Does Speed-reading Work?


I love the name ‘Zaphod’. One of my daughters is called Zaphod. Must disagree while agreeing.

I did the E-W system back in the 70s. It worked great, right from the first class onward. This was the group known as junior- or Rapid Reading. This used Wide Underlining of the text on the page. You build up speed over time until you read as fast as you could wipe along the lines. During several early classes the other guys looked up at me and each other in amazement at how fast we were reading. I got up towards 1,000 wpm after that course. Now I know that several things were going on which were only clear later.

All we were reading was fiction. A legitimate place to be. Myself, I then read (not popular but real ) science books and slogged through them while my sister tore through romance novels one a day. I figured “She reads faster than me”. At the classes they would tell us “You can’t speed read maximum responsibility material.” This is both true and covered their backsides.

At that time I had no understanding of the difference between light fiction, popular science, non-fiction vs math books, my current area for 30 years. It was pointed out well in an amazon review of (I think Rudin’s) analysis book that if you cover more than a page a day your not really reading it. This is absolutely true. But even so I sped read my differential equations book and loved the course. The course worked great for high school since even the most serious books were school books of regrettable value.

Zaphod is right about the finiteness, I’ll say ‘Limit’ of speed reading. But others are also right that the practice can improve your reading greatly. I might ask ask Zaphod if he ever expects to read a page of math proofs once and never again since he takes his time with it. I believe the answer would be, no. You come back to these and any other tough subject over and over again. But text in a novel or magazine is easy to speed read. You get to see everything they say, not just scans of it, but every actual word and description in detail you will remember. In books I really enjoyed I would put them down and wait till I had time to read them slowly - and enjoy them- rather than finish them in one gulp.

I met Mr. Buzan and thought he gave a great presentation. But he is, as they all are, selling something. His packaging might look new to the uninitiated but I’ve found it all explored elsewhere. I did like his list of mnemonics for numbers to 1000.

Speed reading will work as well as you work it. It depends on what you read and what you need to get out of it. Books on Math or science if it is worthwhile will take some time. Other stuff less so. I remember being happiest at between 600 to 700 wpm. It seemed utterly stress free but speedy. But you could not do that without continued practice. Is that a sacrifice??

Later I tried going back for a refresher in EW, a perk of the membership. All they were teaching then ( I was at college now) was reading a whole half a page at a time. I just could not catch on. Felt I had missed a class or five. I still use the wide underlining method when I start reading a textbook then slow down when I feel like it.

If you are a great snob about reading books then don’t waste your time reading books. Go watch a movie or talk on the phone.

If you ping me privately I can go into detail on the speeding up routine we used to do, which still works!



Hi Plunger,

What I tried to say is that it all depends on what you are reading.

Speed-reading poetry does not make much more sense than speed-reading philosophy.

For me, speed-reading is wonderful for lower contents texts, like e-mails for instance, where it is possible to scan through a paragraph by only reading key words.

In such low-contents written material, the key to speed-reading is to accept to not read all words of a line or lines of a paragraph.

Surprisingly enough, your mind is very capable of reconstructing what you didn’t read, exactly like Kanisza triangles ( )

I sometimes speed-read whole books by going through them several pages at a time. Often, you get the gist of what is happening in a chapter by scanning through a few pages only. Typically, one can reconnect things together quite well, and deduce enough to reconstitute what has happened in the pages that were skipped.

I practised this for many years by reading over somebody else’s shoulder in the underground, for instance, when you only have access to even pages if you’re sitting to the right of a reader… And then, because you are farther away than is comfortable, you need to speed-read to have finished the page before the reader (who reads in much better angle and distance conditions) finishes the page, and do so while being bothered by a thumb that is holding the book…

Very good training for speed-reading.

But of course, it only works for novels or similar low contents books, but then, why would one waste precious time reading books that are void from contents ?

I clearly remember that when the book “The City of Joy” ( ) came out in the eighties. Many people read it in the underground, so when I peeped over people’s shoulders, I always read a different part of the book, but was able to reconnect the different pieces of the jig-saw puzzle.

