Whether you want to learn how to read faster so that you can move more quickly through your required course materials, or you simply want to be able to make your way through a novel in less than a year, there are plenty of easy ways to retrain your brain for speedier reading.
Reading fast is not a skill that everyone has. In fact, if you’re fortunate enough to be a fast reader, you probably don’t even notice that you are blessed with such an ability – it’s probably something that has always come naturally to you.
For many others, though, the skill of reading fast is something more like a long-sought-after art. No matter how hard you try, you simply can’t get through a page without taking what seems like forever.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to hack the system and to learn how to read faster. We’ve gathered up the top tips and tricks, so let’s dive in and speed up your reading!
First: Figure Out Your Reading Baseline
Before you begin pursuing your goals of faster reading speeds, it’s important to figure out how many words you can actually currently read. The best speed readers can read an average of 80 pages per minute – but those are world record speeds. You probably don’t need to hold yourself to such lofty goals!
While learning skills and tricks practiced by the very best speed readers among us can be helpful, it’s best for you to set goals that you can follow yourself in a more realistic fashion. We’ll walk you through some of the best tricks in a moment, but for now, take the time to do a time trial to figure out what your actual reading speed is.
To do this, sit down with a stopwatch and some enjoyable reading material like an article, a page of a book, a blog post, or some other document. Divide the number of words you read to the amount of time you spent reading the text or article. That’s your reading speed!
How To Read Faster: 17 Tips and Techniques to Try
Ready to finally learn how to read faster? Here are some tips you can try – many of these will show results almost immediately.
1. Quit the Inner Monologue
If you want to read faster, your first step is going to be to stop the inner monologue. That means two separate things.
For one, you’ve got to quit getting down on yourself. It is possible to learn how to read faster – and reading slowly, by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have less-than-average intelligence or are inferior in any way. You’re just a slow reader – and reading speed, like any other skill, is one that you can improve with practice,
Second, you need to stop the process of subvocalization. This is a process that is common among readers and involves speaking words in your head as you read. Although it sounds as though this would be an innate part of the reading process, it’s actually a major obstacle that can impede your ability to increase your reading speed.
When you were first taught how to read, you likely sounded out everything and read aloud. Then, once you became a better reader, your teacher had you read the words in your head. This is likely where your habit of subvocalization started.
Although it’s mostly a harmless habit, it can slow down your reading speed. The average adult reading speed is 300 words per minute and the average talking speed is the same. Because of this, you’ll read at the same pace as you talk. To increase your speed, you’ll need to stop reading aloud in your head.
Believe it or not, you do not need to say every word in your head or to actively process every word in your head in order to understand what you are reading. This may have been necessary when you were a child just learning how to read but is not necessary as an adult.
2. Use a Timer
When you were a child in elementary school, there’s a good chance that your teachers often put you on the clock to complete various tasks – like multiplication tables or spelling challenges. As an adult, you can use a timer again to increase your reading speed and to truly challenge yourself.
Set a timer for one minute and read normally. Don’t use any special strategies – just read. Once the timer goes off, you can take note of how many pages you read. Keep working at this, trying to beat your previous count each time. You can set a daily, weekly, or monthly goal – feel free to treat yourself once you increase your reading speed, too!
3. Try Word Chunking
Word chunking is a process that helps to eliminate the inner monologue of reading aloud, as we discussed before. When you wor chunk, you won’t read each word independently of each other but will instead read multiple words at once, tying them together to form single cohesive thoughts.
You can take in several words at a time without missing a bit. Focus on reading three words with a glance and as you continue down the page, keep the practice up – then note how long it takes you to read the full page. More than likely, you’ll still be able to remember and understand everything you read but you will have spent much less time doing it.
Read phrases instead of individual words. Your eye span is more than an inch and a half long – that means that, on average, you can read up to nine words at a time! This will help you take in more content at once and cut down on the amount of subvocalizing you do.
4. Use a Marker
Not an ink marker, of course – but a place marker. Using a marker like an index card or ruler will help you keep track of where you are on the page. This is especially useful if you are a slow reader who finds his vision sliding all over the page. You’ll stay reading one page at a time rather than allowing your vision to flit all over the place.
5. Rely on Your Peripheral Vision
Another technique you can use, particularly once you have mastered the art of word chunking, is to read an entire line at once. Start in the middle of the line and use your peripheral vision to scan the rest of it. You can read a whole page in this manner and then, once you get to the bottom, you’ll probably discover that you still understood everything you read – but that you read it record-breaking time.
6. Try Highlighting
Not sure you’re going to be able to retain what you’ve read? You may want to grab a highlighter. This is a great way to get over some of the hesitation and self-doubt you might have as you are mastering the art of speed reading.
