The average human reads up to 250 words per minute, but did you know that the world’s fastest reader (Howard Berg from Texas), who has a 1999 Guinness Book World Record to prove, reads up to 25,000 words per minute! In this guide, we will discuss some simple tips and easy ways to read faster while retaining all that you have read.
1. Do a quick ‘preview’ of the stuff you are about to read
One of the easy ways to read faster is to do a preview of the material in order to get an idea of lengthy and heavy reading especially when you read nonfiction books or articles. After the preview is over, you can decide which areas of the material you must read more closely. Here are the steps to use when you do a preview:
- Ask yourself how much you know of the topic already-the more background knowledge you have, the faster you can read, comprehend and retain information.
- Read the first two paragraphs of the article/report/chapter thoroughly
- Read the first sentence of each of the subsequent paragraphs of the article/chapter.
- Read the last two paragraphs of the article/chapter entirely.
2. Skim the material
Skimming helps you look out for specific words and can give you a general idea of the topic at hand. This is especially recommended for light reading in the entertainment or sports sections of newspapers or magazines. Skimming also helps you review the material that you have read before. Skimming is also recommended as one of the easy ways to read faster and recall better for students who are preparing for an exam. Here are the steps of skimming for faster reading:
- Train your eyes to move fast across a sentence or a chunk of text or paragraph
- Pick out the keywords in each line-Italics, Bold words etc. You can also underline the keywords for next time.
- Use a highlighter/marker/pen/pencil or your finger to trace each line so that you stay focused on that line and nothing else. You can also use Pacers.
- Skimming is done differently by different people- what may be a keyword to you may not be the keyword for your friend but this easy way of reading faster can help you both get the same concept or idea behind the article/report immediately.
- Skim the reading material horizontally and vertically by using your peripheral vision. Skilled speed readers can take 2-3 words per line horizontally and at the same time several sentences vertically. This is the key step of how to read faster and retain more information.
3. Use the clustering technique of speed reading
Clustering involves grouping together words that form a phrase or clause. Finding just a single keyword can make your reading speed suffer. Instead, look out for cluster or groups of words that can help you not only read faster but also retain information better.
- Look at groups of words or clauses and phrases that convey a central idea
- In the beginning your eyes will need training to read clusters of words. But, over time, this will be easier to do.
- Practice clustering first by using some light reading material. Read it as fast as you can. Now start by looking at groups of 2-3 words together. Reread the material at normal speed-this will show you things you might have missed. Re-read a second time with clustering.
- If you are able to cluster and read without missing much, it shows that you are getting better at reading fast.
- Practice clustering daily for 15 minutes. Clustering takes time and patience but is one of the proven easy ways to read faster and retain information better.
4. Trust your brain
None of the easy ways to read faster will be effective if you are unable to comprehend stuff. So learn to trust your brain-you may be used to double even triple checking to see if you are able to retain information. The thing is-your brain will do a great job only if you trust it. So believe that your brain already understands what it reads the first time; this is an important part of speed reading process.
5. Choose a comfortable spot with plenty of light
Always select a comfortable spot with adequate light. Sit upright and place your reading material on the desk in front of you. Make sure there are no distractions around. Set the time for one minute and pull your finger down the page taking in most important concepts on that page. You will not glean everything in the first reading but try and progress to the next page within 5-7 seconds. Mark where you started and stopped. Write down all that you learned.
6. Take frequent breaks
Speed reading is much like practicing for a track race- both need frequent breaks in the beginning as you train. So read one paragraph in speed then resume your normal reading speed then back to speed and so on. Even as you get more and more skilled in the art of speed reading, take 5 minute breaks after every 30-60 minutes to rest the eyes.
7. Practice practice practice
Practice speed reading on everything you read including emails, work/school related documents, newspaper, light reading/novels etc. You can even teach these easy ways to read faster to friends to reinforce the principles. You can even read all those books you have always wanted to but never had time for!
So go on and implement these 7 easy ways to read faster and get more done in less time while retaining all that you read!