After almost three weeks of speed reading, I am reading faster but I had been struggling to truly comprehend everything that I was reading. I’ve spent several hours practicing and testing speed and comprehension on everything from short stories to technical writing, and I’ve learned that not all reading is the same! I tend to be able to read a light book at close to 700 words per minute now and then I struggle to get through more dense material at 500 words per minute. Now that’s still a significant improvement over where I began at 300 wpm, but I’ve learned a couple things that will help to significantly boost comprehension for any material.

Preview the Material!

Previewing a book is of utmost importance when you are speed reading, as the more you know before you begin reading, the easier it is for your brain to comprehend and make connections to the material. You should first read your front and back covers, the table of contents, and any other information that is given. Take note of things like the date and location of where the novel was written and published and any key summary information. Here are a couple ideas for previewing different kinds of material.

Previewing Non Fiction- Think about anything that you already know about the topic at hand. Even a nice wikipedia search could be useful to get some background, if you have the ability to do so. Start making a mental inventory of all the information that you have on the topic so that when you begin reading, your brain is ready to start making sense of the information.
Previewing Fiction- Fictional material is a bit different, as you may have to do a bit more research to start establishing mental connections. I like to do a book search online and get chapter summaries so that I have an idea of what is going to happen in the book. It may seem like this is a lot of work, but 5-10 minutes of previewing can literally shave hours off reading a book.
Review the Material!

Mind Mapping is a concept that was popularized by Tony Buzan and is a great tool to review information for later recall. Creating a mind map is the process of taking a central idea and then mapping out everything you know that is connected to that central idea. If you read a book on penguins, penguins will be the center of your map and you may draw out other concepts such as where they live, what they eat, what eats them, etc. Check out this mind map at Tony Buzan’s site to get more information on creating mind maps.

For maximum benefit, you’d want to draw out these maps, preferably with colors and diagrams for better recall. However, creating a map such as this in your mind that you can visualize can also be a great tool. I like to visualize these maps in my head as I’m reading to categorize things in my head and I’ve found that it aids in my comprehension. For those of you out there who are using speed reading to study for school and for exams, mind mapping is an incredible tool and I highly recommend trying it out!

Author's Bio: 

Ben writes about exploring new topics for 30 days and shares tips along the way. Follow along in the learning journey at