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How to Speed Read

July 16, 2014

The first thing we all noticed about law school was the readings: hundreds of pages that take hours to get through each week. What if you could dramatically increase your reading speed and have more time to watch bad reality TV each night?

 

When we read our eyes normally dart back and forth across the page, often re-reading words and phrases. Training your eyes to scan each line of text smoothly is the secret to improving your reading speed. Here’s how you do it...

 

Zoom Out


Many of us read each word individually, which drastically increases reading time. Learn to use your peripheral vision and you’ll be able to read small pieces of text (about four to five words) in a single glance. Practice by seeing how many words on a line you can read without moving your eyes. A good strategy for training yourself to use your peripheral vision is to start reading a line of text from about three words in and to stop about three words from the end of the line. Holding the page further away from your eyes and relaxing your face will help to expand your field of vision.

 

Stop Talking to Yourself


Most people have a habit of sub-vocalising what they are reading. In other words, you mentally say the words you are reading to yourself. This slows your reading speed because your eyes are able to move a lot faster than you can say the words in your mind. Working on your peripheral vision so that you can read several words at once will help you to quit the sub-vocalisation habit.

 

Back Steps


It’s also common for our eyes to skip back and re-read some words in a sentence. Beating this habit will also help to boost your reading speed. Run your finger or the end of a pen under the words while you read and make sure you force your eyes to follow. It’s a hard habit to break, and you’ll be surprised at how often you were re-reading previous words or sentences.

 

Read Smart


We tend to treat our textbook readings like a novel; reading chapters right through from start to finish. Before you begin your readings, quickly scan the journal article or book chapter to take in headings, summaries and bullet points.

 

This will give you a feel for ‘the vibe’ of the material, which will help you to focus your attention on the most important parts and avoid becoming too caught up in the less essential arguments.

 

Make it Fast


Learning to speed read takes a lot of focus. Wherever possible, eliminate distractions and avoid multi-tasking.
Unfortunately you’re not going to become an amazingly fast reader overnight. It’s going to take time and a lot of practice. Start by building up speed and then work to improve your comprehension. A good way to start building up speed is to grab a stopwatch and time how long it takes you read a page of text, and then work to decrease the time with each subsequent page.

 

Principles of Equity is probably not going to be a good text to practice with. Start with something easy, like novels or magazine and newspaper articles and work your way up.

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 12 September 2011.

 

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