Many of us, when trying to read faster, get hung up on the worry that we’re going to miss something important by reading quickly. When you’re skimming through a text, grab a highlighter and note key sections. That way, you can always come back to them later if you’re worried you’ll miss something in your quest to become a faster reader.
7. Boost Your Vocabulary
If you can improve your vocabulary, then chances are, you’ll become a much faster reader. If you are reading along and then run into a word you do not know, you’ll have to stop to look it up. Even if you don’t take the time to look up a word’s meaning, your brain will likely get hung up on the unknown verbiage and want to pause. Expanding your vocabulary is a great way to learn how to read faster.
8. Do a Quick Skim
Your teachers and college professors likely advised you against doing this, but the reality is that learning how to do quick skims is actually a highly effective way to get something read. If you’re in a time crunch and need to get through a piece of reading material fast, calm down, take a deep breath, and start to skim. Read the table of contents, the subtitles, and the captions, giving yourself a feel for the reading.
Then, read the first paragraph of every main section, read the last paragraph, and read the middle. Think it over and piece things together. Then you can read everything else. Your brain already has a solid framework to work around, there’s a good chance the rest of the reading won’t take you nearly as long.
9. Set a Goal
Holding yourself accountable to a certain goal will increase your chances of success because it will keep you on track and focused. Feel free to treat yourself when you meet your goal!
10. Don’t Re-Read (Unless Absolutely Necessary)
If you’re studying material from notes or a textbook for an exam and it’s imperative that you understand and remember everything you read, 100%, then you may have to reread. But in most cases, particularly in the case of leisurely reading, re-reading is not necessary.
Here’s an example – watch somebody as they read a page. Chances are, their eyes don’t stay fixed on one section of the page or move in a linear, progressive fashion but instead, they jump around. The average reader will backtrack over the pages and words they have already read, making it difficult to increase your reading speed.
Chances are, you do this without realizing it. That can make it super tough to break this habit.
To quit it, you’ll need to run your finger back and forth across the page as you read. Track the words as your finger moves down the text. You can pause and think about what you read once you reach the end of the page, chapter, or entire text.
11. Quit Fixating
Stop focusing on one page, one chapter, or one book. If you can’t get through a passage without getting frustrated, it might be time to stop fixating and move on. That book might not be for you!
12. Preview the Text
Before you dive into a reading task, take the time to preview the text. It’s similar to the idea of watching a trailer for a movie before you actually watch it. It gives you context and lets you know what you might expect.
In doing this, you’ll gain a special understanding of what you’re about to read. Just look first at the table of contents, the headings, anything in bold font, and bullet points. You can also look at images or graphs to get an idea of how the author has structured the text – and the key points it might contain.
13. Plan an Attack
This is a speed reading tip that you might want to follow with some degree of caution – it could very well end up taking you more time to plan out an approach to reading a text than it takes to actually read it, so don’t always rely on this method if you want to read faster.
However, do keep in mind that approaching a text strategically can be hugely beneficial in how efficiently you are able to read it.
Think first about your goals. What do you want to learn? Are you reading for education, pleasure, or business? Jot down questions you hope to be able to answer after reading. You might also be able to figure out the author’s goal by skimming or previewing the text. Then, you can come up with a plan to get the most out of the text as possible.
14. Be Mindful
Ah, mindfulness – it even applies to reading! Being a quick reader – and a quick reader who actually digests what he has read – requires a great deal of concentration and focus. If you can, try to minimize distractions, noise, and interruptions while you read. Most importantly, try not to let your mind wander as you are reading. If you find that your thoughts have drifted to contemplation about what your friends are doing, what you are going to have for dinner, or what might be on television, take a break and stop to regroup.
Letting your mind wander can lead to a dangerous issue called regression. Regression is when you find your mind wandering, then lose focus and have to go back and reread a chunk of text. A super common habit, it will cause you to lose time and become an even slower reader. Instead, if you find that you are not carefully and attentively reading a text, either pause and regroup or set the reading aside for later, when you can better concentrate.
15. You Don’t Have to Read Every Word or Section!
Here’s the dirty little secret of speed reading – you don’t have to read every single word or every section in a piece of writing in order to get the maximum benefit. Rather than reading every word individually, read a chunk of words, and don’t panic if you miss something every now and then.
A very antiquated concept about reading is that people, particularly students, must read every single section of an article, textbook, or other bit of reading. Unless you know that it’s absolutely essential that you read every single word on the page, skip the sections that aren’t as relevant. Read selectively instead.
