The ultimate guide to speedreading

The ultimate guide to speedreading
Image by gebl via Flickr

One of the key components in the way I manage my study load is speedreading. I can call myself a speedreader with an average speed of 600 words per minute.

When we look at our study load, what is the thing that takes up the most time? Where do you have to put a lot of time in when you are studying? Reading. Reading over 10 chapters of big, tough books isn’t rare in college. Reading over 200 pages in Medical Physiology is nothing new for a med school student. And how do most of the students handle this amount of work? By simply not doing it. They accept the fact they can’t read everything (which probably isn’t necessary) and just don’t read anything. They understand the material in another way, by reviewing notes, reading small chunks of material from their books and just not reading it.

With books over 80 euros.. I just don’t think that is a very smart idea. You pay 80 bucks for big books and you don’t read them? Why are those chapters assigned when you don’t have to read them actually? They probably are useful in one way or the other. Everything you don’t read, is probably useful as ‘interstitial material’. They support the key components as examples and a more in-depth view on the stuff covered. Not necessary, but certainly useful!

Regarding this, I decided to learn the art of speedreading. In that way, I don’t have to spend a lot of time reading the material, the money I spend on books is well-spend and I cover everything! Look at this piece of math:

A person who reads on the normal speed takes 9 hours to cover the reading assignments. The average student doesn’t read anything, but spend around 8 hours on understanding the material anyway. I read 2-3 times as fast as a normal person, so I need only 3 hours for reading. With taking notes during the reading, read parts again the total amount of time I need to understand the material is only 4-5 hours. That is only half of the time the average student needs to cover the material!

Keep this in mind when you are learning the precious skill of speedreading.

The best part of speedreading is that it doesn’t take a 400$ course which takes 3 days of practise. I first learned how to speedread reading ‘the 4-hour workweek’ by Timothy Ferriss (recommended for everybody interested in Lifestyle design, personal development and general productivity tricks). He explains early in his book what speedreading is like and he gives a little piece of training. You don’t need to buy his book in order to learn speedreading, he has published the article on his blog as well! Please read it here, so I don’t need to copy everything (which I just don’t like). The actual training is on his blog, that is the one you need to follow and practise!

The 3 most important tricks to speed up your reading

  • Don’t read out loud in your head. I hope you understand this sentence. When you are reading, you are reading out loud, but in your head. This is really, really slowing down your reading. Especially because you don’t need it. You can read faster by stop reading out loud.
  • You need to know where you are when you are reading. Have your finger or pencil at the point of the sentence where you are. When you don’t do this, your eyes will go everywhere on the page, except the part you want to read. In order to keep focus, have your finger pointing at the way you are. Besides that, your finger can be a good way to have the same speed all the time!
  • You don’t need the first two words and the last two words of a sentence to understand the sentence. Just stop reading them, skip the outer two words, you will see them anyway in your eye-corners, so you are going to understand the sentence anyway!

Keep those three tricks in mind when you are speedreading and you are already ahead of everybody else.

Speedreading is an active form of reading, so don’t think ‘speedreaders’ are speedreading all the time. When I grab a piece of fiction to just relax and enjoy the novel I read, I won’t be speedreading. When I am going to speedread, I will lay my book down on the table, sit straight with my head above the text. I will point my pencil at where I am and start speedreading. After half an hour I will take a short break and then I go on. Speedreading isn’t a thing you always do, it is a choice everytime again. ‘I am going to speedread now’ means that you are going to set the environment in such a way that I am able to speedread!

You don’t understand everything you read. A question I get a lot is ‘do you learn everything you read?’ No I don’t. And that is fine. When you have to read over 300 pages about the Dutch healthcare system, only 25 pages worth of words are actually important. So not understanding everything isn’t a bad thing! Accept the fact. When you are afraid of missing key points, write the key points down when you are coming across them. Make a short summary for yourself in order to understand the text you read.

My advice (or advice from a speedreader) right now is read Tim’s piece on his blog, grab an easy to read book and start practicing. Start speedreading right now. Keep in mind you don’t have to understand everything. You can better speedread something twice than reading it slow once. Repetition is the mother of wisdom.

And document what you are doing. How do you learn to speedread? There is written about it, but not a lot written about it, so keep documenting your findings and keep sharing them!

The ultimate guide to speedreading

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About the author

Stefan Knapen is the founder and big boss of StudySuccessful.com. As a 23 year old med student he is trying to become more productive, more successful and more awesome overall in life. Stefan loves coffee, but tea as well. He is currently busy building niche sites and start to create a full-time passive (student) income on the internet!



2 Comments


  1. I am a HUGE fan of speed reading (I’ve read 60,000+ pages in 2010), and I am glad to see that others use this system as well.

    I used the maximum speed reading course – http://store.collegeplus.org/product.sc?productId=5&categoryId=1 – to get started, but, as Stefan mentioned above, really learning is a matter of practice. The “key” that I found in learning this skill is persistence. I often felt like giving up, but persisting has brought great results!

    Keep trying!

  2. What’s up, I desire to subscribe for this
    website to obtain most up-to-date updates, therefore where
    can i do it please help out.

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