Learn Speed Reading to accelerate your learning

Why should you get better at Reading?

Do you remember being taught to read? If you are like me, then you probably don't. We are taught in school when we are young and then it's just assumed that we "know how to read". But, like any other subject, you can continue to improve at reading.

The better you can read, the faster you can study and the more you can retain. Reading is crucial to improving your performance on any exam.

When you are studying, you can break up your reading into two "types":

  1. Skimming the content to get a superficial view of what we are learning
  2. Reading to thoroughly understand the content

We often make the mistake of directly jumping to thorough reading, but this is a slow and counter-productive approach. Instead, we should always skim first and read thoroughly afterwards.

The basics of Speed Reading

Step 1: Decide beforehand how many pages you are going to read

Remember the principle: The only way to get better at reading is to read more! So pick a target that is slightly outside your comfort zone and sit down to read. Here are some example targets:

  • "I will read the next 30 pages"
  • "I will read Chapter 5 entirely"
  • "I will read subsections 5.1 and 5.2 of Chapter 5"

Step 2: Map out the book so that you have it's shape and contours

Once you have decided exactly what you are going to read, get a feel for the actual work before you start.

Hold the pages and flip through them like you would riffle playing cards. Let your eyes pick out interesting images and tables from what you are about to read. Does the book smell great? Do the pages feel good?

What is the purpose of all this you ask? What we are doing here is called "priming". We are teaching the brain to recognise what is going to come in our study session. This makes us receptive to the material and helps retain more of it.

Step 3: Read the table of contents carefully

Make a mental note of all the chapter headings and subheadings in the pages you are about to read. Think of it as having appetisers (more priming). It'll make your brain want to consume the content more eagerly, because it helps you understand the structure of what you are studying, what is coming next, when you are close to finishing.

Step 4: Drag your finger along the line as you read

Put your finger down on the paper and move it along the line at a fixed pace, slightly faster than forming the words in your brain. Just glide over the text and let your eyes pick up clumps of words. It will feel strange that you aren't forming full sentences in your mind, but don't worry. Your visual cortex will pick up much more than you think it will.

The goal here is to not stop reading until you reach the end. It's okay to slow down if the content grabs you and pick up speed in other places, but the goal is to skim the content, not "read" it. Do not get stuck at difficult places, we will come back to those difficult places in our next reading.

Putting the finger on the page and constantly tracking it's movement with your eyes also helps you "stay in the flow" (not get distracted)

Now we are ready for a deep dive

Congratulations! You have completed the first reading of your study material. Wasn't it much faster than reading thoroughly? Now you are ready to try the techniques from The Art of Textbook Note-taking! When you read the same pages again, you will surprised by how much you already remember because of your skimming.

Best of luck! Let me know how these techniques helped you, and any other techniques you already use for Speed Reading!

Published On: Sat, 29 Jul 2023.