(Photo: Dustin Diaz)
How much more could you get done if you completed all of your required reading in 1/3 or 1/5 the time?
Increasing reading speed is a process of controlling fine motor movement—period.
This post is a condensed overview of principles I taught to undergraduates at Princeton University in 1998 at a seminar called the “PX Project.” The below was written several years ago, so it’s worded like Ivy Leaguer pompous-ass prose, but the results are substantial. In fact, while on an airplane in China two weeks ago, I helped Glenn McElhose increase his reading speed 34% in less than 5 minutes.
I have never seen the method fail. Here’s how it works…
The PX Project
The PX Project, a single 3-hour cognitive experiment, produced an average increase in reading speed of 386%.
It was tested with speakers of five languages, and even dyslexics were conditioned to read technical material at more than 3,000 words-per-minute (wpm), or 10 pages per minute. One page every 6 seconds. By comparison, the average reading speed in the US is 200-300 wpm (1/2 to 1 page per minute), with the top 1% of the population reading over 400 wpm…
If you understand several basic principles of the human visual system, you can eliminate inefficiencies and increase speed while improving retention.
To perform the exercises in this post and see the results, you will need: a book of 200+ pages that can lie flat when open, a pen, and a timer (a stop watch with alarm or kitchen timer is ideal). You should complete the 20 minutes of exercises in one session.
First, several definitions and distinctions specific to the reading process:
A) Synopsis: You must minimize the number and duration of fixations per line to increase speed.
You do not read in a straight line, but rather in a sequence of saccadic movements (jumps). Each of these saccades ends with a fixation, or a temporary snapshot of the text within you focus area (approx. the size of a quarter at 8 inches from reading surface). Each fixation will last ¼ to ½ seconds in the untrained subject. To demonstrate this, close one eye, place a fingertip on top of that eyelid, and then slowly scan a straight horizontal line with your other eye-you will feel distinct and separate movements and periods of fixation.
B) Synopsis: You must eliminate regression and back-skipping to increase speed.
The untrained subject engages in regression (conscious rereading) and back-skipping (subconscious rereading via misplacement of fixation) for up to 30% of total reading time.
C) Synopsis: You must use conditioning drills to increase horizontal peripheral vision span and the number of words registered per fixation.
Untrained subjects use central focus but not horizontal peripheral vision span during reading, foregoing up to 50% of their words per fixation (the number of words that can be perceived and “read” in each fixation).
You will 1) learn technique, 2) learn to apply techniques with speed through conditioning, then 3) learn to test yourself with reading for comprehension.
These are separate, and your adaptation to the sequencing depends on keeping them separate. Do not worry about comprehension if you are learning to apply a motor skill with speed, for example. The adaptive sequence is: technique ‘ technique with speed ‘ comprehensive reading testing.
As a general rule, you will need to practice technique at 3x the speed of your ultimate target reading speed. Thus, if you currently read at 300 wpm and your target reading speed is 900 wpm, you will need to practice technique at 2,700 words-per-minute, or 6 pages per minute (10 seconds per page).
We will cover two main techniques in this introduction:
1) Trackers and Pacers (to address A and B above)
2) Perceptual Expansion (to address C)
First – Determining Baseline
To determine your current reading speed, take your practice book (which should lay flat when open on a table) and count the number of words in 5 lines. Divide this number of words by 5, and you have your average number of words-per-line.
Example: 62 words/5 lines = 12.4, which you round to 12 words-per-line
Next, count the number of text lines on 5 pages and divide by 5 to arrive at the average number of lines per page. Multiply this by average number of words-per-line, and you have your average number of words per page.
Example: 154 lines/5 pages = 30.8, rounded to 31 lines per page x 12 words-per-line = 372 words per page
Mark your first line and read with a timer for 1 minute exactly-do not read faster than normal, and read for comprehension. After exactly one minute, multiply the number of lines by your average words-per-line to determine your current words-per-minute (wpm) rate.
Second – Trackers and Pacers
Regression, back-skipping, and the duration of fixations can be minimized by using a tracker and pacer. To illustrate the importance of a tracker-did you use a pen or finger when counting the number of words or lines in above baseline calculations? If you did, it was for the purpose of tracking-using a visual aid to guide fixation efficiency and accuracy. Nowhere is this more relevant than in conditioning reading speed by eliminating such inefficiencies.
For the purposes of this article, we will use a pen. Holding the pen in your dominant hand, you will underline each line (with the cap on), keeping your eye fixation above the tip of the pen. This will not only serve as a tracker, but it will also serve as a pacer for maintaining consistent speed and decreasing fixation duration. You may hold it as you would when writing, but it is recommended that you hold it under your hand, flat against the page.
