Wikipedia defines “speed reading” as a collection of reading methods which attempt to increase rates of reading without greatly reducing comprehension or retention.” They go on, however, to say it is “characterized by an analysis of trade-offs between measures of speed and comprehension.” Is speed reading a trade-off? Does it reduce the “value” of the subject matter into increments of time?  It doesn’t have to be.

College students have hundreds of pages to get through before each class. In order to get through all these pages, and complete their assignments, they need to know how to read quickly without losing the substance of the material.

There are different methods to speed reading, and circumstances may dictate which method would be best in getting through the material. Not everyone is able to speed read, but there are methods that can be learned in order to read more efficiently.

Each of these speed reading procedures has their benefits, and their drawbacks. Everyone uses each of them in some form or another in their daily reading life. The only difference is that we don’t realize we are doing a form of speed reading.

The usual methods are:

  • §  Basic Speed Reading – Get comfortable, keeping all distractions away so you can totally concentrate on the subject matter
  • §  Skimming – Visually searching the sentences of a page for clues to meaning, or skipping parts that may seem to be uninteresting or relevant. This may be easier for some than others. Results may be lower reading comprehension, especially in more technical text or material that is full of a lot of facts.
  • §  Meta Guiding – The utilizing of a guide – either a finger, pencil or pointer, to allow the eyes to move faster across the page. This encourages the eye to pass over a lot of text, much like skimming, which may lead to losing important content, and reducing comprehension and memory. In order for this method to be effective each word must be viewed, even if only briefly.
  • §  Reading Dynamics – Centers on moving your hands across the page to maintain eye focus on the words. It encourages focusing on the word, without vocalizing (which cuts down on time).  This speed reading method was popularized by Evelyn Wood, and endorsed by many famous people who had to remember mountains of information – like President John F. Kennedy.

There are commercial methods, sold by independent organizations or individuals that claim their product is the best, and guarantee you will be able to read faster, and remember more, if you utilize their methods. Many of these enterprises discourage “sub-vocalization” – where you don’t actually read the words aloud, but imagine the word in your head. They say the time it takes to see the word and define it in your brain takes away from the speed.

Proponents for sub-vocalization believe this action allows the brain to understand the word without the extra effort the body takes to speak aloud. In visualizing the word you are better able to understand and remember the word. Overall it is believed that Sub-vocalization does not necessarily improve reading speed, but it does help in memorizing and comprehension.

Just as there are different methods to speed read, there are different schools of thought on what is most important when you read – speed or comprehension. Some say comprehension will come with increased speed. Others say comprehension is the most important factor in reading. Fact is, speed reading does absolutely no good if you don’t remember the material.

Overall, learning to speed read is an individual thing. What works for one may not work for someone else. There are a lot of available programs to help you in your quest for speed – either online, through computer software, at the library, or through a speed reading course. The best way to learn how to speed read is to practice and study the different methods available until you find a way to read quicker, at a level you feel comfortable with, and that you can comprehend the material.


Wikipedia –