Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes

651 Comments


(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 lay 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).

The Protocol

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 1,800 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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Related and Recommended Posts:

Tim Ferriss interviewed by Derek Sivers
Tim Ferriss articles on Huffington Post
How to Tim Ferriss Your Love Life

Posted on: July 30, 2009.

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651 comments on “Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes

  1. Interesting tactics here, Tim. I’ve got two months left of summer before I go back to college, so I have plenty of time to practice my visual page scanning. I’ve read the speed-reading tactics in the four hour work week book and this is a big improvement.

    Like

  2. This is fantastic!

    Now I must ask you, have you ever heard of photoreading?

    It basically is at the same speed, but it uses your subconcious to read while you are in a prepared brain state, and then you later activate the information within your subconcious by asking questions dealing with the purpose of reading the book, while you go back to speed read and “dip” into information spots that your intuition has to told you to check.

    This is all interesting information.

    Like

    • hey would u please inform me about the photoreading more..!!! i just want to learn and better if u suggest me the link of speed reading software as well.!

      Like

    • Author Paul Scheele, co-founder of Learning Strategies
      Claims to train to PhotoRead at 25,000 wpm.

      Mostly unsupported.

      NASA states after a study named – ‘Preliminary Analysis of PhotoReading’,
      ‘The extremely rapid reading rates claimed by PhotoReaders were not observed’.

      Avelin Wood is said to have pioneered the science(if you will) of speed reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just thought I’d share a related method for rapidly digesting books (reading for study as Tim discusses in his final recommendations) in this PDF published by the University of Michigan.

    http://www.si.umich.edu/~pne/PDF/howtoread.pdf

    Appropriately titled “How To Read A Book”, it highlights the concept of reading a book 3 times, each time with a different purpose:

    a) Overview: discovery (5?10 percent of total time)
    b) Detail: understanding (60?70 percent of total time)
    c) Notes: recall and note?taking (20?30 percent of total time)

    P.S. Tim, we met in Sydney last year and you signed my book with “Learn before you earn, and the rest will follow”. You are a great inspiration. Looking forward to your next book!

    Like

    • we understand and fulfill the exact requirements for your organization to have a business logo that will recreate and establish your Brand Identity and distinguish your company as superior from your current competitors.

      Like

  4. This for me is the efficiency equivalent of the invention of OCR in scanning – especially when it is so easy to have wish lists on services like shelfari, but so little time to actually read them.
    Importance value = right up there.

    Like

  5. Yeah… that just the tip of the iceberg Tim (as I’m sure you know).

    Very simply just using a pointing device to help the eye track increases reading speeds. Every (and I mean every) fast reader I’ve ever met users a finger, or other marker to ‘pull’ they eye along the line(s).

    My personal preference to training increased reading is to go far faster than possible, not just 3x. 2 to 3 seconds per PAGE. In the beginning they eyes might get only one or two words. Yet after 30-60 seconds, the brain starts to learn and expand that. With everyone I’ve taught, within minutes they are seeing much more than a single word. Then, on returning to their ‘regular’ speed, they find it much easier to see more of the sentence.

    Other tools for training the peripheral vision are some of the games on lumosity and other similar web sites.

    Then we go the other side and train how to read the page in one second, although that takes a bit more effort, training and experience.

    Like

    • first of all Thank you Tim…Mr. Vanderdonk i’m really astonished by your words and do want to have a skill like that. If you don’t mind, please can you write how can i connect with you. If there isn’t the way to connect with you please write more instructions..

      Like

  6. Nice Tim,

    I’ve been following your work for a while and you are one interesting dude. At first (to be honest) I thought you where all about “shameless self-promotion.” And now, after reading your blog for the past year all I can say is that your content is superb, smart and just plain cool.

    I will put this technique to practice and keep reading your posts, it took a while for me to post a comment but I think you are the real thing.

    Keep cool Tim,

    Julio

    Like

      • Hi Samir,

        Say the statement “one-one-thousand” out loud. thats it. it is jus a simple way of counting a second without looking at a clock. “two-one-thousand” would be two seconds “three-one-thousand” would be three and so on so forth… so the meaning is 2 lines read per second.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Boss,

        People are asking whether given target speed of 900 wpm, one must practice for 2,700 wpm (i.e. 3x as mentioned) and not 1,800 wpm as mentioned. Or else, you should say 2x. Pray, tell us. Or correct the article. We are desperate.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post Tim.

    Do you still speed read and at what speed?

