Quick reading

Learn the technique to help you manage a large amount of reading in a short amount of time.

What slows you down?

Many factors contribute to inefficient reading.

  • Do you find it hard to concentrate on your reading?
  • Do you rarely read any academic or challenging texts?
  • Do you have little knowledge of the subject of what you are going to read about?
  • Do you start reading before you have worked out what you already know about the topic, what you need to know or what you are looking for?
  • Do you track the words you read with your finger or a pencil?
  • Do you find that the words seem to jump up off the page or that the text moves or glares?
  • Do you read aloud under your breath, lip-sync or say the words you read in your mind?
  • Do you read everything at same speed?
  • Do you encounter new words and/or expressions you do not know or cannot guess the meaning of?
  • Do you translate into your first language as you read in English?

If you respond with ‘yes’ to some of the questions above, you may need to tackle these issues to improve your reading speed.

If you have reading limitations such as dyslexia, limited vocabulary, difficulty in decoding words and/or language comprehension, then faster reading may not be your first priority.

Inclusive Learning provides learning assessments, recommendations for special exam conditions and academic development opportunities to students with specific learning and/or other invisible disabilities.

Tips for faster reading

A good reading environment will help

To concentrate on your reading and read efficiently, find a comfortable spot which suits you and remove distractions, e.g., mobile phone, TV, the Internet.

Develop good reading habits

  • Read academic/scholarly text for 15 minutes a day and increase the time as you go.
  • Start with some challenging reading on a topic which you are interested in and have some knowledge of.
  • Take notes or write a summary of what you have read.
  • Make sure that you can communicate or tell a story of what you have read.
  • Active reading like this will help develop good habits in reading academic or challenging texts.

Prior or background knowledge is important

You read faster when your reading is fluent. Fluent reading means that you use your previous knowledge and experience to interact with the text. Gain some background or prior knowledge from encyclopedias, dictionaries or even from the Internet before you start your reading.

Develop techniques to read actively and efficiently

  • Surveying: For general overview of the content and structure look at the contents page, introduction, conclusion and headings. Also take a look at results, tables, figures and captions.
  • Skimming: For general meaning go beyond the abstract, structure, contents, chapters and headings to look for topic sentences at the beginning of a paragraph or even some keywords within the paragraph.
  • Scanning: Look for specific information in a text by identifying keywords or concepts. This is particularly useful when you have specific (research) questions and topics in mind, or when you are reading online resources where the keywords are highlighted.

Techniques for faster reading can be learnt

  • Phrase reading/clustering
    Clustering is grouping words into meaningful clumps or chunks of between two and five words. The human eye achieves this through ‘fixation’. The eye can jump from one group to the next, gaining meaning from clusters of words, rather than by looking at every single word.
  • Connections building
    Build connections of meaning rather than words of what you are reading. Focus on comprehension of concepts and relationships between them instead of sentence or grammatical structures while you are reading.
  • Reducing subvocalization
    Do not speak the text as you read and experiment with silent reading and phrase reading to increase your speed.

Set a reading goal

  • Be flexible on your reading speed. You do not have to read everything at the same speed.
  • Reading fast can reduce comprehension so you need to figure out your reading goal to reach an appropriate comprehension and speed balance.
    • Are you reading to learn or obtain information/background knowledge?
    • Are you reading for your research or academic writing?
    • Are you reading to be assessed on the readings?
  • Identify the sections you need to read at a certain speed to achieve a certain purpose.

Vocabulary matters

Academic study demands an extensive English vocabulary. The situation is more demanding for readers who are not native speakers of English.

The ELE Vibrant Vocabulary module contains information on which words to learn in academic setting.

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