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The Student Insider

Speed up your reading skills


Written by
Lucy Bodenham

A look at ways to improve your reading and memory retention abilities plus some useful related tools.

Studying in the library

If you do sub vocalise then chew gum or focus on your breathing, both can help you disengage the speech mechanism in your brain

Many of us read somewhere around 200 to 400 words per minute but this depends on the complexity of subject matter and material. With some training it may be possible to double your reading speed. We don’t mean skimming, this isn’t the same as reading. We skim web pages to determine first if the page has the information we are looking for before we start reading and digesting content.

Proficient speed reading relies on breaking habits, so we will start off with some general tips and follow up with some tools to help you conquer your reading materials.

Ten general tips for reading:

  • Avoid distractions and break any bad habits you might have.
  • Put your phone away and any other device which might distract you.
  • Avoid noisy environments with television or radio in the background.
  • Find a place where you won’t get distracted by people walking about.
  • A guide is very effective, use a pen or finger as a pointer.
  • Do not read words out aloud or sub vocalise the words in your head.
  • If you do sub vocalise then chew gum or focus on your breathing – both can help you disengage the speech mechanism in your brain.
  • Instead of moving your eyes from side to side use your peripheral vision.
  • Focus on the middle of the page to make the most of your peripheral vision.
  • Read in chunks rather than word for word.

Speed isn’t everything, it is important to read at a comfortable pace. If you over speed you will lose comprehension of the text and retain less information. This can be a disadvantage of using a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) method, your short term memory can overload. It won’t be possible to look back, without the ability to pause and think about an idea or theory so this method of reading may not suit the purpose of reading philosophy when you use analytical thinking.

The Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) method is where single words flash on a screen at a time. Time is saved on scanning and as you get used to this system you can speed up the display. We will highlight some apps which use the RSVP method next.

Useful reading tools

To get an idea how fast you read do this test on the Wall Street Journal website, How fast can you read this? Once you’ve tried some tips you can retest your reading score to see if you improve.

There are several apps to improve your reading power, one of which is the Reading Trainer available for all platforms. It has 12 challenging exercises to improve your reading speed with better memory retention.

Spritz offer a variety of tools using the RSVP method like the e-book reader for i0S. It cuts down on eye movement required from word to word and sentence to sentence. Text is fast streamed in front of your eyes at a fixed point. Spritz also have a timed test with Spritz for testing your reading level, it’s quick and simple to do.

If you like Spritz you can read the internet using your desktop browser with the Spritzlet. Drag the Spritzlet button to your bookmarks bar to install. Navigate to your web page and use the bookmark to spritz the entire page. When you start to speed up over 250 wpm this method actually becomes easier.

Other useful related tools for readers to mention are Scanner Pro by Readdle. You can turn your iPhone or iPad into a portable scanner enabling quick scanning and saving of a digital version of a paper document, allowing you to read in your own time. You can even convert your paper notes and sketches into digital copies.

Adobe Digital Editions is a free app enabling you to view, manage and organise your eBooks and digital publications. It is available for Windows and Mac and you can read content online or off line and transfer to other devices. It has useful features to bookmark and annotate pages with comments as well as high lighting as you read.

Summly is so useful if you need to save time finding and digesting information on the World Wide Web. It automatically generates search results from web pages and news articles by summarising the main headlines into bullet points.  You can also add a keyword on any topic and content is found for you.

Martview is an eBook reader for Windows. It has a comfortable clean layout which will make reading easier and much more enjoyable on a computer. It even has a retro feel for those who like to turn pages. It’s also good for creating and publishing your own eBooks or magazines via PDF and in other file formats.

It’s now the cusp of the new academic year and many of you are receiving your study packs via the post – enjoy getting stuck in and happy reading!