A Book a Day? The Secrets of Speed Reading

Surprisingly, the trick doesn’t require much reading at all.

The average American reads at a rate of about 200 words per minute. If you're college educated? 300. No matter how you cut it, though, it should take you no more than 90 seconds to burn through this article. But what if you could shave off some time from that number? What if you could power through in half a minute, and still retain all of the information? We'd call that speed reading. And you'd want to be able to do that, right? It's a skill that certainly could help on those nights where you're stuck late at your desk with piles of documents to read.

Luckily, there's a way. "It's as simple as: inspecting, reading, inquiring, storing," says Paul Nowak, CEO of IRIS Reading, an organization that has offered speed reading seminars to everyone from Goldman Sachs to the FBI to students at Yale and NYU. (In case you didn't pick up on this, Nowak's method is an acronym for his company.) And for more great brain hacks, check out the 8 video games that are scientifically proven to make you smarter.

Read the First Sentence of Every Paragraph 

speed reading book

"Most people start from the first sentence or page," explains Nowak. Instead, take a look at what you're about the read—the subject matter, the headings, the length—and decide if it's worth your time. A good tip for this, according to Nowak, is to read the first sentence of every paragraph. Reading literature, as it so happens, is one of the 12 ways smart men prepare for dates.

Start Reading (Quickly)

speed reading book

Then, if you've determined that your book or document is worth your time, you're ready to get down to actually reading. "Just by previously inspecting what you were about to read, you'll find that you now have a little boost in speed," says Nowak. Since your eyes have already gone over the material, read like you normally would, and you'll subconsciously ingest it at a faster rate. (Pro tip: use your hand or a pen as a guide. "Your eyes are attracted to movement," explains Nowak.)

Quiz Yourself

speed reading book

After you're done reading, it's time for what he calls "inquiring:" a few questions that should take no more than a second or two: "Did I fulfill my purpose by reading this?" "What are the biggest takeaways?" If you're reading a brief, did you learn what you needed to? If you were reading a book, did you understand the lesson or the moral?

Store the Information

speed reading book

If the answer is yes, you finish off with storing, which is essentially figuring out how you're going to memorize the relevant information. For that, Nowak suggests writing down key points or recognizing certain keywords and then saying them aloud as you go along. That way, you're speed reading, processing, and storing all at the same time, and you're not wasting a single minute.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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