I read a lot. Always have.
Plus, I read quickly. People have always remarked on it.
So, is speed reading real? Well, here are a few short tales from my life:
My dad would say “Why do you speed-read through your personal reading like that – you’re not savoring the story!” I’d draw similar remarks from my high school friends.
For a long time, I recall my teachers not believing me when I finished reading passages in school, and forcing me to (pretend to) reread them!
When it comes to the SAT , I can speed through Critical Reading sections three times in the allotted 25 minute span…
… the same time limit that leaves most students under extreme pressure to finish even once through. In an SAT tutoring lesson recently, I again had a student react with disbelief at my reading speed.
So, I think I may have at least some insight into this question – “Is Speed Reading Real?” – and I’d like to share it with you, because I know this is a question many people have for themselves.
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If you want to “speed-read,” read more!
In today’s world of video and high-definition screens all around you at all times, reading has become somewhat of a lost art (although you can use technology to enhance your reading speed and skills).
Your reading speed may be slower than you’d like simply because you’re so accustomed to not needing to read, because of all the audio and visual bombardment you endure in your daily life.
Or, it might be because your vocabulary is a little bit behind where you want it to be.
So, the first thing you should plan on doing is reading more often.
The best way to read more often is to read about stuff you like!
With the hundreds of thousands of titles available at your fingertips with a store like Amazon.com and a set of book lists like this one, I guarantee you will find at least a dozen interesting books in 15 minutes of searching.
Seriously – unless you have less hobbies and interests than a ball of dead moss, you will have no trouble finding books that really hook you. There is simply NO EXISTING TOPIC ON EARTH that has not been written about.
Books about video games, sports, celebrity gossip, vampires, sci-fi, cheesy teen romance, Goosebumps… All that stuff your parents say is junk… I’m all for it – just get reading.
Now, you’ll find yourself reading in the morning, during your lunch break, after school, on weekends… because you’ve got something fascinating to read. That’s “magic secret” #1 (it’s far from magic – it’s fun, and it’s great practice)
I used to read at least an hour a day – apart from school, from my own choices of books – from 2nd grade to senior year of high school. Usually I would get a few minutes in while eating my cereal in the morning, and the rest of the time in bed right before I fell asleep.
Nowadays, I get most of my information from skimming internet sites and books, and mainly read biographies of people that interest me – right now it’s a great book on Bob Dylan.
I promise, it’s really fun to have a reading habit once you find the kind of books that grab you!
This also helps you naturally expand your vocabulary while reading stuff you like, so it’s great for tests like the SAT as well as personal enrichment.
Ok… so back to the question: Is speed reading really real? Think about this:
I don’t think that what people call “speed reading” is actually the separate skill that some people imagine it to be.
In other words, it’s not like an “on/off” switch where I say “Ok, 3, 2, 1, TIME TO SPEED READ!
No… it’s more a way of interacting and responding actively to a text, where you read some parts slower and some parts much more quickly…
For example, I skim sections that don’t interest me, or lists of details, etc. I see no point in dwelling on clichés, so if a writer isn’t being original, or giving me something new, I skim.
The more I read, the better I get at skimming unoriginal passages and “getting to the good stuff.” On the SAT Critical Reading section (also read How to get a Perfect 800 on SAT Reading), this could take the form of important author’s theories, character development, the tone of the article, etc.
You respond to the text. You’re not a slave to the words on the page – in fact, they have to obey you. A book can’t force you to read every word of itself. So – get to the important stuff, or the good parts!
With a book, you control the pace yourself, unlike in a movie or TV show, where you have to stick with the pacing of the actors. It’s the difference between being a backseat passenger, and the driver of your own car.
Is Speed Reading Real? It depends on your vocabulary!
Vocabulary is extremely important to your reading speed, because: A) Without vocabulary, you don’t even know if a paragraph is important or if it’s skimmable, and … B) If you’re stumbling over vocabulary, there’s no way you’re maxing out your reading comprehension speed.
I think you would be amazed at how much faster you read – automatically! – if you woke up tomorrow with an extra 5000 words in your vocabulary.
So, make a plan to get there! Make it a life goal to add 1000, 2000, or 5000 words to your personal vocabulary.
Check out my Conquer SAT Vocabulary video course for my best tips on building your vocabulary and verbal skills in high-definition video (with a reader-only discount!)
Having a wide-ranging vocabulary is an extremely powerful speed-reading tool – don’t underestimate it.
In addition to helping you read faster, a strong vocabulary makes you more persuasive, attracts more opportunities your way, gives you a better, deeper understanding of your world and your life, and opens up the finest literature in the language to your enjoyment.
Vocabulary can literally pay off in terms of money. The more you know and understand, the more you’re worth.
Daily reading is the best way to develop a rich vocabulary. Look up each and every word you don’t know, but also practice guessing based on the context… it will build up a mental network that helps you deal with new words in the future.
If you’re doing SAT prep, there are more efficient ways to study: the best SAT vocab lists that I know of are here. Those will get you 1000+ words closer to your goal, and are extremely well-targeted towards common words on the SAT – the best on the market, in my experience.
Also enroll in my Conquer SAT Vocab course for more tips and ideas!
So, is Speed-Reading REALLY real or not?
In my opinion, YES.
BUT – What most people imagine speed-reading to be (an on-off switch that’s different from normal reading) is a MYTH.
Instead, the lucky few who know how to “speed read” are actually just really experienced readers, with deep vocabularies, who know how to get information very quickly from words on a page. It just takes practice…
I believe a lifetime of reading is the most enjoyable and rewarding way to increase your reading speed naturally…
However, 10 minutes a day or less with proven, effective speed reading software can significantly cut the learning curve, although you have to know the right products.
Plus, speed-reading software helps you visualize and experience what a much faster reading speed would be like.
Sometimes it’s really hard to imagine how something feels if you’ve never experienced it.
So, if you haven’t naturally developed your own techniques for speed reading, these software programs can knock something loose and help you make the breakthrough in reading speed that you want.
Is Speed-Reading Real? The Bottom Line:
You can read much faster than you do now, but nothing awesome comes without effort.
Being able to read books, magazines, articles, and web pages at 700+ words a minute is unbelievably handy for business, college, high school, standardized tests, professionals, and personal satisfaction.
Finding your own definition of “speed-reading” is a great goal to shoot for, whether you’re 16 and preparing for the SAT, or 26 and angling for a promotion at work!