"I Was Wrong About Speed Reading"

I’m not sure if this article has been mentioned already, but I thought people here might want to comment on it.

I Was Wrong About Speed Reading: Here are the Facts

Seven years ago, I read some books and articles on speed reading and started practicing some of the methods. I found I was able to increase my reading speed from 450 word per minute to 900 in the drills, so I published an article entitled, Double Your Reading Rate, which has since become one of the most popular on this website.

When I wrote the piece, I based the article purely on my personal experience along with the how-to books I had read. I didn’t have any solid scientific research to back my experiments.

Since that time, I’ve had some lingering doubts about speed reading. In addition to seeing some flickers of research that made me suspicious about speed reading programs, I had mostly stopped using the techniques I originally advocated. My reading diet had switched from lighter self-help, to denser and more academic writing. That meant comprehension, not speed, was the bottleneck I was trying to improve.

Full article: I Was Wrong About Speed Reading: Here are the Facts


1970, while still in school, the topic of speed reading was introduced. The instructor used something similar to a slide-projector except the light shined through a lens allowing only one line of text or one word of text to be seen at a time. The lens could also be uncovered to reveal the entire page of text. During tests and practice in class, the visible words scanned onto the projection screen at a clocked-rate of speed. Our class was tested to learn the amount of time each of us spent reading at “a comfortable speed” as our starting reading speed. I literally enjoy seeing the words and knowing how some words sound differently from their spelling and envisioning mental images of some of the nouns. My “comfortable” speed for pleasurable reading was about 280 words per minute with 100% comprehension per the quiz answers. My “when I’m studying” speed was a little faster, with 90% or better comprehension. My fastest speed “reading for only speed” was tested at 1600 words per minute and 75% or not over 80% comprehension. By the end of the studies, my “reading for schoolwork” speed went up with comprehension between 85% and 90%. My top speed at 80% comprehension stayed at 1600 words per minute. The instructor was disappointed that my “reading for pleasure” speed didn’t increase. He did not understand my explanation that I enjoyed that 280 or 285 words speed. I did not understand why he said, “but mentally-retarded people read at that speed!”

I can read fast when I need to speed through unimportant writing; I slow to a pleasurable speed for comprehension.

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Interesting. I agree completely with it is impossible to speed read and comprehend, unless you are a rare case in the level of Rain man, whom was able to remember but allegedly couldn’t have a conversation about the topic itself.

However, using your finger and absolute focus can be help you go faster. In regards of sub-vocalization, research should be done, because when we picture we don’t say words, when we think however in what to say we sub-vocalize but sometimes we speak ways faster that we don’t even think in our minds yet we are able to express ourselves clearly and logically, so, can we do it on reverse? If sometimes we talk so fast we don’t hear ourselves in our minds, then would it happen with acquiring information?

Just two days ago I started reading the Art of War of Sun Tzu, I wanted to read it in one day, I did not. I got tired. I used my finger, sometimes I slowed down unintentionally but other times I did it on purpose to visualize or to make sense of certain ideas. In my experience reading this non fiction which includes commentaries with storytelling writing style whereas Sun Tzu’s voice is in commanding writing style while “speed reading” and trying to avoid sub-vocalization, the commands of Sun Tzu were easier to comprehend, but the must memorable were the storytelling and where I stopped. Basically I read seeking for the ideas.

In conclusion I prefer to sub-vocalize the faster I can and use my hand to guide me for brief instances until entering in a flow state in which the ideas are followed in my head at the same speed my eyes move through the letters.


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