Now, this has become a habit, and my wife is always puzzled when she sees me take a book (typically one of the novels she is reading) and go through it by speed reading random pages. In fact, this is now how I enjoy reading novels. I like reading random pages and mentally reconstructing the plot.



Earlier in this thread I posted a mostly positive message about speed reading, having just finished a book on the Evelyn Wood technique that I thought was good.

Since then I’ve done some research. What I found was intriguing, so I updated and expanded my post. I decided not to put the result here because it’s way too long for a forum post, but if you’re interested you can read it on my blog.

In a nutshell: What the Ph.D.s are saying doesn’t jive with what the speed reading programs are saying.

Normally I would side with the Ph.D.s…

But it seems like not all of the speed reading programs can be scams. There is a large amount of anecdotal evidence suggesting that speed reading while maintaining good comprehension is possible.

And the scientific studies – at least the ones I’ve been able to read – are not conclusive. In fact, there don’t seem to be many recent studies of the relationship between reading speed and comprehension.

So I thought, Hey wait a second. There’s a group of people over at interested in this very topic. And they seem like particularly intelligent, curious, friendly victims folks. What is stopping us from doing a bit of science ourselves? Nothing!

I’ve put together a speed reading test. I’d be very interested to get a few people to take the test.

Would you be willing to act as guinea pig for a bit of homespun scientific research?

See the PDF attached to this post. Follow the instructions. When you’re done, post all of your results from the last page on this thread.

I’m going to spring the test on a slew of my poor innocent unsuspecting family members, and I’ll share their results here.

Thanks :slight_smile:



I read several speed reading book from Buzan to Scheele and try some cumputer program to improve like “Reading Trainer” for iphone/ipad …

I understand this:

  1. I read too fast the first time and I need to slow to remember better if I read just one time!
  2. I can read a second time ( and more) very faster to remember …
  3. I shall scan all the book to eliminate (negate garbage information) useless information ( like we do with the information in our sense).

In other worlds if I read fast several time I remember better than slow one time.


(Timothée Behra) #25

2 years ago I’ve tried a speed reading method for 2 months (“Breakthrough speed reading”) and didn’t see real improvements. Derren Brown (UK magician, he has been very interested in self development, his book “Tricks of the mind” is a must have) enrolled in a speed reading symposium/class/whatever, and concluded : “It’s just learning to skim”. And skimming is a very valuable ability indeed, but it’s not “reading more”, it is “getting more information in the same time”.

If you don’t consciously read words, it’s just false that you have read them, and there is no reasonable reason why information should pass. Inconscious perception (subliminal priming, for example) does affect the brain… for 200 milliseconds. After 200 ms, there is no way a subconsciously read word can affect you.


With respect to Tukulti; You have the needed insight but if your typing is anything like your reading then you would benefit from an effort to improve your vocabulary. The easiest way to do this of course is to read a wider variety of sources. If English is your second language then you have it all over me since I’m not good at any other. No speed reading I’ve heard of involves crossing out “garbage” reading. Scanning is only a method of the briefest review.

As for Timothee ; I can’t be sure you are still quoting from Derrik Brown in your second paragraph. (Inconscious,?) The claims about the number of milliseconds needed for “subliminal” anything sound like familiar bunk. (I’m quite sure I can read/remember a word in under 200 ms: that is 0.2 seconds. Depends on the word but there’s lots of them.) Like ALL the things in magic, none of it is really magic. It can seem that it must be when seeing the results of years of practice of a particular method. There is no Best method for one and all, just one’s that work for most. This is what we get in school.

I’m sure you would have a different experience in speed reading if you had a go at it yourself. If this thread, or site, has any weight it is in the Try It Yourself department. Otherwise we are just saying “My expert can beat up your expert.” I, for one, am tired of a mailbox full of responses all of the “Oh Yeah?!” variety. With respect to all of them, “Yeah!”


