For our experiment, you will need:
- a book of at least 200 pages;
- pen or pencil;
The book should lie in front of you without closing (press the pages if it tries to close without support). Find a book that you don’t have to hold so that it doesn’t close.
For one exercise session, you will need at least 20 minutes. Make sure that no one distracts you during this time.
Before jumping straight into the exercises, here are a few quick tips to help you speed up your reading.
1. Make as few stops as possible when reading a line of text
When we read, our eyes move through the text not smoothly, but in jumps. Each such jump ends with fixing your attention on a part of the text or stopping your gaze at areas of about a quarter of a page, as if you were taking a picture of this part of the sheet.
Each stop of the eyes on the text lasts from ¼ to ½ second.
To feel this, close one eye and lightly press the eyelid with your fingertip, and with the other eye try to slowly slide over the line of text. The jumps become even more obvious if you slide not along the letters, but simply along a straight horizontal line:
Well, how do you feel?
2. Try to go back through the text as little as possible
A person who reads at an average pace quite often goes back to reread a missed moment. This can happen consciously or unconsciously. In the latter case, the subconscious itself returns its eyes to the place in the text where concentration was lost.
On average, conscious and unconscious returns take up to 30% of the time.
3. Improve concentration to increase the coverage of words read in one stop
People with an average reading speed use central focus rather than horizontal peripheral vision. Due to this, they perceive half as many words in one jump of vision.
4. Practice Skills Separately
The exercises are different from each other, and you don’t need to try to combine them into one. For example, if you are training your reading speed, don’t worry about text comprehension. You will progress through three stages in sequence: learning technique, applying technique to increase speed, and reading comprehension.
Rule of thumb: Practice your technique at three times your desired reading speed. For example, if your current reading speed is somewhere around 150 words per minute, and you want to read 300, you need to practice reading 900 words per minute.
1. Determination of the initial reading speed
Now you have to count the number of words and lines in the book that you have chosen for training. We will calculate the approximate number of words, since calculating the exact value will be too dreary and time consuming.
To begin with, we consider how many words fit in five lines of text, divide this number by five and round it up. I counted 40 words in five lines: 40 : 5 = 8 – an average of eight words per line.
Next, we count the number of lines on five pages of the book and divide the resulting number by five. I got 194 lines, I rounded up to 39 lines per page: 195 : 5 = 39.
And the last thing: we consider how many words fit on the page. To do this, we multiply the average number of lines by the average number of words per line: 39 × 8 = 312.
Now is the time to find out your reading speed. We set the timer for 1 minute and read the text, calmly and slowly, as you usually do.
How much did it get? I have a little more than a page – 328 words.
2. Landmark and speed
As I wrote above, returning through the text and stopping the look takes a lot of time. But you can easily cut them down with a focus tracking tool. A pen, pencil or even your finger will serve as such a tool.
Technique (2 minutes)
Practice using a pen or pencil to maintain focus. Move the pencil smoothly under the line you are currently reading and concentrate on where the tip of the pencil is now.
Lead with the tip of a pencil along the lines
Set the pace with the tip of the pencil and follow it with your eyes, keeping up with stops and returns through the text. And don’t worry about understanding, it’s a speed exercise.
Try to go through each line in 1 second and increase the speed with each page.
Do not stay on one line for more than 1 second under any circumstances, even if you do not understand what the text is about.
With this technique, I was able to read 936 words in 2 minutes, which means 460 words per minute. Interestingly, when you follow with a pen or pencil, it seems that your vision is ahead of the pencil and you read faster. And when you try to remove it, immediately your vision seems to spread out over the page, as if the focus was released and it began to float all over the page.
Speed (3 minutes)
Repeat the tracker technique, but allow no more than half a second to read each line (read two lines of text in the time it takes to say “twenty-two”).
Most likely, you will not understand anything at all from what you read, but this is not important. Now you are training your perceptual reflexes, and these exercises help you adapt to the system. Do not slow down for 3 minutes. Concentrate on the tip of your pen and the technique for increasing speed.
In 3 minutes of such a frenzied race, I read five pages and 14 lines, averaging 586 words per minute. The hardest part of this exercise is not to slow down the speed of the pencil. This is a real block: you have been reading all your life in order to understand what you are reading, and it is not so easy to let go of this.
Thoughts cling to the lines in an effort to return to understand what it is about, and the pencil also begins to slow down. It is also difficult to maintain concentration on such useless reading, the brain gives up, and thoughts fly away to hell, which is also reflected in the speed of the pencil.
3. Expanding the field of perception
When you concentrate your eyes on the center of the monitor, you still see its extreme areas. So it is with the text: you concentrate on one word, but you see several words surrounding it.
So, the more words you learn to see in this way with the help of peripheral vision, the faster you can read. The expanded area of perception allows you to increase your reading speed by 300%.
Beginners with a normal reading speed spend their peripheral vision on the fields, that is, they run their eyes through the letters of absolutely all the words of the text, from the first to the last. At the same time, peripheral vision is spent on empty fields, and a person loses from 25 to 50% of the time.
A pumped reader will not “read the fields”. He will run his eyes over only a few words from the sentence, and see the rest with peripheral vision. In the illustration below, you see an approximate picture of the concentration of vision of an experienced reader: words in the center are read, and foggy ones are marked by peripheral vision.
Focus on central words
Here is an example. Read this sentence:
Once students enjoyed reading for four hours straight.
If you start reading with the word “students” and end with “reading,” you save time reading as many as five out of eight words! And this reduces the time for reading this sentence by more than half.
Technique (1 minute)
Use a pencil to read as fast as possible: start with the first word of the line and end with the last. That is, there is no expansion of the area of perception yet – just repeat exercise No. 1, but spend no more than 1 second on each line. Under no circumstances should one line take more than 1 second.
Technique (1 minute)
Continue to set the pace of reading with a pen or pencil, but start reading from the second word on the line and finish reading the line two words before the end.
Speed (3 minutes)
Start reading at the third word of the line and finish three words before the end, while moving your pencil at the speed of one line per half second (two lines in the time it takes to say “twenty-two”).
If you don’t understand anything you read, that’s fine. Now you are training your reflexes of perception, and you should not worry about understanding. Concentrate on the exercise with all your might and don’t let your mind drift away from an uninteresting activity.
4. Checking the new speed
Now it’s time to test your new reading speed. Set a timer for 1 minute and read at the maximum speed at which you continue to understand the text. I got 720 words per minute – twice as fast as before I started using this technique.
These are great indicators, but they are not surprising, because you yourself begin to notice how the scope of words has expanded. You don’t waste time on fields, you don’t go back through the text, and the speed increases significantly.