Speed Reading Strategies

Speed Reading Strategies

Author: Nikki Hansen

To provide reading comprehension and speed reading strategies.

This packet discusses reading comprehension tips which are important to successful speed reading. This packet also provides speed reading tips and strategies.

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Reading Comprehension Tips

Quick Tips to Improve Your Reading Comprehension:

- Read early in the dayThis will allow you to concentrate and retain more information than studying later at night when you may be tired.  When tired, your concentration and comprehension will decrease

- Read for short burstsTry to read for 35 to 40 minutes at a time and then take a short break.  If you have this as your reading goal it can serve as a motivator in trying to really focus on the material at hand.  Try to make these “bursts” quality reading time.

- Find a quiet locationTry to avoid your residence hall room on campus, your shared apartment, living room or lounge area.  There are too many distractions there that are not conducive for quality reading

- Monitor your comprehensionAsk yourself every once in a while, “What have I learned?”  If you are having trouble answering this, then re-read the material, ask a classmate, or ask the professor for some clarification.

- Try skimming the chapter firstTake a look at the title page, preface, subtitles, the introduction and the chapter summary before reading the entire chapter.

Tip: Remember! Textbooks are designed to help you by providing major headings, italicized or bold words, lists of main points, repetition of main points/facts, summaries.

What type of reader are you? 

Are you a passive reader that likes to use a highlighterReading passively delays learning because you are continually re-reading the material highlighted and you may have the tendency to become lazy and highlight most of your reading.  Ask yourself this question, “did I retain most of the material I highlighted?”

Are you reading the material for hours at a time, just to get it done? You become a lazy reader (you develop a lower retention of the material read as well) and you do not really focus your attention on the critical points; i.e., you “zone out.”


Method One: SQ3R Method (Cornell Method)

Survey: Look over the chapter and get an idea of what it will cover.  This will cognitively ease your way into the reading assignment.

Question: Think about, “what is this chapter about?” and “what examples support the author’s point in the chapter?”

Read: Go over the material carefully and if you have any questions with vocabulary or concepts write them down and review them after you finish that particular section.  Continue assessing your reading to see if you are understanding the material.

Review: This is an extremely important point.  Try to do this a couple of times each week.   By reviewing, you will begin to see the larger picture of the main concepts introduced.  Think of this as an athlete or a musician who continues to practice and becomes better and better during his/her performances.  The more you review the material (i.e., “practice”) the better your understanding will be of that topic because you are “exercising” your brain.

Recite: Practice by saying aloud the material you are reviewing.  This helps immensely because you are utilizing both hemispheres of your brain.

Method Two: Design Your Own Question Notes

1- Split the page so you have questions in one column and answers in the other column.

2- From the chapter headings, make study questions that you feel could be on the test (also look for and develop “cause/effect” questions from them).

3- Look for words in bold print.  These are usually definitions; make sure you can give an example for the term.  This will help because professors will sometimes give you an example of the term and not ask you specifically for the definition.  This will aid you in learning the material instead of just memorizing it.  Remember:  You are playing the role of the instructor.

Practice: Please go over the reading sample on the next page and write out what you think are the important points of the material.  A sample of what your questions/notes should look like appears right after the sample.

Remember: Writing questions and notes may be time consuming at first, but keep in mind that you are not rewriting the chapter.  Rather, you are picking out the important points and, as a result, you now have your review sheets prepared for the exam!

THE END RESULT … A more active learner and better retention of the material since you are writing the information out!

Source: adapted from providence.edu

Speed Reading Strategies


  • Survey The Information: Look at the information (Chapter Headings, Summaries, Questions at the end of the chapter) this will give you: 1) an idea of what the chapter entails 2) be able to gauge the difficulty of the material that you are reading.
  • Time Management:    Decide on the amount of time you will spend reading the material prior to taking a break (especially if the information is difficult).
  • Speed Reading May Not Be For Everyone  This depends on the information and the extent of your reading comprehension and/or vocabulary.

How To Increase Your Reading Rate:

  • Motivation:    This will only improve based upon the amount of time you are willing to put in.  In order for you to improve this you must practice your speed reading on a consistent basis.
  • Try To Understand The Concepts:   When reading try to get an understanding of the information or the main point, instead of reading each word (this takes up too much time).
  • Avoid Reading Out Loud:  This causes you to read at the rate of your speech which can slow you down.  You can read more than 2 times faster than you can speak.
  • Avoid Reading Every Word:  Do not focus on every word/letter that you are reading.  This is another way to slow down your reading rate significantly.
  • Avoid Regression:  When you complete reading a line avoid re-reading words/lines that you have already read.
  • Test Yourself:   After reading a paragraph, a couple of pages, or a section, write down a couple of questions that you feel could be on your quiz/exam.
  • Pace Yourself:    Use your finger, pencil, or a pen and lightly go across each line that you are reading.  As you become more comfortable, move down the middle of the page.
  • Practice:   Try to work on your pace first, and comprehension second.  Try doing this with a newspaper or magazine-reading each line and as you become more proficient,  try reading from the middle of the line and moving straight down.
Personal Reading/Speed Reading Improvement Strategies:
  1. The Basic Program -
    1. Two or three times a day, read something you enjoy for 15 to 20 minutes without stopping. Time yourself to within 30 seconds.
    2. Record your reading rate and chart your progress. Recording and charting are essential if you wish to make real progress.
  2. Speed - push yourself gently as you read. If your mind wanders, get it back on track.
  3. Vocabulary - Wait until you've finished reading to look up unfamiliar words. (If you stop, you'll reduce your level of comprehension.)
  4. Comprehension - to improve comprehension, recite the chapter after closing the book. See how many specific details you can recall. The more you interact with your text, the more you'll recall. Recollection and comprehension require a vigorous approach.
  5. Practice - practice makes perfect. 
  6. Rate Goals - set reading rate goals for yourself. A 10% increase in your reading rate over the previous record is a good rule of thumb.
  7. Skimming & Scanning - find an interesting newspaper column or magazine article. Rapidly read the article, sampling just the first sentence or two of each paragraph and a few key words. Jot down all the facts you can remember. Then reread the article slowly, giving yourself a point for every item you can recall.
Try taking this speed reading test to evaluate your speed reading abilities and/or improvements.

Source: adapted from providence.edu