1) Technique (2 minutes):
Practice using the pen as a tracker and pacer. Underline each line, focusing above the tip of the pen. DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH COMPREHENSION. Keep each line to a maximum of 1 second, and increase the speed with each subsequent page. Read, but under no circumstances should you take longer than 1 second per line.
2) Speed (3 minutes):
Repeat the technique, keeping each line to no more than ½ second (2 lines for a single “one-one-thousand”). Some will comprehend nothing, which is to be expected. Maintain speed and technique-you are conditioning your perceptual reflexes, and this is a speed exercise designed to facilitate adaptations in your system. Do not decrease speed. ½ second per line for 3 minutes; focus above the pen and concentrate on technique with speed. Focus on the exercise, and do not daydream.
Third – Perceptual Expansion
If you focus on the center of your computer screen (focus relating to the focal area of the fovea in within the eye), you can still perceive and register the sides of the screen. Training peripheral vision to register more effectively can increase reading speed over 300%. Untrained readers use up to ½ of their peripheral field on margins by moving from 1st word to last, spending 25-50% of their time “reading” margins with no content.
To illustrate, let us take the hypothetical one line: “Once upon a time, students enjoyed reading four hours a day.” If you were able to begin your reading at “time” and finish the line at “four”, you would eliminate 6 of 11 words, more than doubling your reading speed. This concept is easy to implement and combine with the tracking and pacing you’ve already practiced.
1) Technique (1 minute):
Use the pen to track and pace at a consistent speed of one line per second. Begin 1 word in from the first word of each line, and end 1 word in from the last word.
DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH COMPREHENSION. Keep each line to a maximum of 1 second, and increase the speed with each subsequent page. Read, but under no circumstances should you take longer than 1 second per line.
2) Technique (1 minute):
Use the pen to track and pace at a consistent speed of one line per second. Begin 2 words in from the first word of each line, and end 2 words in from the last word.
3) Speed (3 minutes):
Begin at least 3 words in from the first word of each line, and end 3 words in from the last word. Repeat the technique, keeping each line to no more than ½ second (2 lines for a single “one-one-thousand”).
Some will comprehend nothing, which is to be expected. Maintain speed and technique-you are conditioning your perceptual reflexes, and this is a speed exercise designed to facilitate adaptations in your system. Do not decrease speed. ½ second per line for 3 minutes; focus above the pen and concentrate on technique with speed. Focus on the exercise, and do not daydream.
Fourth – Calculate New WPM Reading Speed
Mark your first line and read with a timer for 1 minute exactly- Read at your fastest comprehension rate. Multiply the number of lines by your previously determined average words-per-line to get determine your new words-per-minute (wpm) rate.
Congratulations on completing your cursory overview of some of the techniques that can be used to accelerate human cognition (defined as the processing and use of information).
Final recommendations: If used for study, it is recommended that you not read 3 assignments in the time it would take you to read one, but rather, read the same assignment 3 times for exposure and recall improvement, depending on relevancy to testing.
Happy trails, page blazers.
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874 Replies to “Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes”
This is the same as “Mega Speed reading” from the 90’s Very effective
This is great! My Mom took a speed reading course in college and always amazed me with how fast she could read.
Doing your exercises here I increased from 290 to almost 700. What is the next step? Just re-doing these exercises more often or simply reading more as in Step 4?
Thank you so much for this and other fantastic posts!
I just did a quick, somewhat sloppy run-through of the protocol and my w.p.m. hopped up from 377 to 829 AND my comprehension seems to have improved too! It really works, what a gift!
In return I would like to draw your attention to something that I think you might find of great interest and use: Systema (or Russian Martial Art). You may have seen it featured on the ‘Go Warrior’ series or even more recently on the ‘Deadliest Warrior’ series on Spike as used by the Spetsnaz. As a dancer, martial artist and curious human being I think you might find the methodology fascinating. There are some good (and bad or mislabeled) clips on youtube, though the only way to really ‘get’ the system is of course to experience it personally. The following is a link to the various schools operating in California (if you ever get a chance I highly reccomend Martin Wheeler):
Though of course the real fun stuff happens in Moscow, if you ever get the guts to try and learn Russian 😉
Anyway, Thanks again for everything!
This is something REALLY wanted to see since lately I’ve started reading tons of books, specifically on online networking and what not. And it may shave off a few minutes the next time I take the SAT!
I like how you challenge both mind and body to their limits, challenging the norm to achieve outstanding results, with others blaming it on sheer talent/luck.
Well, I tried out the stuff and I can read at LEAST twice as fast, but it feels kind of weird going at this speed, thus I remembered the quote about being afraid of human potential. Keep it up TM.
