As we have discovered, there are two different types of readers: passive and active. Skilled readers will usually be those who read more often and are thus faster at reading without compromising on their comprehension of the text in question.
Slow readers, meanwhile, are usually people who are very easily distracted and therefore find it hard to focus on the task at hand.
Becoming a skilled reader is not necessarily linked to intelligence, although regular readers are inevitably going to absorb more information than those who do not read widely. Readers wishing to become better readers, whether that is in an attempt to become smarter or simply to be more skilled in the area, need to be prepared to change their approach to reading. Just like mastering a specialist subject, becoming a proficient reader also takes time, effort and practice.
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Those day dreamers among you should practice reading in a space that you find calming and comfortable. This could be in a quiet office, in your bedroom with music on or even in the middle of a loud shopping centre. Whatever it takes for your mind to become focused, do it.
Those day dreamers amongst you need to train your brains to focus on one point. Photo via Visualhunt.com
The more you practice reading in these types of surroundings, the more ordinary you will find the process and you could even begin to progress naturally in terms of speed without any further intervention or training.
Furthermore, learning to understand your preferred surroundings for reading can help you to work on your reading speed when taken out of this comfort zone, as you will be able to use visualisation techniques to take you back to where you would like to be, cancelling out everything else around you. It may sound ‘cliché’ but a big part of being a good reader is being in control of your mind, which will in turn make you sharper and more receptive each time you open a book.
If you are concerned with improving the speed at which you read above anything else, consider first why it is that you wish to do so. Having a clear goal in your head can really help you to understand and grasp what it is in the text that you want to retain.
For instance, it may be that you want to be a faster reader of scientific fiction, in order to take in advanced methodologies in the disciplines of biology, chemistry or physics. In this case, you might be able to skim over connecting words and only draw your attention to key terminology. On the other hand, if you are reading a passage in order to analyse it for a literature assessment, you will need to ensure you notice nuances and other stylistic tendencies of the author, and may therefore need to read slower.
Reading literature fairly demands understanding of nuance!
Determining your reading purpose can not only help you to work out how quickly you should be reading in order to reach your specific goal, it can also reveal that you are actually reading at a perfectly reasonable speed after all!
Reading fast can have many benefits, but if you are only reading for fun then don’t trouble yourself with with trying to read faster in order to keep up with friends or fellow students. Putting pressure on yourself to read at an unachievable rate can mean that your overall comprehension rate is lowered, and what is the point in being a fast reader if you take nothing away from the process?
Not everyone can perform in the same way when it comes to reading because some people’s minds are simply better tuned to taking in information in that way, however it is possible to improve one’s reading skills by all means and to train oneself to read faster than before.
The first thing you should do is find out what is an acceptable speed of writing for your purpose. For example, as previously mentioned, someone working as a researcher might be required to have a faster speed than someone who is just reading for pleasure. If you are applying for a job and they have asked you to confirm your current reading speed, then by all means use this as a benchmark.
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As a rough guide, eye-movement expert Keith Raynor suggests that the average college-educated person will read at a rate of 200-400 words per minute, whereas the upper limit has often been referred to as 500-600 words per minute. That being said, the scientist argues that anything beyond 500 wpm is improbable without a significant loss of comprehension due to the mechanical process of your eye moving, fixing and processing the information which is limited by what is anatomically possible.
Nevertheless, once you know roughly what it is you are aiming to achieve, time yourself to see where you measure up on the scale. It is wise to take multiple attempts to get a better understanding of your comprehension speed, and each of these should ideally be performed under calm conditions, where most people work at their best.
To work out your words-per-minute, you should set a timer for one minute exactly and then read at your fastest without compromising on the comprehension of your text. Repeat the task as many times as you like to find your average reading speed. Naturally, it is vital that you test yourself when reading a text relevant to the sector which you are aiming to progress in.
Reading speed is worked out by timing your word intake per minute, referred to as ‘wpm’. Photo via VisualHunt.com
In the event that you have discovered your wpm rate and are happy with it, you can use this on job applications to show prospective employers the level of your reading. Or, as a freelancer, you could post this on your profile for potential clients to see.
If, however, you feel that you need to work towards increasing your reading speed, there are a number of steps you can take and numerous resources which can help you towards becoming the reader you aspire to be.
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Learning speed reading is all about practice – you must use your skills on a regular basis to become a more skilled reader. This does not mean reading a paragraph or two every day, those committed to really seeing an improvement in the way that they read must spend time carrying out significant reading tasks. Reading at every possibility during your day will make the activity more instinctive and won’t feel like such an effort as you gradually train your brain to take in vast amounts of information more regularly.
Although volume does matter in the development of reading skills at this early stage, content is less important. In fact, anything too advanced could just cause you to slow down. You should therefore start off with basic texts and work your way up to content requiring more attention to detail.
Many study programmes claim that you can increase your reading speed by training your reflexes, so doing regular brain exercises could help your mind to be sharper when it comes to focusing on a reading project.
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As with most things in this technologically-advanced era, a range of DIY or self-help apps have been created which claim to be able to train you to read faster.
Spreeder, for example, is an app that has been designed to save you time in the long run and boasts being able to make you read up to 3x faster thanks to techniques taken from the world’s most respected speed reading trainers and record-holders.
Mobile apps have been developed which claim to improve your reading speed. Photo via Visualhunt
Apps like Spreeder, some of which are free to download via the Apple Store whilst others incur a charge, are tools that are especially popular with students looking for ways to make their studying and research methods more effective.
You could also follow these tips for becoming a better, faster reader!
Although you might be able to push yourself to become a better reader using resources and strong willpower, nothing beats being taught by a professional who has all of the best proven tips at their disposal. You can find many reading courses available to complete online, i.e. using distance-learning methods like lectures and broadcasts to assist learning without actually going to classes.
Alternatively, you might find a number of relevant courses at local schools, colleges or other educational establishments which will allow you to benefit from one to one tuition to determine personalised tasks and goals concerning your desired reading speed.