A favorite pastime of mine is to ask people what it means to “speed read?” Invariably the more people I ask, the more different answers I get. Usually their answers have something to do with reading faster than they currently do. Rarely does someone include in the definition mentioning comprehension, or understanding printed material along with the speed. Unfortunately if you do not understand material while reading it, then it is not reading! In fact, one of the most often questions I get concerns the possibility of comprehending at fast speeds, especially speeds over 600 words per minute.

There are 4 secrets to comprehension at what we would call “super fast” speed reading, with speeds above 600 words per minute. Below that speed threshold then the type of reading being done is pretty much faster traditional linear reading with the eyes moving generally left to right and line-by-line.

The four secrets to comprehension at high speeds are:

1. Reading visually- due to how you were originally trained to read you probably learned to sound out words aloud. In the beginning years of your reading life you also probably read aloud in order to get the reinforcement from an adult teacher or parent. Now, as an adult reader you are probably still sounding things out in your head. This is called sub-vocalization.

Sub-vocalization creates a problem for the speed reader because our minds can only understand spoken language up to about 450, and no more than 600 words per minute.

Reading is taking visual symbols (the print) and getting meaning from them. Comprehension does not require us to sound things out and hear them. So learn to read and rely on the visual input.

2. Read for meanings, not grammatical sequence- This will allow you to read above that 600 words per minute threshold especially for informational types of reading. Reading is a thinking skill, or cognitive skill. How often do you think in grammatically correct sentences? Thinking is comprised of images, feelings, ideas, and concepts. Seldom do we need to think in grammatical sequence. When learning to speed read, this becomes a challenge merely because of habit. Understand me you do? Yes, that sentence is purposely out of grammatical sequence to demonstrate that we can understand meaning outside of expected order.

3. Use Your Natural Dimensional Sight– Our sight is naturally dimensional. We see things as wholes. There is a vertical and horizontal axis that when applied to print at normal reading distances is usually about 1- 3 inches in diameter. If you look at a printed page and experiment by looking at a chunk of text without trying to understand it, you’ll observe that you can clearly see all the words contained inside that “cone of sight.” We refer to this cone of sight as dimensional sight.

4. Perceiving Wholes– Our brain naturally seeks understandings as wholes, not pieces or parts. For example, when you look at a chair, the mind understands “chair,” rather than wood + legs + seat + seat back = chair. The latter is how most people approach comprehension and contributes heavily to the failure to read much above 450-600 words per minute. Perceiving wholes requires a complete shift in how we approach comprehension.

These 4 secrets are natural abilities of your brain/mind. However, due to your old ingrained habits you are not applying them to your reading. With proper training and practice you will be able to make the shift to becoming a dynamic speed reader with whatever level of comprehension you desire. From that practice a whole new world of learning will unfold for you. Will you take that challenge?

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell has devoted his adult working life to teaching people how to use their brain and mind for greater effectiveness in their work and personal lives.Today, Ed is president and CEO of Productive Learning Systems, Inc., an Atlanta based corporate training group and he also leads ProductivElearn.com, Inc., a web-based learning site offering online courses and other products for brain/mind development. He has trained tens of thousands of users in his Dynamic Speed Reading Methods.
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