Just two quickies:
1) My current reading rate is, I would guesstimate, on average between 700-900 wpm for non-technical, or 2-3 pages per minute. If I want to speed through, I can near double that after 15-30 minutes of exercises, but to reach the highest speed requires constant conditioning. Not close to my Pton days, but — then again — I no longer teach this and have to demo it in front of large groups and do recall tests afterward. Sound stressful? It was. Grab a book from someone who reads at “normal” speed and test their recall. It will be horrendous. Book recall is universally overestimated.
2) This can be used for any language, though ideograms will naturally be slower to read (Chinese, for example). The language is much denser than English, so you can consume more data with fewer characters.
ive got only one problem, at first it sais “do not read faster than normal” but in the final step, “Read at your fastest comprehension rate”.
im not saying there wasnt a significant improvement (by these measure, using all the steps i went from 151-356), but im nor sure how much of that was concentration, and how much was training.
And if it wasnt training, could an individual hold such intense concentration for an extended period of time.
This isnt an argument against this speed reading, i have only just finished the training, and havnt tried to practice & apply it over time. But i will in the future, and if i see a significant improvemenrt ill be back to talk about it.
Again, not saying it doesnt work, but has there been a double blind study, or something similar, where the fastest comprehensible speed with a tracer (but no training) has been measure prior to a program like this one.
if this works half as well as im hoping ill probably be reading dozens more of your recomended articles.
Thanks for another useful post.
I’ll definitely practice this method on the beaches of Nha Trang!
PS: Just went from Tokyo to Vietnam, but during my stay at Tokyo, I went to Tsukiji Fish Market in Vibrams, needless to say but they reek of fish. Just wanted to thank you for those two suggestions as well.
Went from 306 to 505 wpm! Very impressive but to really increase comprehension I bet I will have to practice. I plan to use this technique in medical school (I will be sure to read everything 3 times, don’t worry).
To everyone who reads this:
I have been practising these techniques and took my wpm from 220 wpm to 803 wpm. However, recalling this info is proving difficult. Is it right in thinking that if I keep practising the techniques mentioned above, recall will start becoming more easily possible?
Thanks to those who can help.
Thanks for another great post. I’ve read some books on the topics and it has helped me to increase my reading speed if I focus on it.
I did find that I did not enjoy the reading as much when I read at higher speeds. I like to sound out the words in my head and go slow. It’s like telling a story to oneself.
So when I read to enjoy myself I keep it at 250 words per minute as this brings more life to the stories and I get time to visualize and debate upon what’s written.
And then when there’s something that I merely have to read I’ll speed it up.
I also find it useful to use these techniques on books that I’ve already read to freshen up on the subjects.
What are you guys take on this? Do you speed read fiction/novels?
Great comment by the earlier poster (Sean) regarding the hearing impaired speed reader. I am hearing impaired and read way faster than anyone else I personally know, and now after reading that comment and your blog, it makes sense as my world is visual.
Is there more to this training method ??
Looks like just an introduction.
Great stuff. Thanks,
I’ve been trying for weeks to get your contact (email or something) to talk to you about something you would be really interested.
I’m from Brazil and I just need to send you a file so that you can have a good overview the whole thing. It’s definitely a solid plan.
Let me know if you might be interested in doing some entertainment web business in Brazil too.
Well, can’t tell you much here.
Email me or something.
Great post! I know you love metrics – i went from 615 to 855 wpm. Solid improvement. What’s the next step? Keep practicing these techniques over and over or is there more?
I stumbled onto this old blog – http://lifestyleentrepreneurship.com/blog/ – has the content from there also been moved to this blog? Also, you mentioned your coming out with a new version of 4HWW in December, what kind of improvements can we expect?
Keep challenging and inspiring. Thanks!
Gotta get to bed, but much more on the new book coming soon 🙂
OH MY GOD this is amazing. I’ve drilled once so far and went from 300 WPM to 624 WPM. Absolutely astonishing.
Completely unrelated to the post, but I wanted to make sure you got wind of this ;).
The third year of a convention I host just rolled by, total success. I can’t say I owe it to you 100% (Seth Godin has been a big influence as well), but I will say I would not have found the balls to continue hosting it through the tough points had I not read and been inspired by 4HWW.
thanks for doing what you do Tim, hope to have you out next year, will shoot you the trailer when it releases
I am just about finished with your book “4 hour work week”. I love it!! I was recently laid off and need major inspiration and I am finding it from your book. I have two questions. I keep doubting myself and the world as to whether I can do what you have done especially given that you are super smart!! I am 42 years old (just about to turn 43) and wonder if there is really still time for me to live the life I want and make a reasonable living into my retirement? Do I still have time?
I could have used this program BEFORE
…OOPS! Hit the wrong key. I was saying, I could have used this program BEFORE I went to college. That was a painful 4 years.
Try Tony Buzan’s The Speed Reading Book. (ISBN 1-4066-1021-6) It’s a BBC publication so I don’t know if it is available in the US. Another great book from the inventor of mind maps.