    Do you retain things and are the skills lost if you stop practicing? I guess I’m asking if you constany have to retrain yourself?

    Cheers!

    Like

  8. I’ve got some time blocked off to experiment with this. The potential for increased productivity and effectiveness is enormous. Keep leading us to the promised land, Tim.

    Like

  9. This is pretty old information. What I mean by that is it has had time for debunking. While it’s great for skimming, it isn’t the best way to read for deep understanding. That’s why there is emphasis on “DO NOT CONCERN YOURSELF WITH COMPREHENSION.” With this method, full and complete comprehension can never be attained. Attack me as a naysayer, but it’s already been proven.

    Like

    • Hi Vale,

      Where has it been disproven? I’d be very interested to see the data.

      There is no magic here, and there is no requirement to read beyond comprehension rate when actually reading for recall. The conditioning and drilling is a different matter with a different purpose.

      If you just make better use of peripheral vision, reduce fixation time and duration, you are not missing ANY content whatsoever. The speed then, is up to you.

      Cheers,

      Tim

      Like

  10. Thank you, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It should make my work much more efficient, and I plan to teach my children this in homeschooling.

    I just discovered that several of my children have an eye “problem” that puts them in the tenth percentile or less in their ability to track lines in reading and shift focus. It impedes their performance significantly, in spite of their being highly intelligent. Four to six months of training fixes it.

    It makes sense, then, that there must be training that can optimize the skill of the rest of us who read “normally”. Being in the top 1%, in this skill, can be taught.

    Very cool. I’ve been planning to research this someday, and you just handed it to us.

    Like

    • After trying to practice the exercices a few times without much success I’m starting to think I’m like one of your children.
      Would mind sharing with us what is the precticing routine you have used with them in these 6 months?

      I’ve been trying to practice 3 times a day, but I confess I can’t do the two lines per second exercices, my eyes just cant follow the pen and I loose focus on its movement.

      Cheers from Brazil!
      Daniel

      Like

  11. Hey Tim, this sounds great and I’ll try it out.

    Btw, have u ever tried (or heard any feedback) on other famous speedreading techniques? (like Photoreading or that Howard Berg fastest reader dude).

    would love to hear your thoughts since I’m sure you researched this stuff pretty thoroughly.

    Cheers,

    Alex

    Like

  12. I’m going to take this post and put it into practice shortly.

    About two years ago, I did a similar but much less documented program, which drastically helped. I’ve felt myself slipping though, especially recently.

    I’m pumped you took the time to pass along this info. It’s this sort of content that I really connect with. Keep it up!

    Like

  13. I tried this (or something very similar) a few years ago — but after the “test” part I stopped focusing on it, so clearly I stopped reading faster! Any suggestions for practicing this technique when it’s obviously [for me] not second-nature?

    Like

  14. God I wish I learned some of these techniques in time for University. Way too much time wasted on reading crap I needed just for an exam.

    I’ve been using saccadic movements with a lot of success recently but I’ll give the other ideas a go for sure…

    Like

  15. Its like you read my mind! I’ve been telling myself I need to start speed reading and this is just the timely post I needed. I love the detail and preciseness you’ve managed to include in a post of this length.

    I’m seen people recommend entire books to be read and followed on the subject. Have you gone beyond these steps mentioned and focused on other resources for further mastery? And as the poster Tyler asked what are your thoughts on photo reading?

    Best,
    Rahul

    Like

    • Hi Rahul and All,

      I tested PhotoReading when it first appeared on the scene and was being advertised heavily on TV. The short answer: I don’t believe it works as advertised. I have yet to meet anyone who can demonstrate it live and then undergo any type of comprehension or recall testing. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

      Best,

      Tim

      Like

      • Hi Tim,
        time has passed since you wrote that post.

        Have things changed for you?

        Here are my experiences:
        At the moment, I am testing myself. I photoread a book about presenting skills and I made a presentation without any (as neil names it) “brain farts”.
        I “photoread” some other books (with strong believe) but it did not lead to awesome results yet.

        One night I dreamed of the pages. In my dream I was able to see the pages but the Text was not sharp, so I was not able to read conscious within my dream.

        Sometimes I imagine (without timestopping), that speedreading goes faster when photoreading ahead.
        Sometimes when speedreading I rerecognize pages and know that I have seen them before.

        Like

      • Jakob and PhotoReaders,

        I’ve read Paul Scheele’s book and even paid for a pricey PhotoReading seminar 6 or 7 years ago. After trying to PhotoRead many, many books and trying to use the techniques for studying over and over again, I must agree with Tim – I don’t believe it works as advertised.

