Speed Reading is the art of silencing the subvocation . Most readers have a reading speed of about 200 words per minute, which is the same speed as reading aloud. The inner voice is what determines this reading speed, and what prevents us from achieving a higher reading speed, since we have been taught to read in this way.

However, it is possible to read at a higher speed and with a better understanding of the texts or novels . The solution is simple: absorb the reading more quickly than the inner voice thanks to various techniques. For example, following the reading with the finger so that the reading is faster than it usually is. This happens because the eye has less difficulty following the movement than reading word by word.

What is sub-vocalization?

As we have mentioned, one of the most frequent mistakes made when reading is that of subvocation. But what is subvocation? Well, subvocalization consists of mentally repeating each word as you read it . This is what reduces the reading time and works very badly if you want to save time by reading much more.

And why is this happening? Because when you subvocate the reading and mentally repeat the words as you read them, the words captured by your eyes, go into the acoustic system (i.e. the ear) and then into the brain. On the other hand, if you eliminate the subvocation, you eliminate the passage of the acoustic system and what you read goes directly from sight to the brain .

Factors causing a drop in reading speed

Speed reading makes it possible for you to read more reading material. It also allows you more time to read other texts or books that you would like to read. As your speed reading skills improve, you will become more skilled at noticing the important details within the material you read, and you will be able to retain more material than you would without these techniques.

But it’s possible that right now, if you don’t know these techniques, you’re employing habits that impair your reading speed. These are one of the factors that negatively influence your ability to read:

  • Faulty eye movements, inaccurate eye placement during reading
  • Regression, or re-reading of material already read
  • Limited perception span leading to word-by-word reading
  • Vocalization, the process of putting sounds into words you read
  • The false belief that slow reading leads to better understanding
  • Poor assessment of important parts of the reading material
  • Lack of concentration

Some speed reading techniques

There are many techniques that can be used for speed reading, and these can be learned in courses or workshops. Knowing these techniques will not only allow you to read at greater speed, but can provide a better quality of life, as your reading, comprehension and retention will improve over time.

First of all, it is important to know that there are different reading techniques for different situations (reading for enjoyment, searching for information, to complete a task, etc.) and therefore it is necessary to choose the technique needed depending on the purpose for which the reading is done . Here are some of the most well-known techniques (not all of them) used for speed reading.

1. Reading preparation and ergonomics

Before using any technique you need to evaluate the context in which you are going to read and adjust it if necessary . Sit comfortably in a chair and in a place where you will be able to read without distractions, with your head slightly tilted forward, adjust the light so that your eyesight does not get tired, assume a patient and positive attitude, etc.

If you’re reading from your computer, a Tablet or an ebook, make sure your screen is clean, with no glare. Adjust the colours of your screen if necessary, as the best way to see text is to use dark letters on a light background.

2.Use a guide

To read faster, you can use your finger, a ruler or a pencil (or better its eraser) to follow the reading under each line. This helps you to focus your vision and the eye has less trouble following the movement than reading word by word.

3.Read the words as a group

This point is important in order to solve the problem of reading word by word and thus reduce sub-vocalization. As you read the word, your eyes focus on that word you are reading, which is known as the primary focus. Despite this, your eyes can encompass a wider field of vision , in which both sides of the primary focus are visualised. This area, which makes up the primary focus and some distance to both sides, is known as the focal field or peripheral vision.

Some people have a three or four word focal field, others have a wider peripheral vision. This point can be difficult to make, but it only takes practice.

4.Read from the third word

Once you have learned to master the previous point, it is possible to read from the third word at the beginning of the paragraph and finish on the third word before the end of the paragraph. Thus you use the unused peripheral vision for the margins .

5.Practice Skimming

The skimming refers to the search for the most important ideas by reading the first and last paragraphs, taking into account other organizational cues, such as summaries, used by the author.

It is useful in the search for information because helps to identify whether the text is of interest, or when reading the newspaper . In these cases skimming is done at three to four times the speed of normal reading. In addition, skimming allows you to get an initial idea of the text, which helps you to read quickly, without having to use regression, i.e. re-reading again.