tips for improving reading speed

5 Tips to Improve Reading Speed

In our previous articles, we discussed the basic steps to be taken for cracking reading comprehension section and how to be comfortable with unfamiliar topics. In this article, we discuss speed reading which is considered as one of the most sought after tools for mastering reading comprehension. With better reading speed, all the reading passages in a section can be completed in less time thus increasing the probability of not missing any easier questions. However, reading fast should not come at the expense of comprehension. 

Why our reading speed is not to the full potential:

1) Lack of concentration – Whenever we are faced with reading any material we have to make sure the surroundings are encouraging and calm. Any distraction to this will result in dramatic reduction in our reading speed.

2) Re-reading the content – Inability to grasp the material make us re-read the content thereby reducing the overall reading speed. Putting more emphasis on overall context and tone of the passage should take more priority during early stages of preparation. We will explore in-depth other techniques on how to grasp the key idea going further.

3) Use of pen or pencil for tracking the reading span – While reading, tracking your eye movement with a pen or pencil puts brakes on speed which you could have achieved otherwise. As a beginner you can practice reading using a pen or pencil but once you become advanced reader skipping these tools help you to gain reading speed.

5 tips for better Reading Speed

Sub-Vocalization and beyond
As kids, many of us had the habit of reading loud which is called as vocalization. Some students, even after entering teens, continue to read aloud. But majority of us change our reading habits as we grow. We move from the stage of reading aloud to thinking aloud i.e., we start the habit of pronouncing each word in our mind while reading. This process is called sub-vocalization and though it takes less time than vocalization to read the material but it is not as efficient as understanding things without thinking about them. To really experience the true potential of reading speed, one need to move beyond sub-vocalization. This is where you get a feel for the reading material without even thinking consciously.

One method I found very helpful in understanding the content quickly is visualizing things. Our minds are full of characters and memories which we accumulate over a period. Why not imagine a character or imaginary situation while reading. It helps you grasp the things better as we are more comfortable with images than words. As you continue reading, add various features to this character like what he is doing, why he is doing and who he is supporting. This kind of thought process helps you in understanding the content better.

Almost all the reading passages revolve around a central idea or theme. The author tries to substantiate his ideas by various means like narration of incidents, facts, figures and ideas supporting the main idea. Though supporting points might me elaborate, the reader may not need all of them to infer author’s point of view. Skimming is that technique which helps you in leaving unwanted parts and focus only on the useful ones. This is an advanced technique which the reader can master through practice over a period of time. You can practice this technique starting with novels which are full of unwanted description on characters an buildings.

We read linearly word-by-word and line-by-line. This technique is useful only at the beginner stage. At higher levels, clubbing two to three words in blocks and practice reading these blocks will result in improvement in reading speed. Eye span has to be improved from merely looking at single word to multiple words. This can be accomplished through practice over a period of time.

Speed Regulation
Speed reading is not only about reading fast but also slowing down when a fact or piece of data has to be digested. Legal documents, important letters, business communication need to be read carefully and thoroughly to avoid any misunderstanding which later may prove to be costly. Speed reading is like bike riding on the highway. If there is a straight road, you hit the speed but when there is a bend you slow down and take the turn. At the end, everything boils down to controlling reading speed.


Always start with reading material which you are comfortable with like sports, entertainment, fiction novels. If you feel that more time has to be spent on information then slow down and read certain portions appropriately. Put more emphasis on author’s point of view and style of narration while reading the material. Rome was not built in a day so does the reading habits. You have to practice patiently, regularly, over large periods of time to master the reading skills. Happy Reading.