Success at Reading Comprehension depends on two limiting factors: (1) The rate at which the information you’re reading enters your brain and (2) what your brain is able to do with it. The latter, being able to act on information, is a composite skill that is acquired through years of learning.
Fortunately for test-takers, the first factor — your speed of reading — can be seriously increased with a few simple adjustments in technique. You can learn how to read faster as long as you’re willing to put in the practice. Here’s how to do it.
Many slow readers rely on ineffective reading processes such as subvocalization (reading softly/“in your mind”) and fixation (repetitive reading).
Subvocalization is a very common problem that severely restricts reading speed: it takes much longer to actually say a word than it does to simply “recognize” it and move on. The difficult bit, if you’re a subvocalizer, is forcing yourself to actually adopt an alternate method of reading.
Fixation is equally tricky. While repetition in reading may sometimes be merited or even necessary, in most cases it’s just an idle bad habit. Estimates in the speed-reading industry suggest that 33% of people habitually reread text. I, for one, find myself returning to parts of passages for all sorts of ridiculous reasons—including liking a particular word or turn of phrase. Savoring language is essential to enjoying the aesthetics of what you read, but it isn’t particularly well-suited to a standardized testing environment like the LSAT or GMAT.
If any of the above problems sound familiar (or if you’re just curious), try some of these DIY approaches to improve your reading speed. With practice, you can develop a reading method that isn’t as time-consuming as your current one. Even modest improvements can have a large cumulative effect on your RC performance.
Simple speed reading exercises
While the following exercises utilize different methods, the underlying goal of each is the same: to increase your “eye span,” i.e. to force you to read more words at once than you normally would. The best readers are able to read entire sentences simultaneously and, more importantly, can process the information contained within them.
All of these exercises focus on raw speed, but don’t forget the all-important “comprehension” part of RC. The trick is to read as quickly as you can while still retaining the information in a passage.
1) The Hand Trick
Place your palm flat against the reading surface with the first line of text to be read above the side of your hand. Now move your palm down the page at a regular speed and read the text that is exposed while keeping pace with the movement of your palm.
2) The Finger Trick
Place your index finger (or mouse pointer) on the first group of words to be read. Now move your index finger horizontally in a discontinuous manner, “jumping” from point to point in a sentence. This forces you to read words in groups instead of individually.
3) The “Card” Trick
This one works best with a 4×6 photograph. Place the photograph above the first line of text you are about to read. Then, begin moving the photograph down at a steady rate while attempting to read the text before the photograph descends over it. This forces you to pay attention the first time you read a given passage, since you will not have the opportunity to revisit it.
Want even more tips? Here are some very cool resources to improve reading speed. You can test your speed to start by following the link below. If you’re into serious speed, watch these five video lessons for more tips from the pros (they’ll use your tested speed as a baseline). After that, speed-reading comprehension is just a matter of practice.
Speed Reading Video Lessons
Lesson 1 (from Iris Reading)