Speed reading: Revise like a pro

Speed-reading is an underrated skill. Get it right, and you can be speedy without sacrificing quality while studying.

When you’re juggling your studies with a job, family, social life  and other commitments, time is precious. It’s important to get the most out of the crucial hours you set aside to revise for exams and complete assessments.

So it can be frustrating when you spend an hour reading in exceptional detail, only to find that just two out of 20 sections were relevant to the task in hand.

The solution is speed-reading.

This doesn’t mean casually glancing at the page with the TV on in the background, while checking Facebook. Speed-reading is an art that, when practised and perfected, can increase your productivity immeasurably.

Read on for the three proven strategies for faster but effective reading.

1. Preview reading

First up is a technique for heavy reading material, such as long chapters or reports. Start by reading the whole of the first two paragraphs of the piece. Then read just the first sentence of the following paragraphs, until you reach the final two paragraphs – read these in their entirety.

This method will let you decide which areas of the text are worth examining more closely, so you’re saved from spending time on areas that aren’t relevant or of interest.

2. Skim reading

With lighter pieces or text you’ve read before, try to skim read. To do so, think of your eyes as magnets and force them to sweep across the page in fast succession. You’ll pick up a few words in each line but this will be enough to get an idea of what it’s all about.

3. Cluster reading

The final approach provides the most detailed understanding of the three. When we learn to read, we are taught to look at each word in a sentence individually. For example:

‘The – girl – went – to – the– park…’ It’s likely you still sometimes read in this way, particularly when the subject matter is complex. There’s no shame in this but it’s incredibly time-consuming.

Instead, cluster groups of words in a sentence together. Train your eyes to see words in clusters of three to four words at a glance. This is not something your eyes do naturally.

Reading as fast as you can, while concentrating on multiple words at once, will take a lot of practice, but it will be well worth the effort.

Before you get going, here are some helpful tips…..

Get rid of distractions

You might think you work better with some background noise, but it’s more likely that these distractions are having a detrimental effect on your reading speed.

Work in a quiet room, with the television off, no music and your phone out of sight.

Train yourself not to re-read

It’s common to frequently stop and skip back to words or sentences and try to really understand the meaning. However, this is usually quite unnecessary and often you won’t even notice you’re doing it.

To avoid rereading, take a sheet of paper and drag it down the page as you go, covering each line once you’ve read it.

Stop reading aloud

Whether you’re reading whole chunks out loud to yourself or pronouncing just the odd word – don’t. It will dramatically slow you down.

If it’s a habit you really struggle with, then simply put a finger on your mouth and keep it there while you read.

Practice makes perfect

If you’re really looking to hone your speed-reading skills, then schedule in regular practice slots. Completing daily 20-minute periods of practice and timing your reading rate will get you results in no time.

It’s a common belief that highlighting text in bright colours will improve reading speed, comprehension and recall. The opposite can often be true. Highlighting signals that you want to go back to the material later, meaning you’ll have to read it over a second, or even third, time – not exactly a time-saver.

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Lily Howes is a freelance journalist and content editor.

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