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Speed Reading with Comprehension

There is no denying the fact that the speed at which you read does matter, especially in entrance exams which are always time bound. But there is much more to reading comprehension than just glancing through the maximum number of words possible in the shortest possible time. How you absorb the material is equally important. For most people, it is easy to learn to read faster. Your reading rate is often just a matter of habit. But to be able to answer the questions at the end of each passage correctly you also need to understand its contents correctly within the shortest time possible. To this end, you may need to change some of your habits.

Pay attention when you read and read as if it really matters. Most people read in the same way that they watch television, i.e., in an inattentive, passive way. Reading takes effort and you must make that effort. The following fundamentals should set you on the path to a good score in any entrance exam. You have come across most of these important points earlier as well. But, now it is time to take an overview and make best use of the knowledge that you have accumulated so far.

Preview the Passage
There are some simple methods that you can use to get more out of your what you read under a time constraint. Research proves that you will improve your comprehension if you somehow ‘preview the passage before you actually begin reading it line by line.

While doing a preview, you should normally take 30 to 60 seconds to quickly skim over the passage, reading the first and last paragraph and glancing at the first sentence of every other paragraph. You must keep in mind that the first and the last paragraphs usually give vital clues about the nature and the contents of the passage. You should also try and look for transition words like however, but, etc. Having done so, you should ask yourself the following.
  • What is the main idea of the passage?
  • What kind of writing is it?
  • What is the author’s purpose?
Impossible as it may seem to answer these questions with so little exposure to the material, a correct preview should give you some very good general ideas about the passage and that will enable you to understand and remember the passage better when you begin reading it more carefully.

Read in a Questioning Manner
When you finally get to the point where you are actually slowly reading the passage, read in a ‘questioning’ manner—as if you were searching for something. It sometimes helps if you take a key line in the first paragraph and turn it into a question.

For example, if the author says in a section in the text ‘let us examine The Causes of the Civil War’, take that title and switch it into a question like: ‘What are the causes of the Civil War?’ Now you have a goal; something to look for, something to find out. When you are goal oriented, you are more likely to reach the goal. At least you’ll remember one thing about the text, which you have just read.
Do Not Vocalize
For efficient reading, it is an absolute must that you stop talking to yourself when you read.
While reading, you may be talking to yourself in 2 ways:
  • By Vocalizing, which is the actual moving of your lips as you read, and
  • By Sub-vocalizing, which is talking to yourself in your head as you silently read.
Both of these will slow you down to a point where you find that you can’t read any faster than you can speak. Speech is a relatively slow activity; for most, the average speed is about 250 WPM (words per minute). Reading should be an activity that involves only the eyes and the brain. Vocalization ties reading to actual speaking. Try to think of reading as if you were looking at a landscape, a panorama of ideas, rather than looking at a coin lying at your feet.

Read in Thought Groups
Studies have shown that when we read, our eyes must make small stops along the line. Poor readers make many, many more fixations (eyespots) than good readers. Not only does this slow you down, but also it inhibits comprehension because meaning is easier to pull from groups of words rather than from individual words or even single letters. Try to read in phrases of three or four words, especially in complete clauses and prepositional phrases. Your mind may internalise them as if the whole phrase is like one big meaning-rich word.
Don’t Keep Re-Reading the Same Phrases
Poor readers habitually read and re-read the same phrase over and over again. This habit of making ‘regressions’ doubles or triples reading time and often does not result in better comprehension. A single careful, attentive reading may not be enough for full comprehension, but is often more effective than constant regressions in the middle of a reading. It is best to work on paying closer attention the first time through. Do a preview first before the careful reading and try the tips mentioned above. You’ll remember better without re-reading.
Vary Your Reading Rate
You should alter the speed at which you read to suit the difficulty and type of writing of the text. Poor readers always read at the same slow rate. An efficient reader speeds up for easier material and slows down for the hard. Some things are not meant to be read quickly at all. Very difficult text should be read slowly. Easier material can be read quickly.

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