16. Write a Summary
After you’ve finished reading, particularly if you were working your way through a more scholarly or work-oriented piece, stop and write a few sentences to summarize what you read. You might also write any answers to questions you had before you read. Did you learn what you were hoping to do?
By taking the time to summarize what you read, you’ll force your brain to actively process the material and you’ll solidify it in your memory, giving you better odds of recalling it later on. There’s no better way to practice what you learned than by writing it down – unless, of course, you’re a visual learner or a verbal learner and would rather draw it out or tell a friend about what you read. That’s fine, too!
17. Do Timed Practice Runs
We mentioned earlier that using a timer to improve your reading speed can be helpful. So, too, can doing timed practice runs dramatically improve your reading speed. Professional runners often engage in time trials, testing themselves periodically to see how fast they can run a mile, 5k, or other distance.
As a reader, you can do the same thing, perhaps putting a reminder in your calendar to do a time trial once a week, once a month, or once every other month. Use a timer to check how many words or pages per minute you can read. This is a great way to help you stay accountable to your goal of becoming a faster reader!
Benefits of Reading Faster
No matter what type of book you’re looking to read, from biographies to self-improvement books to fantasy novels and textbooks, being able to speed read can provide a plethora of benefits. Now, that isn’t to say reading fast is for everyone, it may not be what some want, but if you’re considering dedicating some time to this craft, consider these top reasons to do so. It might help keep you more motivated!
Practicing your speed reading can help boost your discipline. After all, it’s going to require some serious practice and dedication! Setting goals and working to chip away at them, day after day, is a great way to improve your discipline – and your overall character.
Improved Brain Power and Memory
Do you ever have days where you feel like you aren’t using 100% of your brain? Teaching yourself how to speed read might improve that feeling, since reading quickly will let you use your brainpower much more effectively than if you were to just read slowly. You’ll improve your ability to concentrate and learn how to think faster over time, too.
This can help you feel more energetic and confident and also help you to become a better decision-maker.
Plus, learning how to read quickly will train your brain to retain more of what it takes in. That can dramatically improve your memory!
The more you read, the more likely you are to start enjoying it. We are creatures of habit, after all! Exposing yourself to new books on a regular basis and exploring new topics to read about will help you become a regular reader and, of course, help increase your enjoyment of the hobby.
As you get better at reading, you’re probably going to be able to do more of it in a shorter period of time. And you can use all that time you saved to do…even more reading!
Once you get better at reading quickly, you will probably also improve your brain’s ability to eliminate distractions and to focus on the task in front of you. Speed reading is all about concentrating, and when you become good at concentrating, you’ll become more productive, too.
Less Eye Strain
Less time spent staring at a page equals less eye strain. It’s as simple as that!
When Speed Reading is Not the Answer
Of course, improving your reading speed won’t always be the answer. Although it’s a noble goal to want to increase your reading speed, no amount of speed reading techniques will help if you’re not doing it for the right minute.
You’re a Perfectionist
Does it make a difference whether you read 100 words per minute or 95 words per minute? In the grand scheme of things, not really. If you find that you have perfectionist tendencies and that your desire to increase your reading speed stems from those tendencies and those tendencies alone, then speed reading might not be a rabbit hole you want to go down.
You may find that trying to increase your reading speed as a perfectionist ultimately reduces your reading comprehension and eliminates your enjoyment of the reading habit. Instead, focus on factors besides your reading speeds (perhaps instead, you can focus on reading a certain number of books per year instead rather than becoming a speed reader).
You Want to Get Smarter
While speed reading and learning how to read more words per minute can undoubtedly boost your cognitive functioning and brainpower, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get smarter. You will just get more efficient. Because of this, it’s important that you don’t try to become a speed reader solely out of a goal of becoming smarter.
Of course, developing a solid reading habit can help you access more reading material over time – so you may find that those extra words boost your IQ regardless. Just don’t try to read faster solely because you want to get smarter, as it will likely take some time.
You Want to Read More
Do your eyes a favor and don’t try to boost your speed reading skills just so you can squeeze in more page time. Sure, reading many more words per minute might seem like a good solution in an already cramped schedule, but unfortunately, it may also only serve to diminish your enjoyment of the hobby. Instead, focus on the quality of reading over quantity.
The Best Tip to Learn How to Read Faster: Read More
The single best tip you can follow if you want to read faster? Just read more. Practice makes perfect and that’s true for anything – including speed reading.
The more time you spend reading, the better you’ll be at it. Reading doesn’t have to be an obsession, but if you really want to be a faster reader, you’ve got to commit yourself to reading faster.
So grab a good book and a tasty beverage and find a comfortable chair. The time has never been better to get some reading in!