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Speed reading

Speed reading is the skill of reading and comprehending text at a high rate.

On the average, a person with a college-level education reads at around 300 words per minute, assuming that the material is not of a technical nature. On the other hand the fastest readers can read more than a thousand words per minute.

A measurement of reading speed is meaningful only when combined with information on how much of the text was understood by the reader. It has been found that people with higher reading speeds also have higher comprehension. Even more surprisingly, a person usually improves their comprehension as well when they improve their reading speed.

There are several factors that inhibit speed reading:

  1. Poor vocabulary
  2. Regression - going over the same material repeatedly.
  3. Word hopping - reading one word at a time
  4. Subvocalization - pronouncing the words in one's mind as one reads them
  5. Faulty perception - either due to faulty eye movement or slow perception time

Most casual readers can double or triple their reading speed by practising speed reading.

Techniques for increasing the speed include:

  1. Having an eye checkup
  2. Not vocalizing as you read - you think much faster than you speak
  3. Not hopping back and forth - disipline your eye movements
  4. Read more than one word at a time

Indisciplined eye movement is perhaps the largest stumbling block to speed reading. Often slow readers hop between each word, making slow careful eye movements, whereas a speed reader maintains a smooth line passing through the text. The maximum reading rate is also dependent on the reader's familiarity with the text; heavy technical documents require a speed reduction even for speed readers.

In general, reading employs various skills depending on the level of text and the intent behind the action. For example, if reading to obtain a general overview of a piece of text we might skim, or alternatively, if searching for an important quote or piece of technical information (where full understanding isn't important) we might scan.

See also: Mind sport.

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