How to Practice Speed Reading Techniques

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Many good reasons exist for mastering speed reading, which trains your mind to process information more quickly and efficiently than you're accustomed to doing. Increasing your overall reading rate is only half the battle, though. Getting the most out of speed reading also requires learning specific techniques to coordinate your eyes and brain. Which methods you use depends on how well you read now, and what you expect to gain from undertaking the process.

1 Avoid Harmful Distractions

Reading faster is about maximizing concentration, so choose an environment that supports both those goals. Keep the designated area free of noisy electronic devices like TV sets or video games that break concentration and slow reading speeds, which makes it hard to process the material you're reading. If the area functions as a study space, only store relevant materials there. Getting into these habits now will make it easier to practice speed reading techniques.

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2 Eliminate Regression

Avoid regression, or constantly rereading the same passages. Instead, Glendale Community College reading instructor Dennis Doyle recommends spending 30 to 60 seconds on previewing the material. First, read the first and last paragraphs in a section. Then skim chapter titles, graphics and headings to assess the author's main idea. Finally, read the entire passage. Alternatively, try reading in three- and four-word groups, or thought clusters. Both methods require paying closer attention on a first reading, which makes regression less necessary.

3 Increase Eye Movements

Special exercises can boost your eye movements. First, read a paragraph normally for 60 seconds. Then read it three more times, using your index finger to move your eyes quickly across the page. Double and triple reading speeds on the second and third times, while focusing on key words to aid your comprehension. According to Iowa State University's Academic Success Center, such exercises boost reading rates by getting your eyes moving at the speed of thought, which averages 500 words per minute.

4 Minimize Subvocalizing

Resist repeating words to yourself in your head as you read. However, stopping this practice of subvocalizing, as it's commonly called, is difficult because most people read at the same speed as they talk, explains Paul Nowak, founder of Iris Reading. Still, you can minimize subvocalizing's impact by chewing gum, listening to instrumental music or reading at a faster than normal rate. According to Nowak, these methods boost reading speeds by reducing the amount of words that you repeat to yourself.

5 Vary Reading Speeds

Consider the various intellectual demands of the material that you read, and adjust your speed to match it. As Doyle notes in his article "Reading Better and Faster," good readers know when a passage's overall complexity and writing style dictates whether to spend more time on its contents or skim over it. By contrast, poor readers stick with the same rate, no matter what kind of material they're reading.

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.