(Timothée Behra) #27

Subliminal presentation is, if I remember well, under 30 ms (and after you need a mask). But my point was not about reading time, it was that a subliminaly presented word can influence your decisions in the next 200 milliseconds or so (and influence decision = you reply faster to certain tasks). What I wanted to say is that if you don’t consciously read, it’s the same as if you don’t read at all.
I cite Derren Brown because this guy tested so much things, shares his experiences, made me discover mnemonics, and is kind of a genius, he revolutionised mentalism. And his shows are freaking good.

And I had a go at speed reading : for me, it was a waste of time.


great discussion! i always wanted to do a speed reading program when i was a kid but never had the chance. i have always had a reading problem and i used to be an avid reader as a kid not so much now only if the book interests me. i always had a hard time reading and comprehending what i read got alright scores on homework/test.

i get bored reading the entire sentence or textbook yea i know sounds weird. someone told me (i know this person) that in george washington’s time, everybody read at a masters level which i was shocked! so, if they wanted to fight about something, they knew exactly what they were talking about and can back up their facts. you know, reading would be more fun if you were shown that it is fun and exciting. it always took me forever to finish reading a book because i always put it off…

english is my first language and still have issues with it! i took many different english classes and it did improve somewhat in college but i was still making C’s i finally got a B in eng102. i always wanted to be a fast reader but when i was timed on something i was reading, it was too late and my scores were low then got yelled at by teachers. if anyone has info or any more tips let me on reading better

(Josh Cohen) #29

For improving reading, the best activity is probably reading as much as possible. The quality of the reading experience is probably more important than quantity.

Maybe try memorizing poetry. I’ve found that I understand English much better after reciting poems in my head almost every day for a couple of years. Also, I can understand archaic forms of English better after memorizing some poems by older writers like Shakespeare, Milton, and Chapman.

Sonnets are a good place to start, because they aren’t very long.


Thanks Plungerman :slight_smile:

I think there is difference in speed reading from first language and second language and also there is a difference from reading to writing to speaking.

I am Italian and usually read and listen well in English but I am really bad in writing (more with a iPad) and speak, no read exercise improve my writing or speaking, I improve just my reading !

I need to exercise in writing and speaking to improve them !

As you know the “first language” is coded in the operational memory in the first years of life and is a really unconscious process running really fast and doesn’t need many cognitive resource.

Second language instead need many conscious cognitive resource slowing the language process !

So I reformulate the question “Does Speed-reading Work” for First, Second, Writing, Speaking ?

I found useful three fast or more reading (repetita juvant - repeating does good) than a one slow read in my first language:

  1. the first read is very fast for the index for understand the framework of the book, and find what garbage to negate.
  2. the second read is for the core of the book to understand.
  3. the subsequent reading is to remember better the words to avoid the Tip of the tongue phenomenon.

Here some useful links to Neurolinguistic
Neurolinguistics of Bilingualism

Neurolinguistic and follow-up study of an unusual pattern of recovery from bilingual subcortical aphasia


Speed Reading Powerful Discovery. OMG I can’t believe it.

Hi everyone, I’ve never taken speed-reading seriously, I was more into Paul Scheeles’ photoreading whole mind system thing. I didn’t achieve the photoreading he promised, but I haven’t given up.

I came across a guy called Howard Berg who’s the worlds fastest reader. I was impressed and my dream is to beat him. Even if I don’t set a new record but I MUST achieve flipping a page in 1 or 2 seconds with at least 95% understanding.

Have you ever played the guitar? Do you sing in your shower? Or in your cousin’s car?

If you are a beginner guitar learner, do you think you can play the guitar perfectly and sing along on your first day or week of playing the guitar? If YES, then I want you to adopt me because you’re a genius. If NO, then you’re like everybody else.

Even the best guitar player cannot sing along a song he he’s not familiar with, but can play along . If you want to sing and play the guitar at the same time, then you need to MASTER how to play the guitar on it’s own and also MASTER how to sing that particular song on it’s own. Now, join both playing and singing and you’ll get Jimi Hendrix. Only singing, you’ll get Rihanna. and only guitars you’ll get David Taub. a guitar teacher.

Do you want to sing good? Or do you want to sing good and play good at the same time?
Do you want to read fast? Or do you want to read fast and understand well at the same time?