Not to call you out on anything, but I’m very appreciative of the repost from your old blog. I could never remember the name and always had to search for a bit to get to this information.
I have been trying to fit this in my everyday life, trying to start reading a few words in occasionally; on subtitles, television show tid-bits like the History channel and what not. And it has improved my reading speed quite a bit from just passive practice.
Can’t wait for the new book to come out. I hate to try to ruin any surprises, but I hope you have some bits about Crossfit in there.
Respectfully from Fussa City,
thought you of all people would like this TJ quote…
I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.
– Thomas Jefferson
Thanks, Steve! That quote is outstanding!
this is good stuff, but it doesn’t have to be either/or with something like PhotoReading.
I’m a fan of PhotoReading and use it successfully. Photoreading as a system is a multi-stage process and people always get hung up on the actual photoreading step. I actually view that as one of the least important parts of the process. I believe the information outlined above on this post can be used successfully in conjunction with Photoreading.
The thing I don’t like about this type of approach to speed reading is it still uses (or implies usage of) the paradigm of “the reader’s job is to read every word in the book and remember as much as possible”, which is absolutely false. The reader’s job is to get their needs met from the material. Sometimes that requires reading every word, usually, not so much.
I love how Photoreading stresses the entire process of reading. First determining intention, what does one desire to obtain from the material? Then utilizing tools like mind mapping to lay that out. Approaching written material with clear intention does wonders for the experience. Then the multi-pass system is absolutely the way the brain is wired to interact with written material. The concept of one pass through, remember as much as you can, is sorely outdated.
The material presented above is actually close to one of the photoreading techniques, ‘superreading’. I believe it can all be utilized together.
Good stuff, thanks for sharing it.
Hi dear Tim,
a friend gave me your book to read just few days ago. Now I have a technique how to be liberated even faster 🙂 Thanks for both.
I just wonder how it would be with other languages as English is not my mother tongue. I suppose it could take a bit more time cos the range of the shared word register is not that large. Any research in that way?
I loved this article. Speed reading is one thing, comprehension is another, what about memory? If you can’t recall the information (for application) the other two elements don’t seem all that important.
Do you know of any systems out there or techniques where one can increase their memory? I’m familiar with the link/peg methods and have recently started working with Ruslans Mescerjakovs Phenomenal Memory System. Do you have any experiences/feedback on how one can increase their memory of written material?
a great summary of a key life skill.
Listening is another area where a speed increase can be a huge benefit. We recently built a little site that lets you automatically speed up your podcasts, letting you get through more, and with less distraction.
http://www.podshifter.com lets you set the speed you want to receive your podcasts at, and then they are automatically provided to your iTunes in that faster speed.
While it was built for ourselves to use, we find that pretty much anyone keen on speed reading will also love speed listening.
I’ve been following your crazily-speeded-up learning adventures with interest and I have a question: have you ever applied your learning techniques to gymnastics / learning to do flips?
This is something I’m struggling with at the moment, and I wondered if you have any pointers.
OK I have a problem with this..I dont understand anything I am “reading”
Fast: Yes, but what was it about? No idea.
I’ve been on the market for checking out speed reading courses like PhotoReading and the like.
Do you know if the PX Method will be made available anytime soon?
@ Sean Ring
Love the story and comment. Very inspiring.
Wow, my speed has gone up from a slow 198 wpm to a new 385 wpm! The catch is, the new speed seems to have been detrimental to my comprehension – has anyone else experienced this problem?
Dude, I officially love your Blog. So much inspiration in here. I enjoy every post. Thanks so much!
Thanks for everything Tim. You’re a calss “A” stud. I’m looking forward to increasing success, and appreciate your help.
speed reading is EASY.
I use the Kim Peek method. Start reading slowly, gradually increase the speed until you are reading 1 line per second. Then have a surgeon remove your corpus collosum through your nose. Now you should be able to start reading the left page with your right eye and the right page through your left eye. Remember what your eyes see (concentrate!).
It’s that simple folks.
Just finished reading every single comment on this post:) Got many great tips and hopefully this will help my Economics @ University of Tartu
Finally! I have been awaiting this post for awhile. I actually purchased the PX Project from the site referenced in your book (your assistant was kind of enough to tell me there wasn’t one). That shows you how excited I am to improve my reading speed and for self – improvement items.
Thank you for your constant insight in ways to improve my life.
You’re the man,
Really helpful info about speeding up reading – and research (and
experience) shows that comprehension increases the quicker you read.
However, speeding up reading is only one aspect of more effective reading.
For retention, you also need to read with purpose, and use various other
techniques to make sure you remember the stuff you need. On our Spd Rdng
course we also teach numerous strategies which save much more time than
simply reading faster. Happy to share if anyone’s interested (or you can
check our site or download 37 speed reading techniques).
