Speed Reading

 by Waller Jamison

One of the biggest problems facing students these days is time. So learning to speed read should be top of your "skills to acquire" list. Speed reading will enable you to get through your assignments much more quickly and it's a skill which will be invaluable long after your studies are completed. 

Whatever career you enter, there is a high chance that you'll find yourself bombarded with information and so learning to speed read now, will help your throughout your life. There are a few techniques you can learn which will help you knock a few minutes off your reading speed and help you become more selective in deciding what you need to read.

You'll find some of these below, but if you're in a hurry, here's a very clever technique which will double your reading speed in only 16 minutes. You can continue using it to reach higher speeds, but it will give you immediate results without hours of practice 

 So, what exactly is speed reading and how can you learn it? There are a number of courses available and they concentrate on different technques, but there are a few basic speedreading skills which will enable you to get started straight away. The first skill you need to master is deciding which books and articles you should be focusing on. It's easy to waste too much time in the library browsing through books and articles which aren't appropriate for your assignment.

So, your speedreading starts as soon as you begin researching your project. The first thing you need to do, is to be decide why you are reading. Obviously, you are reading in order to write an assignment, but what is the main question you are answering?

The general topic will be broad and so you could plough through a lot of written material and have nothing relevant to show for it. So define your focus and come up with your title. then you need to find out which books are most appropriate. For this, you will need to learn skimming and scanning.

Speed Reading Techniques

Skimming simply means looking at the book or article to decide if it is relevant. So you are looking for chapter titles, looking through the relevant chapters for subheadings, text under diagrams and graphs to see if it all relates to your topic. Skimming involves searching for general information to give you an overview of the content of the reading material.

Scanning is similar but more specific, you are looking for more exact information, often in the form of keywords, for example, skimming this website would show you that it is about changing careers, including becoming self-employed, while scanning would reveal that there is specific information on setting up an internet business.


Once you've found the books you need, you can do some more skimming and scanning to work out which chapters or paragraphs you need to study in depth. Before you start to read those sections, take a look at the speedreading techniques below.

Now that you know which chapters you need to focus on, you can work on several new speedreading techniques which will help you to cover the information more quickly. Practise looking at larger blocks of words.

So if you normally read each word before looking at the next, try looking at 3 words at a time and when you can do that comfortably, look at 5 or 6 at a time. If you jump back to read bits of text again, using a pen to follow the words you are reading can help reduce this tendency. Use a postcard or something similar to cover the line you have just read and slide this down the page as you go, to prevent re-reading.

Read the first paragraph of any chapter more carefully than the rest and if there is a summary, pay attention to that. If you have to read a long piece of text, concentrate on the opening and closing lines of each paragraph, as they tend to contain the most important information. If the book belongs to you, highlight important sections and make notes as you go. Keep the question you are answering in front of you as you read and look at it from time to time to make sure you are staying on focus.

Mastering speed reading is not difficult and you'll find the little bit of time you invest in learning, will be rewarded with better results from your studying efforts.

Once you have finished your background reading and note taking, you're ready to start writing your essay.