You see while people don’t succeed with speed reading. They want to do two different things they haven’t mastered at the same time, which is read-fast and understand well.

No musician can do that, and no ordinary reader can do that either, unless, you’re ‘sent from heaven’ like Keyshia Cole.

Don’t give up, here is the good news:

The things you need are:
– Your finger/pointer/pen.
– A metronome. (I use a ticking wall clock in my room. I don’t even need to touch it because it’s always on)
– Your brain
– A book (fictional or Non fictional)
– A timer. It can be your phone or your metronome.



– Never try to look back because you mistakenly skipped a line or you saw something funny and interesting above the line you’re on. You shouldn’t look back because the aim of this exercise is NEVER to COMPREHEND anything, but familiarize yourself with the process.

– Blur your eyes. This is a good trick to use. It reduces sub-vocalization to 5% for me, because my chatterbox and conscious mind couldn’t see the words properly, but my peripheral vision and subconcious mind does, which is more important. I’ve used EyeQ program which has helped me in expanding my peripheral vision. I can blur my eye anyhow and at any amount of minutes I want.
–Your blurred eyes should subtly follow the movement of your finger/pointer moving through every line.
– Never leave your hand/pointer, else you’ll lose contro. If you’re feeling like a prop, then you can remove your hand.

Don’t worry about new or difficult words you come across. Just ignore them, when you gain some speed, then you begin to put those new words into consideration. If you have a recorder or a computer software (like Audacity) that can record for an hour and you’re at home, then switch it on throughout the session. When you come across a new word you should either pronounce it fast or divide it into two and spell it fast while your hand is still moving to the the ticking clock/metronome.

— Just keep going, no turning back, never stop*(but only when turning a page) and no thinking, but don’t be overwhelmed, it’ll soon become second nature. THIS IS A MILITARY TRAINING. If you don’t see it as a military training, then I doubt you’ll make it through.

Become numb during the process. Do it nonchalantly but with precision and a military minded mind. This will trick your mind to relax and enjoy the flow of words.

Just image, we only have only 26 letters word and 0-9 digits in English, yet these authors are making our lives miserable by rearranging the letters and digits to exploit us. It’s sad, but true. -:slight_smile: All we have to do is master the puzzle and give them a run for their money.

Master the 26 letters and 0-9 digits in different forms, sounds and shapes, and you’ll be ahead of the pop club.

Summary and ad-lib:
Remember our number 1 priority of this exercise is to see every word on a line fast in 1 second with a blurred eye that oversees the entire section or page, but never pay attention to comprehending it. If you find yourself trying to understand a line or a page, then you should start over or never do it again.

For beginners only do a line per tick of the clock. Make sure your clock/metronome is sounding out loud - you won’t complain that you aren’t understanding, will you? I guess not.
Do a line per second for a week, then upgrade to 2 lines for the next week, 4 lines the third week and 10 lines for the last week of this exercise.

If you’re a student or an avid reader you’ll probably violate this exercise because you’ll want to read and understand to pass your exams or to enjoy it, which will take you back to reading word for word and you’ll complain that speed reading either doesn’t work or it reduces comprehension.

As long as you blur your eyes you’ll see the entire page or at least half of the page.

You can incorporate page numbers if you feel comfortable, as in using your number system.

Mine is musician based, because I’m one of them.
Lets go.

Page1: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by T.I. the American rapper because he’s my #1

Page2: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by Ne-Yo the American singer because he’s my #2

Page3: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by M.I the Nigerian rapper because he’s my #3

Page4: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by Riya the Japanese singer because she’s my #4

Page5: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by Lia the Japanese singer because she’s my #5

Page6: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by Joe the American singer because he’s my #6

Page7: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by Kay the Canadian singer because she’s my #7

Page8: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by Faye the Swedish singer because she’s my #8

Page9: I’m reading it but I pretend it’s been read by BoA the S.Korean singer because she’s my #9

And do so…
So, if I want to recall things on page 1 I’ll ask myself what was T.I. doing? Then it’ll trigger all the things I read on his behalf.

My 00-99 number system uses only an [æ] sound in the middle and they always begin with my second choice consonant because my 3, 4 and 5 digits systems use the first choice consonants.

