Speed Reading Techniques: How to Read 1000 Words per Minute

”One trouble with developing speed reading skills is that by the time you realize a book is boring, you’ve already finished it.” – Franklin P. Jones

We all spend hours reading each week. However, sometimes it is hard to keep up with this activity because of other responsibilities and activities. What if you could cut down your reading time without compromising the quality or quantity of your reading? Or if you could memorize more of the things you read in a better way? All this is quite achievable with speed reading. An elaborate series of skills and techniques, speed reading, can help you become a much more skilled reader.

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According to research, the average reading speed for the general population is around 120 words per minute (wpm), and that is while taking into account their ability to comprehend the text. The top readers, who form merely 1% of the populace, can read up to 400 wpm and not more than that.

With the help of speed reading, you can read seven or eight times quicker than the fastest readers. Certain speed reading courses enable participants to improve their reading speed by 400% in a single three-hour session! However, despite being effective, speed reading techniques aren’t very familiar with most, which is why they end up missing out on something great.

Myths about Reading

There are some myths and misconceptions regarding reading in general that cause people to refrain from practicing speed reading.

  1. Reading Quickly Hampers Retention: The reality is quite the opposite of this perception. Speed reading techniques enhance your retention and understanding of the text.
  2. Reading Has to be Linear: Non-linear storytelling has gained popularity in books as well as on the television and in movies. Often writers pen the ending first before working on the rest of the book.
  3. You Have to Read Word-for-Word: This myth is propagated during early school years when teachers insist that students read word-for-word. The habit that forms at a young age is hard to let go off.

Since most people’s reading habits are the polar opposite of what speed reading is about, they find it hard to make the switch. However, what may cause them to change their mind is reading about the benefits of speed reading.

Image source: Flickr. Author: Dillan Moore

Save Time on Reading: Read Twice As Fast As You Do Now

First of all, you will learn to read faster without missing out on anything. This alone means that you are going to spend less time reading. For people who have to read every single day, for work or study, reading faster can help save a lot of time. College students especially have to read a lot of cursory material in addition to their course textbooks. With speed reading, they can research quicker and hand in their assignments on time.

As you learn to read quickly, you can get more reading done on the go while riding the subway or on an airplane. Let’s say you spend an hour reading every day. You can easily cut that down to 30 minutes, saving you half an hour each day. Over the course of years, it equates to around 1 week (182 hours) saved!

These aside, there are many jobs where reading is a daily job. Paralegals, script consultants, movie studio executives, professors and similar professionals have a lot of reading to do, hundreds of pages every day. They can reduce the time taken for speed reading. This way, they will enhance their productivity and be able to get more work done.

The Benefits of Speed Reading

Apart from saving time, here are some other advantages of speed reading:

Improved Memory and Focus

The brain is a muscle and needs to work out. Speed reading provides the ideal exercise for your brain enabling you to improve your memory. Also, when reading dense bodies of text quickly, your focus will improve considerably.

Release Your Stress

Reading is a relaxing activity. If you read even a few pages of a good book after a long day’s work, you will feel relaxed, and your stress will be released. Also, your emotional wellbeing will improve.

Enhanced Logic

Your logic is enhanced when your brain starts retaining and storing more information. You can link the information you acquire now to what you have learned before.

Better at Problem Solving

Your problem-solving skills will get better as you employ speed reading. Problem-solving is all about concentration and logic, two things you will acquire through speed reading techniques.

These are just some of the benefits of speed reading. Overall, you will start feeling better about yourself, and your self-confidence will improve greatly.

Image source: Flickr. Author: Jeff Berman

Speed Reading Techniques

So, if you’re sold on the idea of reading super-fast, it’s time we get to the business end of things. There are numerous techniques that can increase your reading speed to 1,000wpm. However, before you start reading, there are some preparatory steps you should undertake. This helps you in creating the perfect environment for speed reading.

  • The first step is deciding why you want to read the book, newspaper, magazine or whatever it is you are reading. Unless you have a clearly defined purpose, it’s hard to find the motivation to read it.
  • Get rid of everything that could distract you from your reading endeavor. This includes your phone (if you can live without it for a few hours), the TV and computer. Tell the people around you that you intend to get some reading done and would appreciate not being disturbed.
  • Before opening the first page, read the back cover and anything about the book or author printed on the inside of the cover. This enables you to prepare mentally for the task ahead.

