, until you read in phrases
  • Try and read one sentence at a 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.
  • 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 about reading in phrases and using the pacing techniques. Try and retain comprehension and attention and make a bullet point note for each time.
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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