Book review

Speed Reading – Top 5 Tips

Many of us make a resolution at the beginning of the year to read a certain number of books. But as the year progresses, we get caught up in other activities such as browsing through social media or binge-watching Netflix and fail to catch up on our to-be-read list.

If only we were equipped with the technique of speed reading our way through books, while getting a grasp of the content at the same time, we wouldn’t lag behind in achieving our target.

What is Speed Reading?

Rapid reading or speed reading is a process that enables you to read through text material at a greater speed.

Speed reading requires you to identify, understand as well as retain groups of words or parts of a sentence on the page that is being read.

The average rate at which most people read allows them to process 250 words in a minute.

Speed Reading Techniques

Pointer Method

This method involves running a finger below the line of text being read. Pointer method, also known as meta guiding method or hand pacing method, can also be exercised by holding a card or a piece of paper below the line being read.

Track & Pace Method

This method is similar to the Pointer method. The only difference being, you replace your finger with a pen. You can even underline the text that you have already read, so it serves as a reminder not to revisit those lines.

Previewing Method

This method involves the rapid movement of eyes through the text. Identify keywords or phrases while doing so.

Speed reading - how to read faster and understandIn this method, your eye won’t read every word, but in due time with sufficient training, you will be able to quickly identify what is important and your eye will automatically be drawn to that part of the text.

Top 5 tips on speed reading

#1. Create the ambiance

Create an ambiance with as fewer background noises and distractions as possible.

You may want to consider setting your cell phone to airplane mode or silent mode so you are not tempted to pick it up each time you get a notification alert.

As a beginner, you can start with a simple article or an uncomplicated novel. Help yourself gauge which reading technique is best suited for you.

#2. Familiarize yourself with the material you will be reading

Before you begin to read through the book or text, you can preview the reading material that you will be reading. This will give you a fairly good idea about the topic.

If you are wondering how to preview the reading material, you can begin with reading the title, the headings of the first few paragraphs and then assess the length of the material. This way you will feel familiar and at ease with the reading material.

#3. Figure out a reading plan

Figure out a plan on how you want to tackle the text/ book/reading material.

You will want to read slow when going through certain paragraphs due to the complexity of the content.

You can set time-bound targets for yourself. Separate ones for pages and the entire book. For example, you can clock yourself to finish reading a page within a minute or ninety seconds.

And you can set a separate target to finish the entire book within a certain number of hours (depending on the number of pages in the book).

#4. Avoid regression


When the eye moves backward or upward while reading a certain portion of the text, it is called regression.

When does regression happen?

  • It happens when we feel we haven’t understood something, our eye tends to revisit the words/lines we have already read.
  • The moment we aren’t able to make sense of what we are reading, we tend to go a few lines or paragraphs backward to get a grasp of the context.
  • As a beginner, when we have the fear of having missed out on something that may have been important or something that will help us make sense of the forthcoming text.

Speed reading - how to read faster and understandHow to avoid regression?

  • If you feel you haven’t understood a certain word, stop right there. Look it up so that your comprehension improves.
  • If you find certain parts of the text to be more complex than the rest, you can go slow while reading the complex part, so that you don’t revisit it.
  • While reading a novel, If you feel that a certain portion of the text is the base on which the forthcoming story will be built, you can take your time understating the happenings, so that you feel comfortable skimming through other parts of the novel that may not be as important.

#5. Minimize Sub-vocalization

When we read the text, we tend to silently vocalize it in our mind, so that we have a better comprehension and retention of the text. This is called sub-vocalization.

Note: Sub-vocalization reduces the cognitive load. Therefore, an effort should be made to minimize it. Not eliminate it.

Why do we sub-vocalize?

  • While reading, some need a verbal reassurance. So that they know what they are reading is right.
  •  We are capable of reading as fast as we think. However, for some, reading speed is only as fast as their talking speed.
  • Our mind is programmed to correctly pronounce each word we read. Though it may not seem like you are wasting much time correctly pronouncing each word you have read, if you clock yourself, you will find a remarkable difference with and without the subvocalizing of the read text.

How to minimize sub-vocalization

  • Many words that we see in the text are only present so that the structure of the sentence can be grammatically correct. Most of the times, they serve no purpose in conveying the key content of the text. Your eyes will still read the text, but your reading speed will increase if you say fewer words while sub-vocalizing. For example, ‘the man drank a glass of water’ can be read as ‘man drank water’ so that sub-vocalization can be minimized.
  • Another effective way to minimize sub-vocalization is to distract yourself. You can try chewing on gum when you are reading. This will distract you from saying words in your head.
  • Listening to music can help with minimizing subvocalization. However, not all genres of music help in achieving this purpose. You will want to avoid lyrical music or music that has a peppy tempo or anything that bring back memories as these will only take your concentration off reading. Try listening to instrumental music that helps you concentrate better and minimizes sub-vocalization.

 About the Author: 

Jimmy is an avid reader and is passionate about the skill of speed reading. Jimmy is the founder of My Speed Reading, a blog which is all about tips and strategies to improve your reading speed. You can visit Jimmy at his website


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