Thanks for the post. I’ve been using this method since I read the book, but it’s nice to have a digital copy that I can link to easily.
Of other note – Once I started using the principles in 4HWW (particularly the 80/20 principle), college got much easier. Within one semester I was able to increase my credit load by 50%, decrease my homework time by at least half, and raise my GPA by almost an entire point. I even managed a social life in there, which is something I’ve always struggled to have time to do!
—13 Credit Hours
—3.00 End of semester GPA
—19 Credit Hours
—3.92 End of semester GPA
Again, I also decreased my homework time by about 50% in the second semester. That’s 50% of what I spent with fewer credits.
If you want, I’ll tell you about what you have taught me in the areas of body management, too. For now, suffice it to say that one blog post of yours taught me more than either of the training courses I have taken in college, with faster results.
Thanks again for everything, Tim!
Ben, thanks so much for the awesome feedback! Totally made my day 🙂
Keep up the great work,
I believe that even a simplified form of this “speed reading” could change the atmosphere and attitude of most public high schools.
Perhaps 80%of the foundation of learning is READING and learning to read well can change every thing for a young person.
Good vocabulary and reading/comprehension speed can make ALL the difference in a young person’s life of learning.
Thank you Tim for striving for excellence.
This Princeton PX Project seems to a bit water down or short cut version of the original Zox Accelerated Learning System Details: http://bit.ly/DtkM1
The website rather loooooong, but this is the orginal source of the speed reading techniques.
It was originally developed in the 70 by retired business Richard Welch.
The original program still 33 years later is the best by far. Numerous other people have copied elements of, but ultimately the leave out some of the original training techniques, which still work.
Looks awesome. I know a couple people who have a lot of trouble in school because it takes them so long to read. I’m going to show this to them next time I see them (and try it myself of course).
thanks for your thoughtfulness and heart. really.
separate question: If you could go back in time and have a conversation with 22 year old tim, what would you try to communicate to him? -or- What is the one thing you wish you knew when you were 22?
thanks Tim indeed i’ve been a poor reader but not any more i assure you. I’m gonna make sure i make do with this idea you’ve given me. It’s a great one keep it up !
I spend a lot of time slogging through NASA documents, so this could easily save me hours everyday!
First time visiting your site, and you have me hooked. Can I be your side kick?
Love the Princeton video. It’s the first time I’ve seen it and it was really good. I love how you addressed the first question from your own personal experience. This video is the real Tim (me thinks) because it’s authentic and it’s just you speaking from the heart. More of us should learn how to do that.
Cheers and all the best Tim,
Some of the comments are on the mark, e.g. Mark Tennenhouse suggests that minimizing subvocalization should speed up reading & asks for methods
to reduce this silent speech. In looking at this issue, I basically agreed with Edfeldt (Silent speech and silent reading, Chicago, U. Chicago Press, 1960)
that subvoclization per se is not diagnostic of reading ability (Aarons, L. Subvocaliztion: Aural and EMG feedback in reading. (1971) Perceptual and Motor Skills, 33, 271 – 306.)..
If altering the fine motor controls of eye movements and eventually having good comprehension has been demonstrated (beyond subjective evaluations by the learner), it would be helpful to cite the studies, It has been my personal belief and feeling that both enjoyment and comprehension of read text requires slower text reading with some wandering of the mind than that available in speed reading.
The note on perceptual expansion and the comments on the use of speed reading in foreign languages reminds me of the effects of marginal stimulation use in my Japanese & Spanish language programs. The method used divides auditory input between the left & right brain hemispheres while the learner’s attention is focused on the foreign word (right ear > left hemisphere) and the simultaneous equivalent native word (left ear >right hemisphere). Most listeners show a right ear advantage hearing the foreign word as clearer, louder, or better tha the native language word (which they may or may not hear consciously. The learner automatically links the the two words. Similarly, if an eye fixation controls focal attention, than peripheral (non-focal attention) may be used to absorb the meaning ot the read material. Please excuse this somewhat academic analogy. Those interested may take a peek at:
Do you have any advice for someone who sub-vocalizes each word and basically sees only one word at a time? (Very slow reader, yet maintained a 3.8 average in a large and respected University)
cool technique Tim! This will really help me to get through my final semester of varsity more easily.
Although I don’t agree with the address of ‘timbo’ I would be quite interested in what you have to offer in short form to this question.
This is intense. I did the exercises in about 25 minutes yesterday, and spent about an hour reading afterward. In the reading afterward it was a struggle to read faster and comprehend, and I was skeptical about any lasting effect. Today when I sat down to retry the exercises and conditioning I found myself comprehending quite a bit of what I was scanning at the exercise speed. Even at 2-3 lines per second I was picking up most of what I read, even while consciously trying not to bother with comprehension.
So: amazing. Thanks so much for posting this!