Once you have created the right environment and are in the mindset to start reading, start using the following techniques for speed reading.

Technique#1: Use a Pointer

Without something to guide your eyes, it becomes difficult to stay fixed at a particular spot on the page you are reading. All it takes is a blink of the eyes, a sneeze or any other minor distraction and your eyes go off the page. The matter gets worse when you don’t return to the point at which you were before going off. Therefore, you need to have something to locate the position. For this, using something like a pointer is the best option. You can use your finger as a pointer, which is the easiest option. You can also use a pencil or pen. Just following this simple tip can help increase your reading speed considerably.

Image source: Flickr. Author: Bjorn Bulthuis

Technique #2: Eliminate Sub-Vocalization

If you are not familiar with the concept of sub-vocalizing, it is merely hearing yourself read. This habit is formed because most people learn to read by speaking the words out aloud when they are young. As a result, their mind starts subconsciously vocalizing any piece of text they read. So, you hear that little voice in your head narrating the text as you read it out. Vocalizing does help with comprehension, but it is not a must by any means. If you manage to eliminate sub-vocalization, you can become a speed reader in no time at all. One way to do this is to move the pointer quicker than the pace at which you hear the words in your head.

Technique #3: Control Your Speed

Speed reading does not mean that you hit full throttle and skim through pages and pages of text. You need to monitor the speed at which you are reading. This is made possible by the use of a pointer. Over time, you will notice that the speed at which you move the pointer is corresponding to your reading speed. Therefore, if you move the pointer faster, you will read more rapidly. However, when you feel exhausted, you need to slow yourself down. When reading textbooks, you will come across many paragraphs where a point is being repeated just to drive it home. Rather than read through it every single time, it is better just to skim over it using your pointer.

Image source: Flickr. Author: Erin

Technique #4: Focus on Retention

Speed reading is not just about flying through a book without remembering little of it when you get to the end. There are people who boast about their speed reading skills. When you ask them about what they retained of the book they just read, it turns out to quite unimpressive. To keep the material, you need to know when to slow down your speed. This is hinted at in the previous technique as well. You need to have control over your reading speed so that when you come across a challenging topic or subject, you can retain it better.

Technique #5: Use Active Reading

The world’s speed reading champion can read 4,700 wpm. This means that that person can easily get through long novels in books in less than an hour. However, at that speed, there is precious little to learn and retain. Now, if you are reading Inferno or The Casual Vacancy, it is fine if you read quickly since their purpose is entertainment. However, when studying for an exam, you need to prepare your mind to be inquisitive and open to learning so that you can grasp the information in the text before you. It isn’t like if you read it, you will learn.

Technique #6: Practice Makes Perfect

Speed reading, like any other skill, has to be exercised from time to time. It isn’t as if you can become a speed reader overnight and start reading 1,000wpm from day one. You need to invest the time and effort required. The result at the end of it is worth your while as you develop the ability to read faster than 99.5% of the population. Not many people are aware of and practicing speed reading, so it is a unique skill you can acquire to open up new opportunities for you. To master it, you need to keep practicing.

Technique #7: Love What You Read

There is more published written material than there is time to read. So, you have to be selective. Of course, there are some books that you have to read, most of them about your academic or professional life. However, regardless of the reason for which you have picked out reading the material, it is crucial that you love it. Otherwise, you won’t find it interesting. Of course, with speed reading, you can get through boring books in no time at all. But that doesn’t mean you cannot find them interesting. It is all a matter of applying yourself and defining the purpose for which you are reading it.

Technique #8: Use Your Eye Span

One of the major drawbacks of reading word-to-word is that your eye only focuses on a single word at a time. The average eye span is 1.5 inches which means you can read up to four words on either side of a word. For instance, if there are ten words in a sentence, placing your eyes on the 5th word can help you see the sentence in a single glance. This will help you view the text as a block of words rather than in individual units. This is one of the major hindrances to speed reading that people face. Their perceptual gaze isn’t conducive to reading fast, which makes it difficult for them to enhance their reading speed.