        Due to the rapid developments in neuroscience however, I haven’t completely ruled out that it might be possible for a regular person to learn something like PhotoReading one day (without the use of drugs, physically altering the brain, or any other type of brain abnormalities).

        For the time being, I will continue to be very selective about what I read (low-information diet) to minimize the time spent with reading. This also means I’m less prone to substituting action with books:

        “I must read book ABC first before I can begin doing XYZ” often means I read half of book ABC and never even attempt doing XYZ.

        Thanks for reading :)
        Chris

        Liked by 1 person

      • Reading a book by A. Huxley about the art of seeing, in which he describes how he manged to heal strong his seeing problems, I figured out that while trying to photoread I had the wrong focus with my eyes.

        http://amzn.to/1drD9RJ

        While learning the photofocus I tryed to reach a visonable expression like described by Scheele in his book.
        Actually I figured out that I did not focus on a thing which is farer away than the book. Instead my visual focus was set up for seeing things very close.

        To test if you do the same mistake you can use a pen and move it infront of your eyes while beeing in the wrong photo focus.
        If you see the pen shark, I think, than you do it wrong.

        I will give it an other try after having learned to focus in the distance. What might improve my eyes too (as Scheele describes too). Next to the exercices of the bates method.

        The experiences I made with sunlight (concerning) the Bates method, are positive. At least in the moment just after the exercise.

        Regards from Germany,
        Jakob

        Like

  16. In university I studied several speed reading programs and they do work, to a degree.

    It really depends on what you are reading. Sometimes it is necessary to slow down and let your mind and emotions catch up with what you have read. Not everything should be read quickly.

    It is somewhat akin to inline skating through the Louvre. Sure you can see everything 10 times as fast, but you miss details along the way. Speed reading is basically scanning.

    With that said, I had a professor once who could scan long reports in seconds and give detailed feedback. Maybe I just need more practice. :-)

    Like

  17. Thank for the great post. I just did the exercises in the article. In the 25 minutes it took me to get through the post and the exercises I went from an average of 290 WPM to 420 WPM.

    Now if only the rest of the information on the internet was this useful.

    Like

  18. Hey Tim,

    Great post…as always. I practiced photoreading quite a bit in college while cramming for exams. I found that I could not effectively recall the information for essay questions and oral exams, but it seemed to really help with multiple choice questions. Then again, maybe I just got good at taking MC tests. Any way I have been implimenting 4-HWW principals for about 2 years now and am loving life on my own terms! Thanks again and best of luck on your next book amigo!

    Chris

    Like

    • Hi Chris, how did you implement the 4HWW principles in university?

      Sometimes for me it is hard to deal with the fact that education is not directly income generating.

      Like

  19. Speed Reading – So How Do Deaf People Read Then?

    Hi Tim.

    Firstly, I love your stuff. Thanks so much for it.

    Let me add to this something that I learned when I took my first speed reading course. I did it when I was an institutional broker for a large investment bank in London. I hated reading the (useless) research that our economists were sending out, so I wanted to cut down my time getting the “house view”.

    My instructor shared this with us:

    He was teaching a class in Oxford. His first student came into the room and sat very near him. Seinfeld would have called him a close talker, I believe. The kid was staring at the teacher’s lips and the teacher, quite unsettled by this, moved away as subtly as he could. The student noticed this and wrote on a piece of paper, “I’m sorry, but I’m deaf, I need to read your lips to understand you.” The teacher now realised why his student was on top of him and was calmed.

    As the tuition began, the first speed reading accessment came in. On average, most people read about 250 words per minute, or about as fast as we talk, as we sound the words in our head as we read. This kid came in at 1,500 words per minute. The instructor was astounded. Now most people, after trying and improving a few times, you can get over 1,000 words – I hit over 1,100 per minute – but it takes a couple of tries. This kid was doing 1,500 per minute every time, without the tuition.

    The instructor was telling the rest of the “normal” people in the room to try to stop reading the words and to just look at the them and trust their brains to do the rest.

    The deaf student, reading his lips, start furiously writing down on a piece of paper, “Do you mean to tell me that people who can hear actually sound out the words in their heads when they’re reading?”

    The instructor nodded.

    The deaf student then wrote this:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!

    If one is deaf, (I now see) clearly one can’t assign a sound to word.

    They just look at shapes. In fact, one of our exercises to get us accustomed to this was to turn the book upside down and to “read” the gobbledegook.