Haha, it’s my dream to be able to read so fast, and a lot of people have told me about speed reading but never really gave me the tips on how to get started with it. Thanks for these suggestions! I’ll give them a try and see how it goes 🙂
Great post Tim,
This is great I have a few books I have been wanting to read but am still reading The World is Flat (great book). I should be able to finish that up any day now and get moving on the others.
Thanks again Tim
DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH COMPREHENSION??? doesnt work for medical books thou!!!!
I just listened to your Ted talk and am responding to your invitation at the end. I didn’t find any of your blogs that talk about education, so I don’t have an idea what point you’re at now, but I would love to share with you where I am.
I’m coming from completely outside school systems – homeschooling. The lessons that public schools can learn from homeschooling are tremendous. You know, we don’t have to appeal to the government to try something new. If we want to re-tool, we can be up and running with a new program in 10 minutes. We have learned so much, that it really is a shame that classroom children are being left behind.
Here’s a list of myths that society holds on to so dearly:
1. Children can only learn from credentialed teachers.
2. More words means higher intelligence.
3. More desk time means more learning.
4. Passed tests means learning happened.
5. More schooling equals more success.
6. Learning is hard, boring work
I have explanations and examples for each of these myths. I have started a school where children have the amazing opportunity to teach themselves.
Great stuff. I am of course biased, but believe that the best way to dramatically increase your reading speed and comprehension is with PhotoReading, a technique developed over 30 years ago by Paul Scheele, founder of Learning Strategies. Millions of people have bought the book, purchased the home study course or taken one of our classes.
Tried it and doubled my speed from 210 to 420 the first time. Not a bad start. I think with practice and persistence, anything is possible.
I’m a little confused.
Chris Weingartner’s situation is similar to mine, coming from a background of 28 years’ proofreading. I read every word, and I’m tired of hearing myself! How can I turn my voice off?
The other part I have a question with is what Lou Aarons refers to:
” I basically agreed with Edfeldt (Silent speech and silent reading, Chicago, U. Chicago Press, 1960) that subvoclization per se is not diagnostic of reading ability (Aarons, L. Subvocaliztion: Aural and EMG feedback in reading. (1971) Perceptual and Motor Skills, 33, 271 – 306.).”
Are we talking about reading speed, and not reading ability?
Anyway, Tim, thank you for you post. Now I will have to get your book, 4WWW.
thanks for the nice piece of information.
Thanks, now that I can read faster I’ll have to buy three to four times as many books.
There should be a federal “cash for books” program.
I took a speed reading course before that outlined these exact technique and increase my reading from 250wpm to 900 wpm on written materials. These results are great, but I noticed a dramatic decrease in speed when reading materials on a computer screen.
Do you have any tips for increasing the speed on computer reading (I instantly go from 900wpm to 500wpm, Try it out.)? I noticed a few things myself. Usually books, I am able to read with two fixations per line but since the words on the computer are larger each fixation appears to encompass less words, therefore, greatly decreasing my speed. I also noticed a decrease in speed because of the paging down a page.
Any Advice? Maybe, a good topic for a future article. It seems that all of these speed reading courses are for books and they seem to ignore the fact that people read more and more on computer screens.
Tim, have you tried out any of the software products that help you read faster on the computer? RapidReader (thick client) and Reasy Reader (Firefox plugin) are my two favorites.
More at http://mileslasater.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/reading-quickly-through-technology/
Anyone know of a piece of software that assists you in learning to read books faster?
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The program is sound. The only limitation of success is the reluctance of some to be skeptical. Having successfully taught the similar Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program over 50 years ago I can attest to the benefit when one follows the directions without question. I had one exceptional student in grad school who read scientific texts as fast as he could turn the pages with excellent comprehension. The key to success with technical material is having a sound understanding of the vocabulary and terms used in the particular discipline. I personally read Michener’s ” The Source” in 25 minutes over 50 years ago and can still relate the story anytime, including the description of the main characters. The imagery can be even more vivid when reading prose and poetry. This technique should be taught in every school in the country.
I checked out the software plugin for Firefox and tried it out. It’s a great tool. I need to check it out a bit but this looks like what I’m looking for.
Are you affiliated with Derren? He uses your text and PX Project spiel as his own, but seems to be using the technique that avoids mental or subconscious vocalisation mentioned above in comments, rather than what seems to be the core of your approach.
Keep up the great work,
The “do not daydream bit” is very critical to me… Have you seen people with attention deficit conditions improve speed and more importantly concentration? How about dyslexics, any experience with them?
PS. I read the 4 hour workweek last year and it inspired me to take off backpacking in Europe for a month.
After reading the article, I doubled my reading speed from 300wpm to 600wpm. I’ll thrive to increase it.
I tried this in high school but just couldn’t/wouldn’t let go. So I’ve been reading around 250 wpm for years. Painful. At the end of PX Project I was up to 910 wpm.
