It is useful to know the characteristics of speed reading before embarking on any speed reading course.
We always like to know what we are getting ourselves into, especially if it is something we know little about. There are basic characteristics of speed reading that need to be practiced to be able to speed read. How these are learned may vary, as courses can be taken through a personal instructor or bought as computer software. Some individuals have even mastered the techniques on their own. Others can speed read without even having a clue as to how they do it!
Scanning, skimming and glancing are methods used by many speed readers. Skimming and glancing helps us to preview the chapter before reading it to determine, in general, what the writing is about, what the main idea is and how the ideas are written. This initial preview usually takes about 30 – 60 seconds depending on the length of the section of work you wish to study. Quickly skim over the work, taking note of the chapter’s title, headings, subheadings and bold or italic print. Take note of any illustrations, graphs or charts. To understand a little more of the information in the paragraphs, quickly glance at the first and last paragraphs as well as the first sentence of each paragraph.
Scanning will be the characteristic of speed reading where you will very quickly read each paragraph. Taking note of the important key words in the sentences. What is a keyword? If one were to take out the key words the sentence would make no sense. Therefore, the other words that make up the sentence are unimportant – only ‘filler’ words.
Most importantly, an efficient reader will not read every word separately. He will read large groups of words or paragraphs simultaneously. This is done by increasing our natural peripheral visual ability when reading. When you look at a picture, you don’t focus on only a tiny section, you see the whole image. Speed readers have learned to apply this tactic to their reading.
The elimination of back-skipping and sub-vocalization habits are also important characteristics of speed reading. Back-skipping is the bad habit of many readers, without them realizing it, of re-reading the same word or sentence once, twice or even more times. This drastically slows down the speed of reading.
Sub-vocalization is also a habit done by the majority of us without us even realizing that there is anything wrong with it. Perhaps not wrong, but definitely not helpful in speed reading. Sub-vocalization is the reading of words out loud in our heads. The problem with this is that it allows us to read only as fast as what we can think, and not as fast as our brains can process information. Which is faster than you ever imagined.
Efficient speed readers adjust their rate according to the difficulty of the text. Higher speeds can be maintained for easier reads, while slower speeds will be necessary for difficult or more technical writings. Of course, high speeds are not very applicable to fictional reading or poetry, but practicing with the characteristics of speed reading whenever you can is important.
All the characteristics of speed reading have excellent benefits for the reader. Even if only one of these tactics were achieved, your reading speed would improve significantly.