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6 Tricks Speed Readers Use to Pick Up the Pace and Learn More

The average reading speed is around 300 words per minute. With these tips, you can look forward to tripling that.

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Outline the text

No, you don’t need to take out a pencil and paper; you can do this in your head—especially if whatever you’re reading is a news article or a dense report. Simply read the first two paragraphs of the text to get an overview of its main points and, from there, jump down each paragraph reading only the first sentence. These are the brain exercises that help you get smarter.

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Use a pointer

We know using your finger to read can make you feel like you’ve traveled backward to the second grade, but it’s one of the easiest ways to increase speed. If you don’t want to use your finger, hold a pen or pencil under each line of text to keep your eyes focused. Aim to move the pointer faster and faster with each line. You’ll be forced to group words together in order to keep up.

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Stop regressing

Experts say regression, or rereading text you’ve already read, accounts for up to 30 percent of the average reader’s reading time. Using a pointer should help you break the habit, but just being aware of how much time it can waste will also help.

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Minimize subvocalization

Subvocalization is a fancy term for saying words in your head (or even under your breath) while you read them. And while researchers have found it’s not possible to completely eliminate the habit, it is possible to minimize it. Chewing gum or listening to (wordless) music can distract you from reading aloud in your head. To prove to yourself that silencing your inner voice is possible, try saying “one, two, three” aloud while you read in your head. You’ll be surprised how much you can still comprehend.

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Practice active reading only

In order to do this, you’ve got to fully engage in the text. What do you hope to get out of it? Why do you want to learn the material in the first place? If whatever you’re reading isn’t something you’re fully committed to, skip it. A wandering mind will lead to slower reading times. (Here’s how reading makes you smart, thin, and happy.)

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Try a speed reading app

Apps like Spreeder, which utilize rapid serial visualization presentation (RSVP), speed up your reading by removing the variable of the time it takes your eyes to move across a page. Most of these apps accomplish this by flashing one or two words on the screen at once, quickly. You can set the app to the number of words per minute you’d like to get through and adjust that number as needed. These are the keyboard shortcuts that make web browsing 10 times easier.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest