Save Time: Speed Read

In Babbages on October 22, 2011 by Haley Byun

How much do we read in our daily lives?  Books, e-mails, articles, textbooks, test questions, etc.  Every week, I am required to read one chapter of my textbook for Psychology 1101.  Each chapter consists of approximately forty to fifty pages and takes me two hours to read and comprehend.  An average reader reads at 125 – 250 wpm (words per minute) with 60% comprehension.  How useful would  it be to read at 500 – 1000 wpm.  You can check your own reading speed through various online speed reading tests.  I used two websites:

  1. – 355 wpm
  2. – 265 wpm with 100% comprehension

Of course, the speed varies by passage.  The significantly lower reading speed of the second test is due to the instructions: “Don’t speed but read normally to find your present reading level.”  The instructions led me to read at a slower pace.

Slightly above the average reader, I still want to increase my reading speed to the 500 – 1000 wpm range.  Although this requires much dedication and practice, why not start it off as a homework assignment?  WikiHow provides the following tips:

  1. Have your eyes checked
  2. Get rid of distractions
  3. Train yourself not to reread
  4. Use your hand/finger to guide your reading
  5. Stop reading to yourself (quit subvocalization)
  6. Practice reading blocks of words
  7. Practice

I had my eyes checked in August, so I continued down the list and completed practice activities.  Activities included learning to read blocks of words and quieting the inner voice when reading.  One type of activity (stop reading to yourself) is shown in this video:  I practiced the skill with different texts online and discovered that stopping subvocalization was fairly simple.  However, grouping blocks of words together proved to be more difficult.  The goal of grouping words is to process the group of words without having to focus on each individual word.

Text grouping (Source: WikiHow)

This is done by the adoption of different eye movement patterns.  There are three different eye movement patterns:

The three different eye movement patterns. (Source:

The first pattern looks at each word one at a time. The second pattern still looks at every word, but in groups.  The third pattern processes only the key words by scanning vertically and horizontally at the same time.  By learning to group words, an individual can increase their reading speed.

If you want to learn more about speed reading, the following blog post provides a thorough alternative explanation of how to get started.

With a lot of practice, I am sure I can improve my reading speed, and you can too.


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