Out with Old in with the New – Speed Reading

December 11, 2011 Category: College Tips

You have made that all important first step, furthering your education.  You have opened doors to your future that before you decided to go to college were pretty much closed to you.

Change in Study Habits

Attending college can be a shock to your learned study habits because the way things were done in high school can be very different from the way things are done in college.  One of the most important study habits you may want to re-evaluate and improve on is one that we all, students and non-students alike, may take for granted.  It is the way we digest volumes of information from newspapers, emails, textbooks, reports and much more.  I am talking about reading.

Speed Reading

Reading is a skill that we do not think much about because it is so automatic for most.  Reading is time that pretty much consumes our daily lives and much more so as a college student.  Think of all those hours of reading textbooks, notes or novels (depending on the classes you are taking) that you will be undergoing and the reading outside of classwork that takes place.  Isn’t reading a skill that we should consider improving?

Many might think reading is a static process, one that cannot be changed.  This is not the case, no matter our age or current reading level; we can learn new techniques for reading.  Becoming a “better” reader involves getting faster and more efficient, while still understanding what you are reading, in short becoming a speed reader.  A good starting point for doing this is to unlearn poor reading habits.

Get Rid of Poor Reading Habits

As children we are taught to read word by word.  Concentrating on separate words often leads to missing the concept of what is being said.  Our brains tend to comprehend ideas better when it takes in groups of words at one.  A good way to practice this is to expand the number of words you read at a time.  If you hold the text you are reading a little further from your eyes, you might find that you can increase the number of words you read.  You will be able to read faster by chunking words together in blocks.

Many of us also have the habit of pronouncing each word as we read it.  This is called sub-vocalizing or hearing the word spoken in your mind.  This takes more time than is actually necessary since you can comprehend words quicker than you can say them.  You first have to acknowledge that you are doing this and then practice reading with that inner voice “turned off.”  You will have to keep practicing this a lot before you get rid of that old habit of sub-vocalization.  Also by reading chunks of words will help since you cannot say a block of words.  This alone will improve your reading speed by a great amount.

At times we tend to re-read a lot of material, skipping back to words that we just read sometimes a few sentences. This practice makes you lose the flow and structure of the text and can decrease your understanding.  Be conscious of this regression and do not let yourself re-read material.  To help you can run a pointer (finger, bookmark, pen, pencil . . .) along the line you are reading as you read.  Your eyes will follow the tip of the pointer helping the flow of your reading.  The faster you move the pointer, the faster your reading speed.

Another poor habit many of us have is a lack of concentration.  There are so many distractions in the world, try to find an environment where external distractions will be at a minimum.  While reading, try not to multi-task.  Speed reading techniques take concentration, so even internal distractions can be detrimental to the task at hand; it will limit your ability to process the information you are reading.

Speed reading takes a lot of practice and learning of various techniques.  It is a skill that can be learned by first breaking those poor reading habits that you have developed.  It is not just about reading faster but to become a more efficient reader.

There are many good sources that teach you more techniques in speed reading, it is a matter of doing a quick internet search.  Here are a couple of sites to look at.  http://www.acereader.com/ and http://www.spreeder.com/.  Good luck in your speed reading endeavors!


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