These are eight of the most effective speed reading techniques. On the surface, they might appear to be complicated, but practice makes perfect. As you can keep following them, you will find speed reading becoming easier for you. So, if you desire to read 1,000wpm (or even more) without breaking a sweat, learning speed reading is the perfect solution for you.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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13 Comments Speed Reading Techniques: How to Read 1000 Words per Minute

  1. Gregory Miller Aug 22, 2013 at 20:57

    Dear pixel77,

    Just read your blog on speed reading. I found it very interesting because I am an avid reader, but not a speed reader. At the age of 62, you can guess that I was taught the old fashion way. I read fast but not fast enough for my satisfaction. Are there other links or books that you might have available.

    Gregory Miller

    1. Andra Aug 23, 2013 at 13:51

      Hi Gregory,
      I’m glad you found the article interesting. We’ve all become passionate about speed reading here at the office and wanted to get some courses for ourselves. So we put together a deal on a speed reading learning program called Elite Speed Reading, which contains audiobooks, exercises and a special software. You can check it out here: http://www.inkydeals.com/deal/elite-speed-reading/.
      Hope that was helpful!

  2. Mc Jan 5, 2014 at 09:29

    I post a lot of comments in speed-reading-forums though most are mostly either disliked/deleted or non-responsive towards me, so this time I’m going2b as brief as possible that this message maybe the worst of its quality ever sent.

    I’ve just had my New Years 1 Jan birthday, where I’m now a 42 year old4ever struggling… avid Speed-Reader for the past 20 years & practice daily, the annoying thing about me is I’m shallow or narrowly enhanced being specific skilled orientated, this is where one skill won’t even out other skills -so what happens is my paperback practice won’t enhance digitalize text, like a PC via mouse pointer & all other types a meta-guiding-objects that substitutes for all other elect. Devices needs2b specifically practice individually for an overall speed-reading skill of ability, I’ve never done a course in speed-reading, though I haven’t seen anything new in the field of speed-reading the past 10 years, so today I Google up “why no effective resources on speed-reading” – “is speed-reading fading out” – “why is speed-reading never mainstream?” The answer from that question was like every1 has a different view/non/belief there4no direct way2cater.
    As4me; deciding to work at becoming a faster reader seems a rational decision as being possible, therefore I can never disbelieve the potential possibility improving reading efficiency –thus never deciding to give up on my lack of speed gains.

    My need4speed is a major demand; as over the past 10 years I’ve been looking to get lucky at finding any kind of trick to up my reading speeds –like the text2speech narrators today are non-robotic/fully accentually pronounced to spoken speeds beyond the clarity of human speeds therefore the rejection of sub-vocalization gets an upgrade in the world of speed-reading, & hopefully 1 day they’ll allow the breaking of their speed spoken limits of 450wpm. Also it has been known that some can speak just main keywords through the text, I say wouldn’t that be of help ciphering out the gist of the text at faster reading speeds, though those type of text2speeches have been impossible to download.

    At the moment I’ve just been practicing on a PC & books of a basic kind of text that especially accentuates keywords & pictures on every page so it helps to maintain keeping comprehension on track with the text while read at faster speeds when doing vertical/zigzag speed reading, the text exercises various reading lengths column/novel like 5/10 words per line, basically it’s like training wheels for the speed-reading mind. So what are these books exactly? They’re scholastic kids books which are the (Geronimo Stilton’s) collection I have about 37 books of them & I’m going to buy a lot more of them.
    Using these books for the specific purpose of working on my speed-reading basics “on a basic level” was just my idea – as – a – stepping – stone – so I can eventually take visual vertical/zigzag speed-reading skills up onto a higher level as to handle my speed-reading into harder literature.

    I will now check out your Elite-Speed-Reading as I continually explore with an open mind, though like I mention as an ongoing seeker I haven’t yet found anything different in speed-reading for the past 10 years.


  3. Mc Jan 5, 2014 at 09:52

    Sentence correction for the previous message
    & hopefully 1 day they’ll allow an iPad to break their spoken speed limit of 450wpm. Though I doubt they’ll allow that to happen.