    Much like Su Doku, which is NOT a numbers game, just a game played with numbers, you need to get 9 shapes in a square, row, or line without repeating. We’re using numbers to do this, but really it’s about the shapes.

    Just stop saying the words in your head and your speed will improve pretty much 3-4x…

    See, the “disabled” have much to teach us.

    All the best,

    Sean

    Liked by 1 person

      • I have the same issue with trying to sound out the words, but can get in the zone sometimes and am able to just “see” the words and move much quicker, but it only lasts for a little bit. I think it will stick with practice.

        I read a lot and would greatly benefit from being able to read faster, so I think it’s something worth putting the time in on.

        Great post Tim, and awesome comment Sean (about the deaf person who is seeing the word versus saying it in his mind)!

        Like

    • Wow! Good things really do come to those who wait! Sean, I don’t know if you’ll ever see my comment as I just found yours now — four years after you wrote it!

      I am a Grade 2 teacher and this past school year, I asked our itinerant Speech & Language Pathologist how deaf children learn to read. She didn’t know for certain, and suggested I consult with an audiologist. The reason I was asking, however, was because of a “speech” impediment one of my weaker readers had, not a hearing issue. I thought everyone read/comprehended by listening to the voice in their heads (I certainly do, and guess what? — I’m a very slow reader), but now I see otherwise. I worried that since this young boy couldn’t pronounce the words properly when speaking, he wouldn’t be able to sound them out correctly when he was reading. . . which he couldn’t. . . and would therefore be slow in his development of comprehension. . . which he was. I was hoping to find a new strategy to use with him that didn’t rely so heavily on phonetics.

      I haven’t contacted an audiologist yet, but your response to Tim, layered onto Tim’s incredible post, has shed a brilliant new light on things for me. You have both refuelled my drive to research alternate ways of teaching my struggling students to read.

      Sean, your story is about a deaf person who could already read, but from what both of you have learned in your respective pursuits, do you have any guesses as to how this might apply to “learning” to read? Is there an age, or developmental stage, below which you wouldn’t attempt speed reading? Or, in other words, how soon in a person’s reading life could they successfully employ your strategies?

      I’m dying to go try this myself, so I won’t spend any more time hijacking your comment space! Thank you both for the best learning I’ve had this month!!!

      Sandra

      Like

    • You have singlehandedly managed to change my way of learning, you introduced me to subvocalization and the effects it has on my reading efficiency.. it’s helped me more than the article itself. Thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

      Like

  20. Thanks for posting this. Finally someone tells us the actual science behind speed reading. I’ve tried a few reading programs that promised to help me read 10,000 words a minute that were crap. This stuff actually works.

    Like

  21. Your recommendation of YMII and Brickwork received a ‘can’t do’ from YMMI for a simple property search and then, Brickwork, a lengthy chat and no follow up within the promised time. I suggest you review you referencing. People are judgrd by the company they keep.
    Eric Smith

    Like

    • Hi Eric,

      It’s very much dependent on who you get, and please note that: 1) I have issued warnings about declining quality from these two (YMII doubled in size due to the book) on this blog, and 2) I just completely revised the book (due out December) to make this point clear.

      I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, but the companies were excellent when I wrote the book, continue to be for many people who use them, and I’m fixing the issue.

      All the best,

      Tim

      Like

  22. I’m really tired, but I gave it a little go. 286 – 468 wpm. 163% increase. I’ll keep practicing because it’s a very valuable skill to be able to read fast. Thanks!

    Like

  23. Great post! I shot my Words Per Minute (WPM) rate up very quickly from 230 to 386 with just a few practice runs using this easy and fun program!!

    My goal is about 600 WPM and that’s right round the corne for me.

    I use the “Professional” version but there’s other program versions to choose from based on you or your family’s need.

    http://rocketreader.com

    Like

  24. you are legend!!!

    wasn’t as(s) pompousish as you made out to be :P

    back to uni this week – which means 6AM wakeups and ample reading… so couldn’t ‘av come at a better time.

    i’ve seen some of these ideas before, in Tim’s book methinks, and other places, but the “don’t read in a straight line” bit was power.

    thank you
    alex – unleash reality

    Like

  25. Interesting post. I was considering the speed reading exercises for some time now. I don’t know my current speed but I think I enjoy my reading as it is. At least when it comes to casual reading (for pleasure I mean). However when it comes to work I would really like to improve my speed. I often need to look through hundreds of pages in a short time.