Using the same sound helps me stay organized and it takes me less than a second to recall them. It’s just like someone saying the name OBAMA and the image appears before finishing the pronuncitiaton of the name/number.

From (0-9) and it’s corresponding first choice and second choice.
First choice: [s,t,n,m,r,l,j,k,f,b]
Sec. choice: [z,d,h,w,y,g,sh,q,v,p]
Both choices end with: [z,d,n,m,r,l,sh,k,f,p]
So, 15 will be Dal Not Tal, because Tal = 195 while Dal 15.


                                       <strong>DICTIONARIES THAT WILL HELP</strong>

Remember, the more VOCABULARY you have in your arsenal the faster you’ll master speed reading and that’s why I have my sound dictionary where every word belongs to a group, and every group of words-by-sound has a leader and those leaders are the trigger words for any word of the group members.

So, you don’t need to remember every word in the dictionary but their leaders.
Example: Bag is the leader of all words that begin with the sound [bæg] ‘bag’ despite the spelling and is the leader of the following words: bagger, baggy, baggage, bagdad etc, but not bagle.

Get an image of a HUMAN BEING called Bag NOT an object. If you have an object it should be a supporting image, not the main leader. A human should be the leader. Just a single name. Bag as a name sounds funny, but check on twitter and you’ll get the names and images. Use the aliase not their main name.
Example: Lets say Jack Mabag uses @Bag_572 as his alias, then you don’t need to remember his full name or the digits on his name but the BAG on his name, which becomes the only name for him. You can remember any one, but the smaller the better.

A MUST have dictionary is ‘TheSages Dictionary and Thesauraus’ (it’s free) and it’ll enable you to search anything by sounds either by perfect rhymes, intial vowel rhymes, initial consonant rhymes, initial vowel cluster rhymes, middle vowel rhymes, middle consonant cluster rhymes, last vowel rhymes, last vowel cluster rhymes, last consonant rhymes, last consonant cluster rhymes and so on.

And you should also download PhoTransEdit (it’s free) and it’s job is to transcribe millions of words fast. And you can also search for rhymes, alliterations and assonances. It doesn’t have definitions for them like TheSages Dictionary.

Drop your comments.


Hi Iam,

Welcome to the forum.

First, since you posted this exact text over 10 times or so, I thought you were a spammer.
I was about to delete some posts of yours when I saw that in other threads you actually tried to add value.
Don’t do that again, please. No need to post the same text over and over again.

I can vouch for this technique btw.
I use it in a similar, but different way, which I described here:


I want some of what Iam is taking.

That’s some kinda coffee.

Best reading posture is looking down at a book propped up on a desk. Not looking straight down at a flat book on the desk. You should not be reclining (gets you sleepy, I’m sleepy already).


edit by Kinma: deleted double post.


Sorry for the rampant post. I was just looking for where more people will read it. I won’t do it again.


The goal of speed reading is to increase the amount of text that can be read and understood in a given period of time. I have never heard of a person reading for comprehension regularly. Most people don’t actively read for comprehension…ever. If you read all of the posts in this thread down to this one, how many of those posts would you be able to tell me about right now? If I asked you to recite the details, you wouldn’t stand a chance. If I asked you to just give me the gist of each post…you still wouldn’t stand a chance. But I think if you began each post with a priming “what might I expect from this next post?” and ended each post with a reflective “what was I just told?” then your answers would be very different. Surely you wouldn’t say that the paucity of details you could recite from this thread is the result of you reading too fast for a high level of comprehension. If you actually read each post, not skimming or skipping, then you probably did so with the intention of considering what was being said, and you probably did not ever say “I have to slow down. I just can’t absorb information at this speed…” But I hope you would also agree that even at the same speed that you read, your retention could have been much higher (no mnemonics - that’s cheating!) and this could have been achieved merely by noting your intention to remember what was being said, and very quickly recapitulating the main point of each small section. A person who did this regularly would surely develop the habit, and get better at priming themselves for retention of read information. More information could be retained from information read over the same period of time using this just-made-up technique or some similar one.

