Reading is a rudimentary skill we learn at a very young age. As we grow up, this ability becomes so inherent. And, we most probably don’t even remember learning it. Ironically, we rarely think about the quality of our reading skills. For instance, not most people pause to ask how to read faster and better. Or, How to become a faster and better reader?
Usually, such questions don’t ring well in the hustle of our everyday life. However, if you’re reading this, it means you’ve asked the question yourself. That’s a good start. Still, let me tell you something first!
At this very moment, on this very page, you are reading more slowly than you should read – more slowly than you need to be doing for a good grasp- and, most importantly, you’re reading more slowly than you are capable of reading if you manage yourself properly.
Yet, how to read faster and comprehend better?
In this article, we will explore barriers that prevent you from becoming a faster reader! And give you 7 tips to improve this essential skill. The goal of this article is to help you improve your reading speed! While understanding what you read better.
How to Read Faster and Better? – Understanding The Problem
Your lack of speed – still assuming that you are an untrained, average reader, largely results from these three main factors:
- Negative habits that you have built up through years of the wrong kind of practice. As mentioned above, we learn to read at such an early age. Thus, we don’t even remember how we did that. There are so many bad habits that prevent you from reading faster. For instance, you might be reading word by word rather than reading in context and phrases.
- Passive methods of comprehension that meddle with total concentration. Thus, they prevent you from responding to a page of print as actively as your potential ability makes possible.
- Poor techniques of perception cause an unnecessary time lag between the act of seeing and the mental interpretation of what you see.
In other words, You read slowly, not because you’re a poor reader! But because you’re an untrained reader. Let us now discuss what techniques you can use to read faster and better.
Plan the Reading Process Strategically
During my university years, just the notion of reading two or three books per week used to scare me to death. Then, I started approaching a text strategically. This made a big difference in how efficiently I could digest the material.
I will share my personal experience when it comes to reading faster. First, think about your goals. What do you aim to get by reading an article, book, or other material? Write down some of the questions you want to be able to answer after reading the material.
When you are clear with your goals, determine the purpose of the text. What is the author’s goal in writing this piece of text? For instance, the author’s goal might be to describe the importance of efficient communication. On the other hand, your goal might be simply to understand methods of effective digital communication.
If your goal is more restricted in scope than that of the author. Then, your reading strategy must focus on the sections that are most relevant to your goal.
Scan The Text First
Understanding what you want to learn from the material is one thing. However, understanding how to find those bits of information in a huge text is another story.
That is when scanning comes in handy.
But what is scanning?
Scanning refers to looking only for specific pieces of information without reading everything. The material you scan is typically arranged in the following ways:
- Alphabetically, chronologically, non-alphabetically, by category, or textually.
This article, for example, is organized textually. This means that information is located within the written paragraphs of the text. In our case, these paragraphs have titles, making it easy for a reader to understand what a certain paragraph focuses on. Put differently, we use headings, titles, and paragraphs to organize information. This way it becomes easier for readers to scan & find certain information.
Moreover, scanning doesn’t only improve your reading speed. It also increases your reading efficiency, saves time, and improves comprehension.
Don’t Subvocalize When You Read
Subvocalization is by far the most typical factor in slowing down our reading. You may not know what it means, but most probably you are subvocalizing. You may think that subvocalization helps our brains to understand what we read, but this is not how our brains work.
Subvocalization is the act of pronouncing each word in your head as you read. Most of the time, people do this unconsciously without even noticing. But trust me, if you want to learn how to read faster and better, you need to stop this habit.
Don’t believe in it? It’s very simple to test. Just take a random text and read it as you usually do. Count the time it took for you. Now, take another random paragraph (similar in length) and read it without subvocalization. I am sure you will be able to see the difference between the time required to read using those two different approaches.
The next time you read, see if you can catch yourself subvocalizing. The more aware you are of this habit, the easier it will be to break.
Stop Rereading Words on the Page
If you watch the average person’s eyes as they read, you will notice they move back and forth. This happens because the average reader – you do this, too – tends to reread the words they have already read. This is one thing that hinders you from being able to increase your reading speed.
As with subvocalizing, we do this subconsciously. The easiest method you can use to prevent yourself from rereading words is to keep your finger running back and forth across the page, without stopping or going back.
This method might seem childish, but believe me, it’s highly effective!
Skip the Small Words When you Read
You will be surprised to find out how much time you can save if you skip small words while reading.
To be clear, skipping words is not the same as scanning what you are reading.
Learning how to read faster is all about eliminating the small, unnecessary words that fill up a page. These words certainly have their place, and we need them to construct sentences and ideas! However, the reader, they do not change the core meaning of a sentence.
So, when we are trying to read quickly, we can often skip linking words and phrases, such as:
- ‘as well as that, ‘In spite of, ‘whether,’ ‘in addition, and other similar small words.
Employ these tips for fast reading to help you not just learn how to read faster, but retain more too!
Preview What you are About to Read
It’s more demanding to understand what you are reading when you have no idea what it’s about.
Before you sit down to read something, especially if it’s a difficult text, preview the
document first. What are you about to read? Why are you going to read it? What is your goal? Why did the author write this?
Don’t Force “Understanding”
Reading fast is one thing, but understanding what you’ve read is another. You see! Reading faster without understanding is pointless. However, this doesn’t mean you should force understanding.
When it comes to reading comprehension strategies, force isn’t one of them.
In some ways, understanding is always incomplete. However, rereading words or fixating on a sentence won’t help in better comprehension. On contrary, this will cause frustration and anxiety.
Instead, when you don’t understand something, make a note of it. Come back to that issue later and think about it. Or, simply keep reading, maybe an explanation lies ahead in the text itself.
More tips to read faster
The key to improving your reading speed requires deep focus. And, to focus you need to eliminate any distractions or interruptions while reading. So, try to create a quiet environment where you can read in peace without being distracted. This will help you read faster & understand better.
Go easy on yourself
To improve your reading speed & retention, try to read books and texts that aren’t complex and demanding. Through this, you can easily decide which reading technique to use. Also, when reading a simple text, it is easier to gauge your level of retention & understanding of what you’re reading.
Pick a simple text and choose a reading method that suits your goals best. Then, set a timer to assess your reading speed.
Set reading goals
It is very important to have reading goals in mind because it helps you stay focused & on track. So, ensure you know why you’re reading a text, and what you want to get from it. Having clear goals will allow you to look for specific information or idea in a text. This makes your reading faster and more effective.
Assess your progress
A great way to test your reading speed is by continually assessing your progress. Fortunately, there are many speed reading tests online you can try. This will give you a good idea about your reading speed and understanding of what you’re reading.
Practice makes perfect
You don’t need me to tell you this, you already know! The more practice speed reading, the better you get at it. This is a solid fact. To improve any skill, PRACTICE is the key to success!
So, try to make speed reading an essential part of your daily routine! This way, you will turn it into a consistent habit in your daily life.
Whether you read a blog post, peruse files for work, or scan through a book… you most likely do some type of reading every day. But plodding through dense passages of text can be time-consuming, frustrating, and mentally exhausting.
I know how it feels. I’ve been there too.
You might be drawn to think that if you don’t start early enough, it’s too late. But that’s simply not true, and my own reading life is proof. Practicing fast reading is never too late.
Last year, I read the most amount of material. I smashed my previous record by ten and surpassed my goal for the year. This was partly because due to the global pandemic I had more time for reading. Yet, it also wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t actually read faster, too.
Take your time and work for the long pull. It is impossible, no matter what his age, not to show improvement if s/he keeps practicing regularly under guidance. So, keep practicing, read more and be patient with it. Great things take time!
All the best luck to you!