    I have yet to do the exercise but I am hopeful for the wpm increase. I will be testing it in a foreign language, namely Polish. I thought it would be interesting if we could compare the results for different languages. You said it was tested in five (Which ones?).

    Like

  26. I believe I once saw that the savant who “Rainman” was based on, could photoread, however, science could not explain it and he was the only known person who could accomplish such a thing. That case is probably photoreading’s basis, but I don’t believe there is any way a person can just learn it.

    Good post. Has this been posted before? Maybe it was in the book? I remember it from someplace. Noentheless, I’ve been using this method since I first saw it in 2007. Naysayers, it really works. The only “problem” I’ve found with this method is that sometimes, I don’t feel like I’ve got the energy to focus on it. But thats usually after a couple days living in airports.

    Like

    • Hi Joel and All,

      Thanks to all of you for the great comments and dialogue! Joel, Kim Peek (the real “Rainman”) can actually read two pages at once, one eye on each page, and he remembers everything he reads. See the documentary “Brainman” and you’ll see this in action. Incredible.

      Best,

      Tim

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  27. Tim, very interesting post indeed. If you think about it, reading a book at normal pace doesn’t equal comprehension either so what is there to lose in trying this technique out. I am still at Uni heading into my third year this September and if I could get this technique down and improve my reading speed, I’m sure it would be a great skill to have just like adding another feather to my bow.

    I bet you get tired of hearing “You’re so inspirational” or “Tim you’re the best” but what the hell, you’re an awesome guy with lots to share so I commend you for that. Keep em’ coming!

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  28. Thanks. For online material, I recommend spreed! http://www.spreeder.com
    Adjust the width and words per line to 4+ to increase your peripheral perception. Set the speed to 4 times target, read it, then 2 times target, read it, then target speed. You will not understand the first two passes, but will do surprisingly well at your target speed! Also, use this bookmarklet, which I modified from the site to handle apostrophes and bad Unicode characters:

    javascript:var%20sel=window.getSelection?window.getSelection():document.getSelection?document.getSelection():document.selection.createRange().text;sel=sel+”;sel=encodeURIComponent(sel).replace(/’/g,’%2527′);newdoc=open().document;newdoc.write(%22<BODY><FORM%20ACTION=’http://spreeder.com/’%20METHOD=’POST’><INPUT%20TYPE=’text’%20SIZE=80%20NAME=’passage’%20VALUE=’%22+sel+%22′></FORM></BODY>%22);newdoc.forms[0].submit();

    Attempted repost… silly comment system mangled the bookmarklet.

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  29. Interesting thing TIm! I’m just at the beginning of the speed reading process and for now it looks pretty amazing :)

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  30. Thanks but how to apply this with reading on computer screen? I use my mouse pointer but it’s not big enough to help me. And I don’t want to hurt the screen with a pen. Any idea?

    I have the same concern with my mobile phone. I read a lot on its little screen but I feel it is not fast enough.

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  31. I find I can use vertical peripheral for predictable nonchallenging text, skipping like this:
    1
    1
    1

    Here’s my question for Tim: Granted this is faster. Do I need to train it as a habit? I already haphazardly picked up speed reading principles and do use them when comprehension load is light. Will I see a further major cognitive processing benefit by practicing? Or is the real bottleneck cognition past a certain basic proficiency? What’s the value proposition for advanced amateurs?

    For example, when consciously using physical saccajumps I will still regress back to ponder over new things, like the sacca word. And when my perif inferral fills in a word wrong, I’ll go back to reread the sentence. Does this go away with training? Or is cognition the bottleneck at that point?

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  32. Awesome. I remember seeing someone speed read in high school and always lwanted to learn. I forgot about this for a long time. I haven’t tried it yet because I’m at work, but I will definitely give this a shot. Really, thanks for posting this. I need to read much faster… would save me tons of time with my website and other job.

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  33. Just read about this in your book the other day. It’s definitely something that many people read about, but never condition themselves to use. Back-reading is a major issue when it comes to increasing your speed, so these are great tips.

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  34. If you read this article, you can pretty much scrap any speed-reading book out there. This is an excellent summary, written in readable English, of what countless books on the subject with regurgitate.

    This is a prime example of results vs. effort (getting all of the important information out in a bookmarkable blog post, as opposed to a 200+ page book)

    Keep up the good work!

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  35. Enlightening. I realize that I’ve been using a lot of these speed reading techniques without thinking about it. Just things I picked up while trying to finish schoolwork faster.

