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When to Speed Ahead, and When to
Reading Strategies Workshop – Student Reading Center
IMPROVE YOUR READING
And MAXIMIZE YOUR
• Speed Reading helps you read and
understand text more quickly.
• It is an essential skill in any environment
where you have to understand a large
amount of information quickly (every fast-moving
WHY SHOULD I IMPROVE MY
• In college, you have more to read and less time
• Reading too slowly reduces comprehension
• Reading too slowly does not stimulate your brain
and decreases interest in the text
• You have the capability-1 trillion brain cells and
the visual capacity to take in a full page of text in
1/20 of a second
• Reading 500+ wpm is attainable
Improving Reading Speed:
• Everyone can double their speed of reading
while maintaining equal or even higher
AVERAGE READING RATES
• Adult – 250 WPM with 70%
comprehension (Smith, 2005)
• College Student – 300 WPM
• Slow Readers – 150 WPM or less or
250 WPM with limited comprehension
Words Per Minute
• The average college student reads between
250 and 350 words per minute on fiction and
• A "good" reading speed is around 500 to 700
words per minute, but some people can read
a thousand words per minute or even faster.
SPEED READING IS NOT MAGIC.
• The desire to improve your reading
• The willingness to try new techniques
• The motivation to practice reading
What You Need First
• necessary vocabulary
• comprehension skills
If you understand college-level materials, you
are ready for speed reading practice
Research Based Reading Study
• SURVEY – Skim title, subheadings,
graphics, captions, boldface terms, first
one to two paragraphs, summary
– As you skim, ask yourself, “What do I know
about these topics?”
– Bring in your background knowledge and
your prior experiences
– Take no more than 5 minutes for an
• QUESTION - Turn the first subheading
into a question using how, why, what,
when, where, who?
– This technique creates reading for a
purpose – you are now seeking an answer
– Improves focus and concentration
• READ – Quickly and selectively-remember
that you are searching for an
answer to your question
– Read only one section or a few
paragraphs, depending on the difficulty of
• RECITE – Answer your question
– If you can’t say it, you don’t know it.
• RITE – This is the note-taking step
– Writing the answer to your question and other relevant
information doubles retention
– Cornell Method, Outline, Double and Triple Column
Journal, Graphics, Post-it-Notes
– This step creates an ongoing study guide
REPEAT THE CYCLE: Question, Read, Recite, Rite as
you read the next section of text. Repeat this cycle until
you have completed the reading assignment or the
• REVIEW – When you have completed the
reading assignment, following the Question,
Read, Recite, and Rite cycle, survey again,
answering your questions as you skim
– One week later, review the information again
– Review each week until you are tested, creating a
cumulative weekly review
– This step transfers information from short-term memory
to long-term memory
– Take 5 minutes to Review
Factors that Reduce Reading
(a) word-by-word reading
(b) slowness of recognition and slow
response to the material
(c) vocalization, including the need to
vocalize in order to achieve comprehension
(d) faulty eye movements
(e) regression, (habitual or lack of
(f) faulty processes of retention
(g) lack of practice in reading due to time
constraints or lack of interest in reading
(h) fear of losing comprehension,
myth: if you spend more time on individual
words, comprehension will increase
(i) habitual slow reading (he has always read
• (j) poor evaluation (which aspects are
important and which are unimportant)
• (k) the effort to remember everything rather
than to remember selectively
WHAT FACTORS INCREASE READING
RATE AND COMPREHENSION?
• Set yourself up to succeed – read in a
quiet distraction free environment
• Do not read on your bed
• Read actively: Set your purpose for
reading and self-monitor
• Increase your eye-span - Chunking
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
You Need the Right Method
In order to increase your reading rate and
increase your comprehension. you need to
adopt the right method.
Don’t simply start reading more rapidly – this
won’t improve your basic reading habits.
In fact, it usually results in lowered
Basic Conditions for Increased
A well planned program designed to
maximize your reading rate must
involve ‘necessary conditions’.
Four basic conditions include:
• Before embarking on a speed reading
program, have your eyes checked
• Often, very slow reading is related to
uncorrected eye defects.
• Eliminate the habit of pronouncing words as you
• You can read only as fast as you can read aloud.
You should be able to read most materials at
least two or three times faster silently than orally.
• Try to concentrate on key words and meaningful
ideas as you force yourself to read faster.
• The inner voice experienced as a slight
movement in the tongue or throat region
– Slows down reading to about 250 wpm, the
speed of normal speech
– Decrease eye fixation: Word-for-word
• Avoid regressing (rereading).
The average student reading at 250 words
per minute regresses or rereads about 20
times per page.
