Speed reading is not magic

Speed reading rate

Look at your reading rate. Do you find you can't read it fast enough? That you are able to process the ideas faster than you can read them? Then stop reading that book and find a harder one. Try reading again. Find you can't read that fast enough? Then find a harder book. Eventually you will find a book that you can't read faster than you can process. Now you've found your correct reading level. Keep reading books that are this difficult. If you're worried that this search for the proper level of difficulty might never end, then make a list of books that you know you are already able to read faster than you can understand them. Somewhere between the 'crap' you're currently reading and these books lies something at your optimal reading level.

Poor results are inevitable if the reader attempts to use the same reading rate indiscriminately for all types of material and for all reading purposes. He must learn to adjust his reading rate to his purpose in reading and to the difficulty of the material he is reading. This ranges from a maximum reading rate on easy, familiar, interesting material or in reading to gather information on a particular point, to a minimal reading rate on material which is unfamiliar in content and language structure or which must be thoroughly digested. The effective reader adjusts his reading rate; the ineffective reader uses the same reading rate for all types of material.

Reading rate adjustment may be an overall adjustment to the article as a whole, or an internal adjustment within the article. Overall adjustment establishes the basic rate at which the total article is read; internal adjustment involves the necessary variations in rate for each varied part of the material.

There are different styles of reading for different situations. The technique you choose will depend on the purpose you are reading for. For example, you might be reading for enjoyment, information, or to complete a task. If you are exploring or reviewing, you might skim a document. If you're searching for information, you might scan for a particular word.

If you need a moderate level of information on a subject, then you can scan the text. Here you read the chapter introductions and summaries in detail.

You may then speed-read the contents of the chapters, picking out and understanding key words and concepts. At this level of looking at the document it is worth paying attention to diagrams and graphs.

When you need detailed knowledge of a subject is it worth studying the text. Here it is best to skim the material first to get an overview of the subject. This gives you an understanding of its structure, into which you can fit the detail gained from a full reading of the material.

Overall rate adjustment should be based on your reading plan, your reading purpose, and the nature and difficulty of the material. The reading plan itself should specify the general rate to be used. This is based on the total "size up". It may be helpful to consider examples of how purpose can act to help determine the rate to be used.

To understand information, skim or scan at a rapid rate. Determine value of material or to read rapidly or slowly according to you feeling. To read analytically, read at a moderate pace to permit interrelating ideas. The nature and difficulty of the material requires an adjustment in rate in conformity with your ability to handle that type of material. Obviously, level of difficulty is highly relative to the particular reader.

While Einstein's theories may be extremely difficult to most laymen, they may be very simple and clear to a professor of physics. Hence, the layman and the physics professor must make a different rate adjustment in reading the same material. Generally, difficult material will entail a slower rate; simpler material will permit a faster rate.

Internal rate adjustment involves selecting differing rates for parts of a given article. In general, decrease speed when you find the following:

  • Unfamiliar terminology not clear in context. Try to understand it in context at that point; otherwise, read on and return to it later;
  • Difficult sentence and paragraph structure; slow down enough to enable you to untangle them and get accurate context for the passage;
  • Unfamiliar or abstract concepts. Look for applications or examples of you own as well as studying those of the writer. Take enough time to get them clearly in mind;
  • Detailed, technical material. This includes complicated directions, statements of difficult principles, materials on which you have scant background;
  • Material on which you want detailed retention. In general, increase speed when you meet the following materials:
  • Simple material with a few ideas, that are new to you; move rapidly over the familiar ones; spend most of your time on the unfamiliar ideas;
  • Examples and illustrations. Since these are included to clarify ideas, move over them rapidly when they are not needed;
  • Detailed explanation and idea elaboration, which you do not need, move over them rapidly;
  • Generalized ideas and ideas, which are restatements of previous ones. These can be readily grasped, even with scan techniques.

Keep your reading plan of attack flexible, adjust your rate sensitivity from article to article. It is equally important to adjust your rate within a given article. Practice these techniques until a flexible reading rate becomes second nature to you.


Some reading rate tips

Vary your reading rate to suit the difficulty and type of writing of the text. Poor readers always read at the same slow rate. An efficient reader speeds up for easier material and slows down for the hard. Some things were not to be read quickly at all. Legal material and very difficult text should be read slowly. Easier material, magazines and newspapers can be read quickly. Poetry and plays were meant to be performed, and if not acted out, then at least, spoken out loud. This obviously will conflict with good speed-reading method, which forbids vocalization. Religious writings and scripture were originally written to be recited and listened to by an audience which was likely to be intelligent, but illiterate. The "fun" of poetry, plays, or prayer is not really experienced if you "speed read" the text.

Measuring a reading rate. How quickly one can read is calculated by dividing the number of words read by the number of minutes it takes to read the words. Reading rates most commonly are expressed in units of words per minute.

Everybody has thinking skills, but few use them effectively. Effective thinking skills cannot be studied, but must be built up over a period of time. Good thinkers see possibilities where others see only dead-ends. If you're not a good thinker, start now by developing habits that make you ask yourself questions as you read. Talk to other students who you feel are good thinkers. Ask them what they do when they think critically or creatively. Often times, you can pick up valuable insights to help you become a better thinker.



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