    A lot of very specific information here; thanks for sharing. I’ll be trying these tips out when I get home from work today :)

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  36. With all the productivity tips you have offered, I am beginning to think that your first name isn’t really Tim, but rather an acronym for Time Is Money.

    As a person who is a slow reader with excellent recall, I look forward to trying out this technique.

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  37. Does anyone have any good recommendations for a book to practice this on that meets the requirements (200 pg, lays flat, etc.)? I don’t really have any books that meet this criteria, and I figure I might as well read something good if I am going to try this out.

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  38. Tim,

    Interesting stuff. My question is can you turn it off? After conditioning the brain to read this way, can you simply gear back down and read at a normal pace? I ask because I am one of those people in the world he reads just for the pure enjoyment. I don’t want to speed read Walt Whitman, for example. But if I train my brain that fast is the new normal and then want to go back to regular speed, will it be a constant process of learning and then unlearning?

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  39. Hey Tim,

    thanks for the great post. I just did the practice and my wpm went from 222 to 361 (162% increase in speed). I’ll work on it to get faster! Thank you very much. Greetings from the Netherlands.

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  40. Hi Tim,

    I read your book, and this article reminded me this technique. I need to put this technique into practice.
    I believe that the training times can be changed. Right?

    “Tenha uma boa semana!”

    Oscar.

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  41. That kind of techniques clearly help you to increase your reading speed. Basically they are the same things I teach in my speed reading courses. I think there is at least one important thing what has not turned much attention in this post, but what is vital for achieving good comprehension at high speeds. You have to fully focus to the text you are reading.

    The main reason behind poor concentration is that we let our thoughts to wander away form the text. Because of that we do not remember what we read even if we read at slow speed. Actually reading at faster pace can help you to increase your comprehension if you concnetration abilities are poor.

    Consider an example of driving a car. Assume that you are driving at 30mph at any empty highway. Of course you will not drive so slowly there in fact, but let’s say you do. If you are driving that slow then you can shave your beard, eat hamburgers and read newspaper while driving and you will still not crash. Now assume that you are driving at 130mph. Now there is no possibility to read newspaper while driving. The same principle applies to reading. If you are reading at slow pace then you can think on other things while reading. If you are speed reading then there is no possibility to think irrelevant thought. You have to focus your mind 100% to the text or you do not have any chance of understanding and remembering the content.

    So if you force yourself to read faster then it wil help you to improve your concentration. In addition you will benefit from practicing special concentration exercises. For example you could peform following drills:
    1. Counting the words. Take a book and open it on any page. Count words in every paragraph. Count words only with your eyes, do not use your fingers or pencil for that purpose. If you reach the next paragraph, start counting from zero again. Duration of the exercise is 5-10 minutes.
    2. Drawing geometrical shapes. Draw a geometrical shape on the paper (for example circle, square, triangle). Then draw a similar but a bit smaller shape inside the previously drawn shape. Draw it in a way that the smaller shape fits in the bigger shape, but does not touch it. Next draw another shape inside the previous one exactly as you did before. Continue until you reach the shape with minimal possible size.
    3. Reading a boring text. Find a book or journal, which content offers you absolutely no interest. Find 10-15 minutes for the exercise. Read this text as it was the most interesting thing in the world. Avoid any distracting thoughts or making pauses whilst reading

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  42. I started using the techniques outlines in your book and it’s incredible how effective it is. The interesting thing it that it reframes your approach to reading in general, when you read for efficiency, you don’t wait time on topics that aren’t of value. I’ve used that philosophy on a macro level and started only reading things that I truly get benefit from or truly enjoy. I love how it’s possible to Stoicize everything in life.

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  43. Hey Tim,
    Thanks for the great article. I’ll surely be using it for school (re-reading a few times of course) and as I start reading for enjoyment again.

    PS: I went to Tsukiji fish market in my VFFs, and now they smell like fish!

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  44. I guess I was too subtle. Either that, or there are lots of believers in this thread and very few skeptics.

    As was covered in the links from my previous post, there is a non-trivial trade off of comprehension when reading speed is increased. Speed readers and skimmers tend to have the same level of understanding of text that is processed at the same speed, and comprehension is greatest when reading without either technique.

    If I’m mistaken — and in this technique reduces or eliminates comprehension problems unlike previous speed reading techniques — please feel free to let me know what I’m missing. Facts before assertions, please.

    If this is the holy grail, I’d be grateful for a correction. If not, limits and trade offs should be noted.

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  45. Hi Tim,

    Very informative and interesting post as usual!
    I was going to ask you about Photoreading too, but seems you’ve already discussed it with others.

