Reading is a universal activity and certainly one of the most important skills to be able to gain new knowledge or access information. So, how can we organize this process in the most effective and efficient way? This is where speed reading comes into play, and the good news is anyone can learn how to speed read. It’s a powerful asset to expand your knowledge, enhance your learning experience or even boost your career.

This tutorial will show you how to comprehend better while reading faster. You may easily enhance your skills by understanding the powerful combination of speed reading techniques available. An infographic at the end of this post will also summarize some of these core concepts.

1. Hand Pacing Technique

Hand pacing is a simple reading improvement technique allowing you to read faster while maintaining a steady level of apprehension. Have you ever heard of the pointer method? Well most of us learned it during our school days but for some reason we stopped using this technique as we grew up.

The pointer method was developed by the creator of speed reading, Evelyn Wood. It involves moving/sliding the index finger or a pointer across the page and below the sentence you are going to read. This will sharpen your overall focus and speed. Pacing yourself is the quickest way to learn how to speed read.

2. Scanning and Previewing

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Scanning and previewing techniques can enhance your skill of quickly capturing the central idea of what you plan to read. This technique will teach you to scan for numbers, names and trigger words.

With time and practice you will up your speed to identify key sentences in a paragraph. Expert speed readers are able to skim and comprehend a whole page within seconds.

When using this technique, make sure to look for items such as lists, points, graphs, indexes and subheadings. Identify these key items before getting into detail.

3. Reading Chunks of Words

Reading groups of words is one of the key skills to gain when learning how to speed read. It is also one of the most time consuming speed reading techniques to learn.

As the name suggest, the technique involves reading chunks of words rather than individual words. The goal is to reduce the number of “stops” your eyes perform as you read. Once you start taking chunks of words, your comprehension rate and with that your overall reading abilities will improve a great deal.

4. How To Improve Reading Comprehension

image of How to Speed Read - Apprehension Techniques

Reading comprehension is the capability to read text, to process it and to apprehend it. This may sound simple, but it is actually not. Understanding can be a difficult concept. The brain processes new knowledge with full cognizance of the existing cognitive structure.

This means that the new knowledge must be related to other knowledge that is already stored in the brain. The way in which you comprehend (or understand) what you read will depend upon the association that is made with the knowledge structure you already have.

Why is it important?
There is no point to read fast if you cannot apprehend the meaning of the text or if you cannot ingrain new information into existing memory structures. However, there is much that you can do to develop your comprehension rate and it will benefit you while learning how to speed read.

How to speed read and boost apprehension?

  1. Improve your vocabulary. In order to understand what we read we need to know the meaning of the words used. However, so many words have a myriad of meanings that depend upon the context within which they are used. Improving your vocabulary, therefore, does entail the memorization of new words and also studying the different contexts within which those words can be used to convey different meanings.
  2. Visualization & memory techniques. Human comprehension depends upon the ability to visualize and memorize. If you master techniques such as brain maps or building a memory palace you will be much better able to visualize and memorize new information and you will most certainly enhance your apprehension in the process. Apart from a better understanding, you will also be able to recall information more reliable.
  3. Take notes and summarize. When you take notes you are forcing yourself to interpret what you read. If you find it very difficult or even impossible to summarize text into short notes you know that you have not fully grasped the text. It is best to summarize only once you have (speed) read a logical section of text that deals with a specific concept.
  4. Keep the subject matter in mind. If you keep the author’s or a chapter’s main subject in mind when you read, you will find it much easier to understand the true meaning of specific words or phrases. For example, if you read a book about machine learning, the use of the term “elegant” will refer to a sophisticated programming technique, not to a well dressed person.
  5. Preview the text. Because comprehension depends a lot on your ability to understand the meaning of words and phrases within their context, you may benefit from skimming the text before you actually start to read. This speed reading technique has been discussed above and will help you to understand the author’s main idea quickly.

5. Reverse Bad Reading Habits

To increase the effectiveness of your reading, be aware that certain habits can reduce efficiency. Many develop those bad reading habits as a child during school.

Subvocalization (saying the words in your head) and regression (stepping back in text) are the most common ones. They will often slow you down and have an adverse impact on your apprehension and text processing ability.

You may also face problems when reading in an unsuitable environment with poor light or loud sounds or when you are just tired. However, you can manage these issues quite easily if you are willing to set up the right conditions for your reading or studying.

Just a few tips to tackle bad habits

  • Try to tackle habits individually in order to reduce or eliminate them.
  • Skim and scan before you read. Use linear and cross-shaped hand pacing patterns.
  • While scanning look for unfamiliar words and deliberately subvocalize them.
  • This will help reduce the temptation to subvocalize them later.
  • Count numbers, sum a melody or chew gum to reduce subvocalization.
  • Resist to go back in text. You will not miss important facts.
  • Discipline your eyes. Train them to read smoothly from left to right.

There is a lot of material that you can read on the subject of overcoming bad habits. The University of Alabama’s Center for Academic Success offers a simple list of how to correct these habits.

In the previous paragraphs we covered essential speed reading techniques you can try on your own. In the next ones we will discuss some popular software to assist you further.

6. Learn How To Speed Read – Software & Courses

You can either use software, enroll in an online course or attend a live class to learn how to speed read. This can be a very effective approach as those courses focus on advanced speed reading techniques, exercises, speed tests, and scientific methods to help you get rid of bad habits.

Below are popular courses/tools that have been found to be helpful and effective by many students around the globe. However, these are just two recommendations, and we encourage you to do your research before enrolling into a course of your choice.


Reedso is a "speed reader" that uses advanced technology to help you read faster. Want to read faster but don't want to learn "speed reading technique"? Try Reedso.

Traditionally, when you read a word, your eyes naturally fixate on a single point within that word. We call this the Optimal Viewing Position (OVP). Once you have found the OVP, your brain kicks in. It first recognises and then retrieves the meaning of the word you are looking at.

Knowing this, Reedso speeds up the recognition and retrieval process by displaying each word with the OVP already identified, fixed and highlighted. This means you don't have to move your eyes whilst you are reading. Reedso places every word in exactly the place your brain wants it to be for the most efficient and effective comprehension possible.

Even better, you enjoy an amazingly focussed and comfortable reading experience as well! Try Reedso.

Iris Reading

image of iris logo - learn to speed read

Iris Reading is one of the most recognized institutions to learn how to read faster. You may book a live class in many cities in the U.S. and Canada. Iris also offers in-person classes in the U.K., India, China, Brazil, Russia or Singapore. Alternatively, you may enroll yourself in one of their online video courses.