Improving Your Reading Speed: How to Read Fast and Retain More
There never seems to be enough time to read—whether you need to read an email for work, read a research paper for school, or read a book just for fun. So the ability to speed read could be a game-changer.
But is speed reading really possible without a loss of comprehension?
We have good news: Effective speed reading techniques can help you read faster—and they don’t have to compromise content retention.
So keep reading to explore the science behind reading speed, tips for reading faster and retaining more, and how the Elevate app can help you train your brain to read more efficiently.
How Fast Should You Read?
An average person's normal reading speed range is 200-400 words per minute (wpm), with a comprehension rate of about 60 percent. Skilled readers, on the other hand, are able to read at a faster rate (some as high as 700 wpm!) without sacrificing their comprehension of key points.
By finding ways to increase your reading speed without sacrificing comprehension, you'll be able to consume and retain more information in a shorter amount of time. However, it's important to remember that reading speed and retention are not the only factors that contribute to effective reading. Other factors, such as focus, interest in the material, and preexisting knowledge of the topic also play important roles.
Speed Reading and Retention: Why it Matters
To understand how to read faster and retain more, it's important to understand the cognitive processes involved in reading and comprehension.
When you read, your eyes move in a series of quick jumps called saccades. Your brain then fills in the gaps between these jumps and combines them with your prior knowledge to create meaning.
To improve reading speed, it's important to use your peripheral vision to take in more words on the page at once. This can be accomplished by using techniques like widening your gaze or shifting your focus slightly to take in more text. By doing so, you can minimize the number of saccades needed to read a page, which can help you read faster.
However, it's important to balance speed with comprehension, as reading too quickly can lead to a decrease in understanding if you're not processing the information properly. To maintain comprehension while reading quickly, do your best to remain focused on the material and actively engage with it. This can be done by asking yourself questions about the material, summarizing what you've read, and making connections between different pieces of information.
By understanding the cognitive processes involved in reading and balancing speed with comprehension, you can improve your reading skills and become a more efficient reader. This can have a positive impact on many areas of your life, including academic studies, work-related tasks, and personal development.
How Can You Increase Reading Speed?
Speed reading—again, without sacrificing comprehension—is a valuable skill that can be developed through regular practice. So let's explore some actionable techniques you can use to improve your reading speed and take you from an average reader to a great one.
The Art of Chunking: Reading More in Less Time
Chunking involves breaking up the text into smaller, more manageable chunks to make it easier to process. This technique helps improve reading speed by reducing eye movements and minimizing fixation points, allowing the brain to process information more efficiently. Here's how to chunk text while reading:
- Expand your vision, so you can see and process 4-5 words at a time.
- Use your finger or a pen to guide your eyes through these fixation points, if it's helpful.
- Focus primarily on nouns and verbs, and ignore filler words that don't carry meaning.
- At the end of natural breaks in the text, such as headings, subheadings, or bullet points, practice summarizing the material in your own words before moving on to the next section.
Minimizing Subvocalization: Silent Reading for Speed
Subvocalization is the habit of saying each word in your head while reading. While this can help with comprehension, it might slow down reading speed. And you don't actually need to pronounce every word in your head to understand them.
To minimize subvocalization and improve reading speed, try these techniques:
- Focus on the overall meaning of the text rather than the individual words in it.
- Listen to instrumental music while you read to occupy your mind with a sound other than the silent pronunciation of the words you're reading.
- Chew gum or suck on hard candy while you read to keep your mouth busy and break the habit of mouthing each word (if that's something you do).
Regular practice is key to improving reading speed and comprehension. So by incorporating techniques like chunking and minimizing subvocalization into your daily reading routine, you can become a more efficient reader and absorb more information in less time.
The Best Ways to Boost Comprehension and Retention
Along with improving your reading speed, there are a couple of techniques, such as active reading and note-taking, that can give your comprehension and retention a boost, too.
Active Reading: Engaging with the Text for Better Understanding
Active reading is a technique that involves actively engaging with the text to improve your understanding and retention. By interacting with the material, you can deepen your comprehension and create lasting connections. Some active reading techniques include the following:
- Asking questions about the content as you read
- Making predictions about what will happen next
- Visualizing the information presented in the text
- Connecting what you're reading to things you're already familiar with
Note-Taking and Summarizing: Tools for Retention
Taking notes and summarizing while reading can improve your ability to retain and recall information. These techniques help reinforce your understanding of the material and make it easier to review later. Here are some practical tips for effective note-taking and summarizing:
- Use headings and bullet points to organize your notes.
- Write brief summaries in your own words to reinforce your understanding.
- Take advantage of your phone's voice-to-text technology if you don't have other note-taking materials handy.
- Review your notes periodically to aid long-term retention.
Creating a distraction-free environment and staying focused on the material can also contribute to effective reading.
Leveraging the Elevate App to Improve Reading Skills
To practice increasing your reading speed, you can use certain mobile apps. One popular brain training app that incorporates a wide variety of reading speed and comprehension games is Elevate.
With more than 40 games spread across reading, writing, speaking, memory, and math skill groups, the Elevate app offers personalized training programs based on your goals—like reading more efficiently—and it adapts to your skill level and performance over time.
Elevate App Features for Enhancing Reading Skills
The Elevate app includes several games designed to enhance your reading skills, including speed reading exercises, comprehension exercises, and the ability to track your progress.
- Elevate's Processing game is a great way to improve your reading speed and eye-tracking efficiency while making sure you're not sacrificing comprehension. Play along with us below and let us know how you do:
- Elevate's Extraction game is also a great way to improve your reading efficiency by helping you practice skimming and scanning, two techniques that can help you read with a purpose and get the information you need faster, even when there’s a lot of text.
- The Visualization game lets you practice matching images to words, creating visual connections to help increase your vocabulary and improve your reading comprehension.
- Elevate also has a whole section of its Study Materials dedicated to teaching you more about speed reading. You can take a speed diagnostic test, read through expert tips, and practice eliminating subvocalization, eye tracking, and grouping and chunking techniques.
Real Success Stories: Users' Reading Improvement with Elevate
Many people have seen big improvements in their reading speed after using the Elevate app. In a recent survey, 80% of Elevate members who use the app five times per week reported improved reading skills. And improved reading speed shows up as a benefit in several of the app's reviews, too:
- “The exercises are well-made, and you can be done within 10 minutes. I train during my morning commute, and it has helped me become sharper, improved my reading speed, and broadened my vocabulary.”
- “I have been using this for around 4 months, and I have seen considerable improvements in my reading speed, writing, and memory.”
- “I’ve gone up to reading 250 wpm. I didn’t know I could do that and retain what I read. And it’s fun!”
Start Improving Your Reading Speed Today
Learning how to read faster and retain more information is a valuable skill in today's information-heavy world. And one way to improve your reading speed is by downloading the Elevate brain training app on iOS or Android. It has games specifically dedicated to improving your reading speed through techniques like skimming, scanning, visualization, and more. Give it a try for free today!
- Mnemonics can boost memory and enrich vocabulary. Learn how to apply them in your everyday life.
- Learn what brain training is, its benefits, and how you can easily get started training your brain.
- Learn more about how to increase your attention span, and get our tips for increasing your focus.