    I bought it back in 1997 and had some success with it, but struggled to make it work to the full extent as promised, and was going to tackle it again recently, so this is a particularly timely article for me :)
    …and the discussion about Kim Peek is fascinating! I’ll definitely find that documentary “Brainman”!

    However, I have seen videos of people demonstrating Photoreading on live radio, etc. (although they were Paul Scheele’s videos) – any thoughts on those?

    I’m definitely going to practice this PX Method…but wouldn’t it be great if both methods (PX & Photoreading) could be be made to work, & used in conjunction?

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  46. Great post. I did this years ago as the “Evelyn Wood” reading program. The night of “finals”, I read three books in just over 35 minutes with 96% comp. There was mention of a student at USC that read 85,000 wpm. He was tested on a micro-fiche machine, as page turning was the limiting factor.

    ps. I got away from some of it, because I was constantly interrupted by gawkers telling me “you’re not reading that”. I never had the heart to tell them to f*ck off! But I can assure you it works, if you keep with the drills. One day, your eyes will “pop” and you will wonder how you ever got along without it.

    ps. If you’ve ever fallen asleep reading a book, YOU’RE READING TOO SLOWLY!
    YOUR BRAIN IS TELLING YOU “I’M BORED!”

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  47. Eh, the whole trying not to speak in your head while reading (subvocalization), well according to wikipedia (I know it can be false, but generally it’s correct) it says that it may be potentially harmful to comprehension, learning and memory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subvocalization I suggest that you experiment with different techniques, photoreading/speedreading and see what works best for you.

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  48. How well does this work for non-native languages? My reading speed in Chinese is much, much slower than in English and I’m looking for ways to speed up, but I think I’m limited by my vocabulary recall speed, not by eye movement. Any research on whether this is of use in language acquisition?

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  49. Tim,
    I really like your stuff. keep it coming..

    It is true that we can force ourselves to speed up by fewer fixations, and larger groups of words for each fixation. BUT, for good readers, this is only a minimal gain.

    A MUCH larger increase can be achieved by eliminating SUB-VOCALIZATION.

    That is, eliminate the voice in your head, eliminate reading each word to yourself.

    What am I talking about?

    Well, we learn to read by reading aloud to parents, at school. The habit never leaves us without special training. We read at roughly the same speed at which we speak, somewhere (give or take) around 150-220 WPM. That’s not a coincidence.

    SO..how fast can we understand written text?
    Well, how fast can we think?? The answer is MUCH MUCH faster than our current rate. In fact, it’s hard to say exactly what the upper limit of speed reading is..

    As your posters pointed out, there are deaf people and other rare individuals that have learned how to stop talking to themselves as they read.
    Their reading rates are amazing, over 1000 WPM. This amazing speed can only be achieved by a completely different approach.

    There are methods to eliminate sub vocalization but they are very different from what you’re discussing here. The methods I’ve seen out there simply don’t work.

    Please let me know if you come across any useful methods for eliminating sub vocalization. If you put another tutorial or video out there on the topic, I’m sure it would be interesting.

    thanks,

    Mark

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  50. Also another way to increase your speed is to increase your vocabulary.
    When you come across a word you do not know. You will stop and reread the words around it to understand the context it is being used. This is another way to increase your speed when reading.

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  51. Bigup for the nice summary! Ever used speedreading softwares like Acereader? Pretty cool, but I guess keeping it zen and using the good ol’ paper and ink can be just as effective.

    I’m curious: what is your wpm right now?

    all the best!

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  52. I read this title on twitter: “How to read 300% faster in 20 minutes.” I instantly said this link has to point to Tim’s blog and it did…Ha.

    Good work Tim.

    Paul

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  53. I would like to see an article on “speed understanding” (if there is such a thing). I think the above techniques are useful for increasing the speed of reading fluff, but for more worthwhile or dense material I don’t think increasing reading speed makes much of an overall impact.

    Understanding to me is about making connections between what you don’t know and what you know. In order to do that, you need to stop reading and think. I’d say the reading aspect of understanding a text accounts for 5% of the time, while developing an understanding or figuring out how to apply the knowledge is the other 95% of the time. So while a gain on 5% of the pie is still a gain, focusing on how to improve the other 95% (how to develop an understanding) might be more worthwhile.

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  54. Tim,

    Most of the material I read these days is digital.
    Any specifics as to how to apply these techniques to reading on a vertically oriented screen?