Is that not speed reading?


You seem to have everything but a point. Yes, reading with a purpose in mind improves what you can get and retain. But that is true of any activity. People do intend to comprehend and retain when they read or they would be watching television.

Any ideas you can spill out in a single paragraph are going to read like a stream of consciousness but the point here is to form and express an opinion about the topic. Take an idea, yours or anyone’s, and tell us what you think of it. Stay on point and tell us where it gets you but we need to get somewhere. Get some sleep and some protein.



This is a really useful discussion on speed reading. I was just reading Buzan’s Use Your Mind book. I am wondering if his speed reading can work effectively without decreasing comprehension.

I know what Josh Cohen says here:

What I would love to hear from others is to do with reading novels. Can you really read a long novel such as ‘War And Peace’ and genuinely appreciate its aesthetics virtues? I’m going to apply Buzan’s strategies to works of fiction. I’ll try and come back here in two or three months’ time to report my adventures! In the mean time, it would be lovely to hear from other lovers of novels. Have you ever tried to read a Pulitzer or Man Booker Prize winning novel within two or three hours?

Best wishes :slight_smile:


For those who are interested in Speed-reading competitions, there is a speed-reading contest about to be included in Memoriad 2016, next year in Las Vegas, USA. Rules:

The contest prizes are on the scale of a few thousand dollars. So, I invite any person (Mr. Howard Berg or anyone) that strives to be the champion speedreader, to compete in that contest. We will then see, who is the best unofficial speed-reader in the world. I plan to compete in that contest (hopefully). And I say unofficial, because unfortunately other famous speed-readers of the past, like Kim Peek (Rainman), are now deceased. Also, unofficial, because the text will probably only offered in English, whereas other very fast speed-reading people like Ramon Campayo would definitely prefer this contest in Spanish. Plus, I am sure that there also many Indians, Japanese, Chinese could definitely speed-read extremely fast in their native languages. So, this contest will probably seek the fastest speed-reader of the English language.

Anyway, my predictions for this contest:
There have been many extraordinary claims in the last decades, about the true human limit of speed-reading (25K or 50K words-per-minute(WPM), occasionally mentioned in some books or by some website test takers), Therefore, we will finally see in Memoriad-2016, a reliable, true and quantitive measurement of the best human’s real comprehensive speedreading speed. This will be done from an international independent authority/corporation, like Memoriad under the auspices of Scott Flansburg. Because of the prizes involved, the motivation will be huge, so the result will be a close real estimation of the ability of the best human speed-reader in the world. I estimate this real limit to be around 4K words per minute, because points are deducted and correlated to the true comprehension and not merely indicate skim-reading or other ‘photograph-memory’ claims.

But of course, the upper speed is always dependent on the difficulty of the given text. If it’s about some heavy technical material like Integral and Vector Calculus, the upper speedreading limit may be just barely 2K WPM. In contrast, during some easy romantic novel reading, this limit could be well over 10K+ WPM.

Regarding speedreading in the English language, I disagree with it having to be done in your native language (as Kinma said). If you are at C2 level in some language, combined with a vast vocabulary, then imho, there’s is no problem to speedread in other foreign languages as well.

Regards and finally, thanks for all the hyperlinks and for the nice discussion


I do think speed reading is fun to do, and it can be useful dependant of your expectations. I don’t expect to comprehend everything when speedreading, but instead I want to know what the text is about, very similar to skimming. An easy to read novel goes with about 1500-2000wpm for me on a good day, and I comprehend enough to understand the main story line, the characters, etc. I won’t be able to tell you the color of the curtains of the bedroom, but I will be able to tell you one of the main characters was shot there.

Harder to read books go slower, sometimes down to 100wpm. I did use a lot of speed reading in college, where I went through the books with 2-3 times the speed of others, while getting a main idea of the content. I then grabbed my notebook and read the book again, but slower, and I made notes during that, linking the details with the things I picked up during speedreading. Studying went very easy.

(Josh Cohen) #40

I saw this online today, but I’m not convinced that this kind of speed (with recall) is possible.