My comprehension is a bit still a bit shaky but with work I know it will improve dramatically and if not I can just read it again in my spare time.
Hey, one nice instant improvement – I just busted through 180 comments in record time (for me anyway) normally I glaze over before the end.
If you vocalize like I do – force your tongue to stay still. Put the tip on the roof of your mouth or behind your teeth. Then read faster than you can speak. There is a point where the voice just gives in. And oh yeah – don’t daydream…
Second – for reading digital materials. Try increasing the zoom level (of the browser or the application) to 150% or 200% – whatever works for you. I find that if the text is too small I lose track of the next line plus the eyestrain gets to be too much.
Speedreading is very much like watching a film in fast forward.
It works well in subjects, like nonfiction, where timing and nuance are less important to deep comprehension.
Watching a film in FF, is great for “scanning” scenes, and general action.
(Sometimes its even better…)
But if you’re REALLY interested in comprehension, then you MUST slow down and replay the events at a slower speed.
There is more going on in my brain, then simply decoding the words.
I am simulating the actors in the scene. I visualize it in real time, giving the actors their dignity in timing and nuance.
Scanning can certainly help you spot the parts to focus on for simulation.
But, Just as when we want to analyze a film, in order to analyze the greatest amount of detail and subtlety, we watch the scene in SLO-MO.
I guess if your word memory is very good, you can replay the scene in your mind without re-reading the text.
But I have a hard time, especially considering the subtlety of word-play and spoken timing within dialogue, believing that you can read dialogue at high speed, and still get all the nuance and subtlety an actor would bring to his spoken dialogue.
By slowing down, I allow my mind to fill-in much of the missing detail of the scene, and I can emulate the actor, emotional pauses, even his intentions, etc, more effectively. My brain builds a much richer story via simulation and emulation of the scenes and minds of the actors.
By doing so, I increase my comprehension.
I tried this for five minutes or so and seemed to read at about 600wpm with full comprehension. Unfortunately, it left me with what feels like motion sickness – light headache and nausea – so I think I’ll stick to trundling along at 300wpm and skipping the dull bits.
I mostly read for pleasure anyway and don’t often find myself having to process a stack of papers in a short time.
Interesting though! I was linked here from http://derrenbrownart.com/blog/2009/08/scientific-speed-reading-read-300-faster-20-minutes/ btw.
That is a very interesting technique for improving reading speed and comprehension. I’ll definitely be giving this a try. Thanks, Tim!
Thanks, I have been meaning to do this for awhile, I was going to listen to the audiobook again and take notes on this section, but now i don’t have to!
non-speeding reading (MASSIVE regression to double-check comprehension) WPM = 130 wpm yikes.
speed reading, partial comprehension, max speed WPM = 812 wpm.
A Whopping 624% speed increase. Yippeee!! This’ll come in handy. I already differentiated from a “thorough reading” (very slow, high comprehension) and a “skim reading” fast (but certainly not this fast) and lower comprehension. This technique probably tripled or quadrupled my speed/skim-reading mode while maintaining the same level of comprehension and partially increased thorough reading wpm speed as well. Grazie. Cheers!
Just wanted to reiterate how awesome I think this approach is. I love how it employs:
Peripheral Vision Maximization/Utilization
And implicitly the Time Constraint on reading is very comforting. I’ve liked audio books because of their set time (avoiding regression and fixation that can cause certain readings to be unexpectedly long). So Having a set reading time ensures elimination of such regression-fixation hangups, stalls, and delays and creates smoother more “ETA capable reading”.. cool!
Ok, i posted a while ago somewhat skeptical right after the exercise, but now im using this to read mostly semi-technicle books (i.e. astronomy in the middle east) which requires occasionally stopping to work out a basic equation, but im still reading about 250wpm with total comprehension, more than double what i did before, with practice i hope to get to around 600 for non technicle books.
thanks tim, this article got me doing something ive been meaning to for a long time.
Happened to find your blog from a new follower in Twitter and I got to say love how social media can let you come across inspiring articles.You got me trying the technique and I hope I can read PC articles faster with the technique.Thanks Tim, for the inspiration today.
Tim and All –
Apologies if this has already been covered – too many posts to read (at my current speed anyway 🙂 – but I’m curious: how does the technique translate to pages of different size and format? given that it relies partially on muscle memory of the eyes how can it?
For example, if you develop the technique by practicing with a small book won’t you have to relearn the technique to speed-read text that spans the width of a 24 inch computer monitor? Seems like there would necessarily be a curve to overcome every time you encounter material that is formatted differently than your training text . . .
ps. Tim- I’d venture you’re familiar with the Gunning fog index – Do you know what the index number was for the material you trained/taught on? Was there a standard fog index for the PX project?