• Rereading words and phrases is a habit that will
slow your reading speed down to a snail's pace.
Usually, it is unnecessary to reread words, for
the ideas you want are explained and
elaborated more fully in later contexts.
Furthermore, the slowest reader usually
regresses most frequently because his mind
has time to wander.
To prevent regression,
and to read at an appropriate
reading rate for each document…
know what you want to learn
from that document.
• The most important trick about speed
reading is to know what information you want
from a document before you start reading it
Outline vs. Thorough
• If you only want an outline of the issue that
the document discusses, then you can skim
the document very quickly and extract only
the essential facts.
• If you need to understand the real detail of
the document, then you need to read it slowly
enough to fully understand it.
The effective reader adjusts his rate; the
ineffective reader uses the same rate for all
types of material.
If you are aware of what you want to learn from
each document, you can vary your reading
TYPES OF READING
• Scanning – Telephone book, dictionary
• Skimming – Surveying, previewing, checking relevance
• Light Reading – Reading for leisure, novels, 100-200
• Word by word – Scientific information, unfamiliar terms
• Study Reading – SQ4R (Survey, Question, Read,
Recite, Rite, Review) Goal: In depth comprehension
ADJUST YOUR SPEED ACCORDING TO YOUR
PURPOSE FOR READING AND THE DIFFICULTY
OF THE TEXT
• Develop a wider eye-span:
This will help you read more than one word at
a glance. Since written material is less
meaningful if read word by word, this will help
you learn to read by phrases or thought units.
INCREASE EYE SPAN - CHUNKING
– Eye span is the number of words that you read at one
– Chunking 2 words doubles rate, 3 words triples, 4
– Increases comprehension
– Focus is on how the words fit together to make
meaning, rather than on each individual word in
PEN AS A PACER TECHNIQUE
Goal – To increase the number of words within a chunk
Don’t ‘Plod’... “CHUNK” instead
“Although there is at present little statistical
evidence, it seems that plodding word-by-word
(or word reading) inhibits
A Skilled Reader
• reads many words in each block and
dwells on each block for an instant
• rarely skips back to a previous block of
• this reduces the amount of work that the
reader's eyes have to do
• increases the volume of information that
can be examined in a period of time
A Poor Reader
• is overwhelmed, spends a lot of time reading
small blocks of words
• skips back often, loses the flow and structure
of the text and overall understanding of the
• has irregular eye movements, which makes
• dislikes reading, and may find it harder to
concentrate and understand written
Increase, Reduce, Reduce
Speed reading aims to improve reading skills
1. increasing the number of words read in
2. reducing the length of time spent
reading each block, and
3. reducing the number of times your eyes
skip back to a previous sentence
Increasing the number of
words in each block:
• conscious effort
• try to expand the number of words that you
read at a time
• practice will help you to read faster
• you may also find that you can increase the
number of words read by holding the text a
little further from your eyes
• the more words you can read in each block,
the faster you will read!
Reducing Fixation Time:
• The minimum length of time needed to read
each block: a quarter of a second.
• Push yourself to reduce the time you take!
• And…you will get better at picking up
• Practice and Confidence!
• To reduce the number of times that your eyes
skip back to a previous sentence, run a
pointer along the line as you
your eyes will follow
Experiment Using these
• Previewing: Read the entire two
paragraphs and the first sentence
of each successive paragraph and
then read the entire last two
• Previewing doesn’t give you all of
the details, but it does keep you
from spending time on unnecessary
• Think of your eyes as magnets; force
them to move fast. Sweep them across
each and every line.
• Skimming can give you a general
impression of a text in less than half the
time it would take you to read every
Clustering or “Chunking”
• Train your eyes to see all the words
in clusters of up to three or four
words at a glance.
• Clustering trains you to look at
groups of words and ideas instead
of at one at a time. This will
increase your speed and
Summary of Tips
• Make fewer fixations per line.
• Concentrate on key words.
• Break sentences into logical
• Eliminate bad reading habits –
• Read regularly – practice is
important – make reading habitual.
• Improve your vocabulary. Strange
words interfere with understanding
– become familiar with a new word
• Join a book club.
• Read every night before you go to
• Purchase a newspaper and/or
magazine subscription (or visit the
• Turn off the TV.
• Rood, S. (2000). Improving Reading
Speed and Comprehension.
• Smith, B. (2004). Breaking through
college reading. 7E. NY: Longman.
• Presentation provided by UTPB West Texas Literacy Center an
HSI funded program. HSI is a federally funded program granted
by the Department of Education Title V programs.
• Developed by: Ana Miller, M.A.. Ed., Reading Specialist