Whether you are studying for your A Levels or for University exams, chances are, you have a considerable amount of information to comprehend, process and memorise.

You will be much more effective in your learning if you can read and assimilate information quickly. So, the purpose of this blog post is to provide information about speed reading and give you practical tips you can use to help you become a more effective learner.

Speed reading is based on the idea that eliminating the auditory phase of reading significantly reduces reading time, will enable you to cut down the time spent on these tasks considerably. According to speed reading theorists, most people sound out the words they read, either out loud or in their heads. Instead of doing so, our goal should be to create visual representations of words, sentences, paragraphs and entire pages in our heads.

Speed reading

These are just a few tips that will help your read more quickly and more efficiently:

1. Use a pen or your finger to move across the page at a steady pace. This will stop your eyes from taking ‘breaks’ or your mind from wondering off the page. Start slowly, and build the pace up little by little.

2. Experiment with different directions: Once you are moving quite ably across a page, try changing the direction of your pen – i.e. read one line from the left of the page to right, and the next line from the right of the page to the left, alternating direction as you move down the page. Very savvy speed readers will move their pen diagonally, moving their pen down two or three lines as they move from right to left in one stroke, and another two or three lines down from left to right in another stroke. Another strategy is to read from the top to the bottom of the page, focusing only on the centre and training your peripheral vision to pick up vital information from either side of the page.

3. Focus on vital information: Keen students can often get bogged down in extra reading, spending inordinate amounts of time on material that may not be vital for an upcoming exam, or which repeats information that has already been encountered. Sometimes, unnecessary repetition of ideas and facts can occur within the same text or material. Learn how to skim over text that is not useful and take more time on new or vital items of information.

4. Be in the moment: Speed reading is not simply a matter of forcing your eyes to follow a pen across a page at breakneck speed; it is a matter of concentrating and making a strong mental effort while you are reading, creating visual images in your mind and using handy tools such as mind maps (which summarise the information you are studying through the use of visual representations).

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5. Psyche yourself up to enjoy the material you are about to read: If you are about to read a novel or history book, make the process exciting rather than arduous, by reading about the writer, context or artistic use which has been made of the book you are about to read. If you are reading a biography, for instance, check out video interviews and articles about the subject of your study; find out if any films or documentaries have been made about them. Often, film can succinctly summarise what makes this character so special and inspire you to learn more about them at a more profound or academic level.

6. Use the Table of Contents: Just like a mind map, a table of contents will break a subject up and reveal the most important ideas and sub-ideas. As you read, you can see how current information connects to information previously read.

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7. Pick the correct angle. Most people find that placing material at a 45º angle makes reading easier, though you should find the angle that is right for you. Additionally, be extra sensitive to lighting. If you are reading next to a glass window, for instance, make sure that the sun’s reflection is not bothering your eyes. If you find that your eyes are tired or that you have frequent headaches, have your vision checked. Eye strain is one of the most common reasons why we lose interest in a book or have difficulty engaging in longer reading sessions.

8. Don’t speed read all the time: As mentioned, speed reading can be a highly challenging pursuit, because it involves a great deal of active participation and concentration. Don’t tire yourself out by using this technique to read material in your leisure time; save it for specific study sessions, so as not to inadvertently use up your energy reserves and concentration span.

9. Check your progress: Count how many words per minute you are reading and see if speed reading is really improving your time. Be patient, but make sure you are using the right techniques to truly make a difference in the time you spend reading.

10. Hone your concentration techniques: There are many fun and free online braintraining games which will teach you how to focus on one task at a time. This skill is crucial when it comes to speed reading, since the aim is to save time by not allowing the eye to wonder. Other practices, like meditation, will not only sharpen your concentrating skills; they will also help you get rid of unproductive stress and nerves, which you definitely do not need in the days leading up to a big exam.

11. It isn’t just about speed: While saving time is key when you have a large body of text to get through, so is comprehension. Pause frequently to fill out your mind map and to make sure you understand the main points the writer is attempting to make. Connect each crucial idea to others to ensure proper understanding.

12. Fuel up: Since speed reading takes so much brain power, make sure to get enough rest and to provide your body with nutritious food. Processed foods, which are often filled with trans fats and sugar, can give you a quick high, only to cause severe drops in energy soon after. Try to consume around five small meals a day instead of two or three large meals, to keep energetic and light on your feet, so that even the most arduous of tasks seem more bearable.

I hope that you have found these speed reading tips useful. If you have some of your own that you would like to share, please feel free to add a comment to this blog post.

Important related articles:

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  8. The importance of reading





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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.