I spent Sunday speed-reading some stuff, and I think it drained me for the next couple days. Since then, I’ve been able to keep up 1000 WPM fairly easily. It’s a matter of getting into the groove, and not letting your mind wander.
I set the font-size way up, squish all the text into a window about four inches across, and set it to scroll at about 1000 WPM, and I can manage to cascade down the text relatively fine as it scrolls. It’s hard to learn things like that, but I can go even faster for things I already know, like blog posts about topics I’m familiar with.
Woody Allan took a course in speed reading. He read War and Peace in one hour…he says it’s about Russia!
Hi, would you mind if I translate this to portuguese and post it in a blog (and link it back here, of course) ?
Sure! Just be sure to link back for all my Portuguese-speaking friends 🙂
Totally agree! 😀
great post. For those that would like to practice with online content, I created web based reading pacer @ http://www.eyercize.com
It’s free and it comes with a bookmarklet.
I originally built the tool for myself, because I do most of my reading online and speed reading online content is usually much harder then printed material. There is more eyestrain, lower resolution, and a lot more.
You can set the tool to exercise all aspects of speed reading and simulate normal book reading.
Most users can’t believe how fast they can read and how quickly it happens when they are forced to do so.
One thing that I like about using the pacer is that I can concentrate on the reading and not on the technique.
Tim, please give it a try and let me know what you think.
I’ve practised these techniques before, and they work fantastically well.
The one principle which easily doubled my reading speed immediately, is to read with your eyes, not with your ears.
We are still in the habit of reading like we’re 10 years old. Our teachers told us to read aloud to the class, and nothing has changed, we’re still reading each word aloud but not using our voice. We need to learn to shut the internal voice up and let the more efficient sense do the reading. Have this in mind while reading and you’ll read faster than ever.
When reading on computer, ensure that you have the web page set so that you can see the whole page without having to scroll down.
If it’s a technical book, firstly you should decide if you need to read the whole book or just one section. How many times have we read the whole book when we could have just read a few select sections?
Also, decide what question you’re trying to answer, so that you have a purpose for reading. When you have a target, it gives you motivation for reading difficult passages.
Thanks for the info Tim
Wow! Just went from 276wpm to 600wpm in the first sitting. I love it. Thanks Tim!
Can’t wait to see what a month of practice will do.
BTW, in case someone else is looking for a timer, I used Weird Metronome 1.4 from download.com. It’s small, free, and easy to use (just set it to 60 or 120 bpm).
Thank you so much! I just went from 345wpm to 1000 wpm in an hour!!
yeahhh just went from 330 words per min to 980 words per min. Should have read all of the Omnivore’s Dilemma (practice book) like this.
I’ve been interested in the human vision system for a while, so this blog post makes sense to me. I love how simple in concept it is. As a proof-of-concept, I highly recommend those who are skeptical or curious to try http://www.spreeder.com/ to read a random blog post that you haven’t read yet. I can read so much faster with spreeder. I just put a techcrunch post into spreeder and found it really easy to fully comprehend it at 800 wpm.
I went through the exercise one time, and went from 273 to 806wpm! I’ll definitely have to stick with this. Thanks 🙂
Wow, this really does work. I did not go all the way to 300% but I did improve my reading speed considerably.
The story told by Sean Ring is brilliant!
I for one am really struggling to quiet down that internal voice, does anyone have any tips?
Thanks for the kind words.
I’d definitely try turning the book upside down and running your finger across the page while following it with your eyes. It’ll feel like nothing’s getting done. And that’s how it’s supposed to feel. Since you have nothing to sound out, it will feel a bit strange the first few times around. Then turn the book right side up and give it a go to see. Rinse and repeat as often as you need, for it takes practice. Hope that helps.
All the best,
this is great stuff tim. thanks a ton for all the incredible wisdom.
I tried this today and it seems good, I was distracted rather a lot while doing the exercises because the topic of the pages I randomly chose in the book I randomly pulled from my book shelf, was eye fixations. While it wasn’t talking about speed reading, it was pretty close. I am not kidding!
Here is the question I have for you Tim. When I use the pen and follow the top of it, the text is blurred. Is that what you are suggesting we do? Or are you suggesting that we use the pen to make sure we don’t skip lines, but while we are moving the pen from the 3rd work on the left to the 3rd word on the right, it doesn’t matter if our eyes fix on certain words rather than following the pen exactly?
BTW great book, I listened to it on CD, the unabridged version, and I lent it to one of my managers. My only suggestion is to remove the bad language so that people with young children can listen to it without having to worry about them hearing language we don’t want them to use. I also bought the hard copy book as a back up now I’ve listened to it. I work for a consulting company where we have to be billable 44 hours a week so I am not sure that I can ethically do exactly what you suggest, but there were some very helpful ideas in there.