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Improving Reading Speed?

  1. Dec 22, 2011 #1

    A little about me first:
    I'm an above-average Junior in high school in the US who loves Maths and Physics.

    Since I was a child, I was never told how to read (I never read much, really...) I taught myself to pronounce the words out loud in my head, and this habit is really bad for me.

    It takes me an absurdly long time to read literature, go through textbooks, and even read some biographies of famous scientists. I find that when I become fully immersed in the text, I sound out everything and thus it takes me a long time to go through the pages.

    When I try to stop myself from reading out loud in my head as I read, I find myself glancing over words and not really comprehending the words I'm looking at until I accidentally sound the phrase out.

    I've been hearing that ideally, readers should look at groups of words all together. I'm having a great deal of trouble with this.

    Could anyone who has either gone through this or has a suggestion on what I should do please post below? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2011 #2
    Don't change. The people who read groups of words all together are not absorbing as much information as someone who reads them one at a time. I do it too, and it's totally fine. Trust me, it'll come in handy when you're staring at multi-page proofs. The speed-readers will blow through it and not learn a thing, while you will know exactly where a theorem comes from. Slow but steady wins the race.
  4. Dec 23, 2011 #3


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    I second Angry citizen's reply.

    Read slow, and understand every argument made in the textbook, comprehension comes slowly.
  5. Dec 23, 2011 #4


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    If you are reading something that has things that are completely foreign to you, I would read slower than if you are reading something where its in the right format where you can skip over sections quickly and still gain a decent level of understanding.

    As it turns out, many forms of written communication are structured for specific kinds of readers and if a document is written in a specific language, using a specific structure that is standard for a particular reader, then chances are these readers will be able to absorb large quantities of the particular paper a lot quicker and with a lot more ease than someone not accustomed to the format, language (including jargon), and other important properties of the paper.

    It's important to keep the above in mind because you may find others understanding stuff quicker and chances are that they may be accustomed with in some shape or form the concepts and the type of communication that is being presented.

    In short, start slow, pay attention to the structures of the language and format and then things will pick up for you later on.
  6. Dec 23, 2011 #5
    Depends on what you are trying to read and what you want to get out of it. Textbooks should usually be read slowly.

    For some things, you can try to eliminate sub-vocalization. Just try to look at a few words at a time, then shift your focal point to the next few words and take in the meaning, just by looking at it.

    I used to do more of this when I was an undergrad taking humanities classes and it was more useful there. It doesn't really work for math and physics.
  7. Dec 23, 2011 #6


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    The best advice I have for improving both speed and comprehansion is: practice, practice, practice. Practice intelligently and with feedback.

    Just like the people who write them, not all textbooks are equal. Some writers go on and on with irrelevant fluff and then skip over the important points. Others fill their work with nothing but important points that make the work so terse you can't follow it.
    It complicates things further when you consider the subjectivity of the whole thing. What might be important and crucial information for one reader may be a tiresome review for another.

    So when reading textbooks, I find that it helps to read them with questions at hand. Continually ask yourself questions such as:
    What is the point of this section?
    Do I understand what the author is saying?
    Can I be specific about what it is I don't understand?
    How does this fit in with what I already know?
    Do I agree with this statement?
    How would I explain it to someone who doesn't understand?
  8. Dec 23, 2011 #7
    That's very reassuring! I actually have experienced exactly what you mean with the proofs. thank you! =]
  9. Dec 23, 2011 #8

    Thanks Chiro, I'll be sure to look out for the structures and organization of information.
  10. Dec 23, 2011 #9

    This probably sounds silly, but I actually had the SAT Critical Reading section in mind when I wrote this post. I sometimes can't finish those sections on time... As for math/science texts, I'll take my time.

    I'll practice that approach to eliminate sub-vocalization. Thank you very much! I presume it'll take a while to get used to?
  11. Dec 23, 2011 #10

    Hmmm I like your approach with the questions (especially the last one). Thank you very much! Do you have any suggestions on what questions I should ask myself when reading articles like those on the SAT (if you're familiar with the style) or texts on History or the sort?
  12. Dec 23, 2011 #11
    If you're sounding out words letter-by-letter you may want to practice a little, as that isn't really normal. However, it is normal to verbalize the words in your head... they should flow together quickly, though, and the voice in your head should sound like someone speaking at a regular pace.

    You slhoud prbolaby be able to raed this jsut fnie, since your brain should eventually recognizes words by their shape, specifically that of their first and last letters. This is why, when reading aloud, a lot of people often get words completely wrong without realizing it. If this is giving you trouble on tests, just find some books on subjects you're interested in and read a ton. Practice will help improve speed.
  13. Dec 23, 2011 #12
    Honestly? Just read more books. You'll come by it soon enough.
  14. Dec 23, 2011 #13
    Never try to read faster. Reading speed will come by time. The biggest mistake you can do while trying to read faster is to overlook a concept, sentence or even a word. This is the cause to the "I've-read-the-whole-page-but-I-can't-remember-anything"-syndrome. Once you overlooked a word that you didn't comprehend or simply misunderstood, the rest of the page will all be a blur to you.

    So don't think about it. It's like thinking "when's my next eyeblink?"... which is quite a irritating thought.
  15. Dec 23, 2011 #14

    Ohhh, noooo... I read at the pace of someone speaking quickly, of course. But many of my friends can read through passages almost twice as fast as I, and they attribute it to reading by looking at groups of words. Thanks for the advice, I'll try to make myself read more.
  16. Dec 23, 2011 #15

    xD that's a syndrome? Thanks, if I happen to not comprehend a phrase, I'd repeat it and fit into context until I do (and that's probably what makes me not such a fast reader)
  17. Dec 23, 2011 #16


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    I'm not particularly familiar with the SAT style, but I'm guessing that you're talking about "reading comprehension" passages. In that case I generally ask myself:
    - What is the main argument or point to the passage?
    - How is the writer supporting that point?
    Once you've identified these, you can think critically about the work formulate your response.

    With regards to history or orther similar texts, one important question I like to ask is:
    - If I were the instructor, what questions would I ask my students about this material?
  18. Dec 23, 2011 #17
    I think I'm similar, except I don't really plan on changing it. Actually, when I noticed I just speed read a text I go over it again (especially on textbooks) since I'm pretty sure I haven't understood it that much in depth.
  19. Dec 24, 2011 #18
    I'm sorry. I disagree with the majority of people's responses. I don't understand discouraging the OP from reading faster.

    I have an idea of what you're going through OP, but your situation may not be as extreme as mine. For years I was the last kid in class to finish the reading. During reading comprehension tests I was never able to finish reading the passage with enough time to answer the questions. It took me months to finish average length novels. It got to the point where I didn't even want to read.

    There is no reason you need to read slowly. Reading quickly with comprehension is possible for most people (if they work at it). A large part of it is the way you organize and plan your reading. Speed reading doesn't mean just skimming. It is a system where you read the material several times in several different ways. It takes practice. There are exercises one must do. It's hard work.

    I don't practice as much as I used to, but I read pretty fast now. I'm sure you can pick up a copy of Evelyn Wood's book very cheaply or at the library. If you read it and do the work, your reading speed and comprehension will improve.
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