A few years ago, when I heard about speed reading for the first time, I dipped straight into photo reading. This reading style promises a reader to be able to read 25,000 words a minute by snapping a photo with its subconscious mind. Wow, that sounded really inspiring. I instantly jumped on, read a book about it and applied the techniques. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I wanted. So, does speed reading really work at all? Could I’ve done better?
Maybe I had been too greedy; simply wanted to read at the top speeds only few people were actually capable of. Although photo reading does work with classic speed reading methods such as previewing, reviewing or recalling, it was the 25,000 word promise that really logged me in.
This could have been the reason why I failed to go further. I wasn’t reading faster than before, because I only looked at speed rates and didn’t understand the bigger concept of fast reading. I finally dropped practicing as I questioned whether speed reading does really work at all.
I was pretty wrong and should have known better. Skill comes with practice. And back then I missed my daily exercise.
Another reason why photo reading didn’t really work out for me was the technique itself. The method is kind of advanced reading technique I simply wasn’t ready for. To increase my reading speed and comprehension I needed something more profound. Something that would collect me on the level I was currently reading on. And that approach finally helped.
My answer to the question ‘Does speed reading really work?‘ is therefore Yes.
As a student, however, you will have to find a suitable speed reading course and material to keep you learning for at least a few weeks or months. Why? Because, a good course starts with easy techniques and prepares for the more complex ones. Latter ones will take time as the brain needs to adjust to the new way it shall process information. Read an introduction here.
I started a course, bought a book and committed to daily practice. I also understood why I should do those exercises. Now, I can read faster; and it happens without magic. Speed reading does really work and I could have achieved higher reading speeds much earlier when I had sticked to simpler methods. Therefore:
3 things I’d do differently to make speed reading really work
1. Skip unachievable promises. It’s possible to increase reading speed and comprehension within a short period of time. Speed reading techniques such as using a pointer tool, previewing, skimming, asking questions and reviewing are easy to learn and immediately eliminate a few bad reading habits.
However, to learn reading bigger chunk of words you will need to practice. The brain has to get used to it. I read one word at a time before I started my course. I then learned to read two words, but now I can read five words at a time.
I don’t think I have finished my journey yet as I could learn to read whole sentences or paragraphs in one go. This requires a few more skills I wasn’t aware of. Speed reading cross-links with memory skills, visualizing or learning languages at all.
2. Learning for life. Knowing a second language is an admirable goal and when I started learning one I thought two years of studying and I got it. Today, I know learning a second language will last for life.
This experience turns out to be crucial for speed reading. The better I know my language the faster I can extract information from any material. I wished I really had paid more awareness to pre- and suffixes, synonyms and conceptualizing many years ago. Conceptualizing helps me to transform words into images at higher speeds. Hence, it allows to read a text like a movie.
3. Implement speed reading in daily life. I must admit it took some time to really work out a daily practice schedule or to apply reading methods in real life. For example, I practiced speed reading methods, but as soon as I finished them I switched back to normal reading. I forgot to use my index finger as a pointer tool or didn’t preview articles. I read word by word though I had practiced word group reading just an hour ago.
It also took some time to shorten the gap between realizing I was reading as usual and switching to speed reading methods. It still happens today, but now I am also used to apply fast reading techniques straight away. What really helps is practicing daily.
Further Reading: Speed Reading Software Review
Does speed reading really work? Let me know in the comments below.