  4. Mc Jan 5, 2014 at 13:48

    Sorry but I guess seeing your Elite Speed Reading site it recommended eagle eye software.
    So I guess now a little more comes to my mind.

    I’ve had eagle eye for about 5 years.
    But I know some hotkey combinations of using selecting text as to simulate like a meta guiding up to 1000wpm. which highlights just like what Eagle-Eye-Software can do & but with more control if I decide to backtrack on the text as to re-read smaller increment sections of text at a time, which is basically just all old school for me: –

    shift+ctrl+> arrow through text – mid way through paragraph – arrow up takes selecting to beginning paragraph again for repeating per paragraph OR leave finger on shift+arrow-up to re-select repeating per line again OR select 1/2 of text shift+arrow-down selects 1/2 text for peripherally reading down 1/2 line at a time. And of course last of the least which is selecting text at fairly average speed being nearly slow as verbal speed of 350wpm – hold shift+>arrow through text & to repeat over text again take finger off shift and press arrow back takes you back to the beginning
    You can oppose this effect by unselecting though the text giving a uncovering text effect as a meta-guider by selecting all the text then press shift+ctrl+up arrow then shift+ctrl+>arrow.

    I prefer (ACE-READER SOFTWARE) as it’s way more flexible featured programs for exercising my read efficiency per phrases/sentences/Paragraph a glance. -Optional you can include a Mouse Pointer as an Eye-Guide.

    VLC Media Player
    is the best all rounded PC player I find for drilling reading speeds with activate close-caption videos

    I remember seeing you had some articles of a PDF sources.
    so when it comes to PDF Docs I’ve found all ways with their reading features like

    PC best (AUTO-SCROLL) in Pdf Files
    Acrobat Reader set on (Shift+Ctrl+H) you can hand-tool drag screen to backtrack (where it will actually remain on the set auto scroll speed – rather than to reset it) like you would pressing in a mouse wheel on a word doc. & it has a word-wrap feature know as (Reflow Ctrl+4) for readjusting variable text line lengths especially handy when zooming for larger text sizes to fit to screen.
    Really I just learn typically by experimenting with things, I guess I could say it is really like just trying to find ways to make text easier to read.

    Copy to MS-word – Office button – Save as – PDF or XPS.
    Set word wrap to text (Ctrl+4) & then Set auto-scroll (Shift+Ctrl+H) & arrow-V-faster.
    Just Page/Mouse-wheel/Drag-(Up) if misread. For Dragging the page use (hand tool) Tools–Select & Zoom–Hand tool.

    My FaceBook has a few lengthy notes that are all strictly geared towards my Speed-Reading experiences.
    Though at the present moment I’m working on creating visually enhanced mnemonic project for memorizing the 5250 SAT/GRE necessary vocabulary words where all the mnemonic memorizations are artistically drawn out aiding to increase the power of the mnemonic system itself.
    Its going to be 32 cards a screen short front & flips side as 64 showing altogether instead of memorizing per card, as I came to realized when cramming to memorize really truly fast at blinding speeds it’s best to view all in bulk which saves on effort flipping through them & a spanned view means easier backtracking of instant revision.

    Yours sincerely Mc

  5. Arunkumar Dec 11, 2015 at 00:40

    Andra .. i come with you

  6. Warren Jan 13, 2016 at 15:19

    Wow, this was an excellent article. I’ve been struggling as a vocal reader, finding myself subconsciously mimicking people speaking to me.

    I’ll definitely be using these techniques.

    Thank you for the article!

    Best regards

    1. Claudia Feb 10, 2016 at 12:21

      You’re very welcome, Warren. I’m so glad this helped you. Let us know how it worked :)

  7. kailas Jan 21, 2016 at 04:53

    It is very good articles

    1. Claudia Feb 10, 2016 at 12:15

      I’m glad you like it! :)

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  10. rasheed Jul 29, 2019 at 13:54

    Why did you say the top readers can read 400 wpm and not more than that and then you say later on in the article that you can learn to read 1000 wpm and the top reader in the world today can read 4,700 wpm ?


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