Speed Reading Methods 101

People read about 250 words a minute on average. With the use of speed reading methods this can be easily doubled without much effort. Just applying the correct reading techniques will boost your speed immensely. In this article I will discuss the basic techniques you can use to improve your reading spead. Once you read them, I suggest you try them out on a familiar book and see what the result is. You'll be amazed.

Why Learn Speed Reading Methods?

We read all the time. Magazines, websites, books, study material, articles, legal documents... A lot of our time is spent reading. By learning how to read properly you can reduce your time reading and spend more time on other past-times. Or you can read more in the same period and outstudy your peers. Nothing but benefits to gain. Invest a little bit of time learning the methods and reap huge benefits from the learned skills.

Advantages of speed reading

If you just heard the techniques and apply them for the first time, you can expect to read at about 400 to 600 words per minute. If you practice and become more at ease with the techniques you can easily reach around 900 words per minute. Once you break trough the sound barrier of subvocalization (your inner reading voice) you can reach speeds of several 1000 words per minute. The latter is only possible if you practice the methods daily. Speeds over 1000 words per minute will not be reached at first. If you compare this to a measly 250 words per minute attainded with the reading techniques you learned when you were 6 or 7 years old you can easily conclude that you need to update your reading skills.

Speed Reading Methods: Posture & Environment

To start reading faster you need to pay attention to your surroundings and your posture. You want to sit in an upright and comfortable position. Don't lie down or slouch in a couch since this will more easily allow you to relax and doze off. Have the book in front of you on a desk. Make sure the desk is well lit so you can see the book clearly.

Read in an environment with as few distractions as possible. A silent room is the prefered situation here. Get rid of your phone, close your computer, turn down the music. It's all about focussing on the text here. All the rest is a distraction.

Speed Reading Methods: Turning Pages

Proficient speedreaders also practice the turning of the pages. At 250 words per minute, turning the page doesn't have much influence on your reading speed. But when you read at a speed of over 500 words per minute, it can have a profound influence. There is no standard technique here. Since different pages require different techniques. For example: I personnaly wet my thumb to turn pages, this works well most of the time.

Speed Reading Methods: Skimming

Skimming is the search for information in a piece of text by rapidly looking at captions, bold words, pictures and other clues for meaning. By first skimming a text you learn what it's about and you can decide wether it's worth reading the whole piece or just some paragraphs

Looking at the content table of a book provides much usefull info and a structure for gathering info. By skimming the contents you have a good idea of what you are going to read and learn in under a minute.

Disclaimer: Only use skimming if you are looking for information or are studying a text piece. If you are reading a novel for entertainment purposes only, I recommend not skimming the content since this can spoil the story. The same applies for legal documents, don't skim legal documents.

Speed Reading Methods: Guiding The Eye

The first step in speed reading is guiding your vision with your finger. When you learn to read, you also use your finger to fixate your eyes. When we're young, we do this to keep focused and don't forget which line were on. The same rules still apply for grown-ups. The finger improves your concentration and focus. When your mind wanders, your moving finger will bring it back to the words.

You can also adjust the pace at which you read by increasing the speed at which you move your finger. You can easily train yourself to read faster this way, as your eyes are forced to follow your finger.

Finger Guiding Motions

The guiding motions use is, to direct your eyes in a more efficient way accross the page. Reading line by line is considered to be very slow. Since your brain is capable of understanding multiple words at a time, more advance guiding methods use just that. Your brain can process information in a non-linear matter. Therefore, most guiding motions do not always go from left to right. Some go from right to left, top to bottom, bottom to top, diagonally... All directions are possible. To give you a feel for some of the possible guiding motions I made a small list:

Line by line: Move like you normally read, line by line, when you're at the end, go to the beginning of the next line. This motion doubles your reading speed, but it is considered the slowest motion possible for reading a page. Therefore, use this for starting out and get a feel for using your finger. Once your comfortable advance to faster guiding motions.

Broader lines: Same as above, but 2 or more lines at a time.

Zig-Zag: read a broad line from left to right, then move down and read from left to right.

Vertical: Place your finger top center page, then move vertically down. This motion can be used for skimming.

Cross: Form an 'X' on the page with your finger.

I encourage you to invent your own guiding motion. Since everybody processes material in a different way, there has to be one motion that fits you. Therefore, experiment with it.

Guiding on the screen

It's hard to use your finger on a screen and it also leaves ugly fingerprints on your screen. Therefore, make use of your mouse as your guiding device. You can also select/highlight sentences as you read them to indicate to your brain that these are important.

You can always print out the material if you're not comfortable reading on a screen.

Speed Reading Methods: Avoid Regression

The re-reading of material while you're reading it is pointless. If your concentration lapsed and you missed a little piece of text, then just read on. Don't re-read the missed material. Chances are that it was unimportant, which makes re-reading utterly pointless. If the missed piece was important then it's meaning will repeat itself throughout the text, or the context of the surrounding text will tell what you have missed. Either way, re-reading is a waste of time.

Speed Reading Methods: Subvocalization

Do you hear your inner voice as your read this? You should try to cut it out. It is slowing you down from reading at your top speed. As long as you have the inner voice when reading, you can only attain a maximum of 900 words per minute. As soon as you learn to cut it out you can increase your speed immensely.

You have to understand that your brain understands meaning when it sees something, it doesn't need to hear it as well.

Breaking The Sound Barrier

Suppressing your inner voice takes a lot of practice. You can start by trying to only say the important words or by trying to create a picture that goes with the words. There is no given technique on how to do this properly. It comes with a lot of practice and persistence. If you go fast enough, you voice won't be able to follow and it will be silenced automatically. But you first have to go fast enough to silence it. In the beginning, just try not to say everything you read.


When reading faster and guiding your eyes with your fingers. Your comprehension actually goes up. This is true, because you're more concentrated while reading and because you get a broader view. Reading slowly is good when there are some hard to understand principles explained. Speed reading gives you the bigger picture to put those principles into perspective.

Keys to Speed Reading Success

  • Practice, practice, practice...
  • Start easy - with novels in your own language and familiar material.
  • Use a guiding device -> your finger.
  • Use the guiding motions.
  • For maximum comprehension, do a pre-skimming phase for getting a feel of the text, then speed-read the material for comprehension and finally finish with skimming to rehearse the most important pieces.
  • Know what to speed read: Legal documents and difficult material are not suited for speed reading. Step by step instructions aren't either.

Speed Reading Methods: Conclusion

Speed reading is just the next step in learning how to read. The learning doesn't stop when your 12. Speed reading isn't that hard either, learning mostly involves breaking poor habits and implementing the correct ones. Practicing speed reading shouldn't be too hard since you read everyday.

Speed reading methods can save you a considerable amount of time and reduce your reading time to a minimum. Or you can increase the material you read and read a lot more in the same timespan. Either way, you're better off speed reading than not. Good luck!

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