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  55. Just gave it a go. Googled online stop watches and found http://www.online-stopwatch.com/

    Easily reading over 300% faster after walking through the post.

    It’s strikes me that before the techniques become second nature, it might help to take a few minutes to practice before diving into a book or long reading session… A reading “warm up”.

    thx

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  56. Tim, it’s official, you are the most interesting blogger I’ve come across. Your posts aren’t overwhelming and arrogant, your content is always amazing, and you are efficient to the point of being kinda scary.

    Kudos to you, sir,

    -Eryk

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  57. [On visual media]: I’ve taken speed reading to another level: speed watching digital media.
    I use software to speed up online lectures, videos, etc: whenever I’m needed to consume a larger amount of information than per the usual 60 fps. Enounce is an example of this type of software, and I use it to watch opencourseware lectures, for example. Futher, I’ve experimented with ‘so-called’ speed reading software– e.g. it flashes phrases of 11 words on the screen in 1/10 of a second.
    Anyway, my question for Tim and everybody: still working on an advanced notetaking system to UP the comprehension from all this reading, and (now) listening. Any suggestions?

    Thanks, Will

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  58. Than you Tim. I appreciate that you bring us practical and useful information. There’s too much information in the world these days and most people are on overload. I also love your “low information diet” recommendation from your 4-Hour Work Week book.

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  59. Are we really in that much of a hurry. I appriciate the skill for sure, but it seems like it would be just adding stress to my already stressful life. I do enough stuff fast :) Cool read.

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  60. I’m curious about how I might best apply this to reading content on the iPhone Kindle app or on Kindle itself… Any recommendations?

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  61. So, from the comments that i read it appears the big thing is to not “say or sound out” the words in your head. By doing this it allows you to comprehend multiple words at a time where as when you sound them out you can only move as quick as you speak. I’m curious to know if there is anywhere i can test my comprehension. I’ll continue to practice, but i never know if i REALLY got all the information i was supposed to out of it. Thanks.

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  62. This is something I’ve experimented with before, but never really fully committed myself to doing. I’ve heard that learning speed reading skills can have a huge impact on someones professional life.

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  63. Thanks for this post! I just posted a week or so ago asking about speed reading in some other post of yours. I’ve been practicing ever since though I’ve run into some hurdles despite a definite improvement.

    Here are a few concerns I have I hope you can answer:

    1.The pacing method works well, but when I start using your method of fixation (looking at every 3rd word in) I become unsure where I should start and end the pacing of my pen. Should I start from the third word in and end at the third word out as well? Wouldn’t that call my attention away from perceiving whatever is at the margins?

    2. Also, since you fixate on only two or three words per line, wouldn’t it make sense to move your pacer in “jumps” as well to the words you are fixating on? Since I am only looking at 2 words, why am I pacing across the entire line when it defeats the purpose of moving your eyes as little as possible? The pacing calls attention and your eyes move along with the pen rather than just jumping to the two words they are supposed to be perceiving. This reaaally confuses me because the two suggestions seem to be contradictory.

    3. When pacing at such speeds, my hands/pen is moving psychotically fast, making a lot of distracting “wooshing sounds” on the pages as well as just going in between and on lines I am supposed to be reading. Is this normal or am I going waaay to crazy with the pacing?

    4. Lastly, can you recommend any drills that can help me improve my horizontal eye span? A lot of times I’m missing words at the margins that are completely blurred out. You suggest starting at the second word in, but will that condition my eyes to where I will be able to move in to third/fourth word eventually? Or is this something that cannot be improved?

    Thanks so much for this post, speed reading is something I really want to learn to do properly and this is very helpful!

    PS; Just out of curiosity, what’s YOUR reading speed Tim?

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  64. Thanks Tim!

    I’ve been hoping that you’d hack reading speeds for a bit now. Brilliant! I’ve always had the frustration of never being able to intake as many books and other publications as I’d like. Problem cured — hopefully. I still have to give these tactics a go.

    Out of curiosity, how do these techniques and the protocol overall apply to non-English texts? I’m unfortunately not fluent, yet, in another language. Have you been successful at replicating the results in other languages?

    Cheers!
    Matt

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  65. I hadn’t done a wpm test before, but I have tried to speed up my reading (primarily through quicker comprehension and not through technical methods).

    First test, I was at 800.4 WPM. Second test was at 883.2. Solid improvement @ 10.3%. I’m looking forward to trying this method again on my flight home to Chicago on Monday. Would love to get over 1000. I will try to keep track of progress on my blog.

    -Benjamin

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