Speed reading: a must for college students

According to the University of Utah, the average college student reads at a rate of up to 350 words per minute.  Whilst this may have been an adequate reading speed in high school, it may make university-level studies problematic.  College classes often require students to complete vast amounts of reading in relatively short spans of time, and it is not enough merely to acquire a vague familiarity with material; much of it must be mastered before the next class.  The University of Utah estimates that reading targets of 500 or 700 words per minute is a much more realistic goal if students are to succeed in college.

Fortunately, there do exist ways for students to improve their reading rate, doubling or even tripling it.  Research suggests that most readers can achieve such gains as long as they meet two basic criteria: they must be willing to try new reading methods, and they must be able to devote sufficient time to practicing them.

Speed reading as a study technique

Being able to complete all assigned readings is only one academic benefit of speed reading.  It has also been demonstrated that for many students, speed reading can actually improve comprehension rates.  One reason for this is the lengthy nature of the argumentation and sentence structure often found in university-level reading materials.  When reading progresses at a slow rate, students may become lost in the verbiage and lose track of the sense of a sentence or logical discussion.  Those who read faster, however, can mentally capture the ‘big picture’ more readily, which makes them far more able to understand, assimilate, and remember small supporting details.

Starter Guide to Speed Reading

Basic principles of speed reading

There are several reasons why individuals typically do not learn to read to their full speed capacity without specialised training.  Early reading instruction in school tends to focus on accuracy, while later reading exercises are designed to build vocabulary and increase comprehension.  Whilst these are important goals, they tend to create reading habits that can inhibit speed.  Once a person is a fluent, capable reader with a wide command of vocabulary, speed reading training becomes very appropriate.

Slow readers often read aloud without making much noise.  They may be sounding out words inside their throats or even whispering them out of habits acquired long ago.  This is like putting the brakes on the reading process.  The mind can assimilate information at a far greater rate than the vocal organs can recite it.

Re-reading is another habit that inhibits true speed.  The good news is that speed reading training can help people to break these habits and acquire ones that are far more efficient for rapid reading with excellent comprehension.

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