A while back, my friend Stefan Knapen published a post called, “The Ultimate Guide to Speedreading“. This article is a fantastic introduction to speedreading and provides a lot of tips for getting better at it.
For those of you in the dark, speedreading is a technique for reading content faster than normal. It’s especially useful for reading content you need to learn in order to pass a class, such as a history textbook.
The goal with speedreading is to increase the amount of words you can read in a certain time while still retaining (or even increasing) comprehension and learning. To do this, you employ many techniques, including:
- “Chunking” words together – ignoring individual letters and words, and instead working to comprehend multiple words at a time
- Using a finger to quickly guide your eyes over the text
- Working to eliminate “inner vocalization” – that voice in your brain that “reads” the words aloud to you and slows you down
With practice, you can learn to read at 3-4 times your normal rate and still retain comprehension.
In fact, some speedreaders say they actually learn more when speedreading, because they skip all filler words and don’t use precious mental resources on inner vocalization. This means the ideas to straight into their brain instead of being parsed as language and then converted.
Now that you’ve read this introduction, you might be intrigued by this speedreading idea and may even want to give it a try. If you are, I want to point you to an extremely effective resource that can cut the time it takes to learn speedreading down significantly.
This tool is called Spreeder, and it’s a web app that turns pasted text into what is basically a series of online flashcards.
After you paste in the text you want to practice with, Spreeder will create the set of cards and then start flashing them in front of your eyes. The app initially will give you one word at a time, and will do so at a speed of 300 words per minute. This is a really easy setting and you should be able to read it right away.
When you’re ready, you can hit “s” to bring up the settings menu. Here you can change how many words are shown at a time and how fast they are shown. When I was using this, I was able to work up to four words at a time with a speed of 600 words per minute. Not to shabby, eh?
I’ve seen other people claim that they’ve been able to get up to 1200 WPM using this tool. With that kind of speed, you could burn through a textbook reading assignment in record time.
So what are you waiting for? Take a bit of time to learn speedreading, and cut down on your actual, boring reading time.