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Improve your reading speed and comprehension

If you can take 10 minutes a day over 6 weeks to read an easy article or novel, you can improve your reading efficiency without a great deal of effort.

How to improve - exercise

Choose a fiction or non-fiction text you want to read but which is not related to study reading.

It's best to choose a text that you consider "easy reading" and one where you will be satisfied knowing only the main ideas and not all the details. You will also need 2-3 post-it notes and a timer on your phone or computer.

Day 1:

  1. Set timer for 10 minutes.
  2. Read as much as you can of your novel during that time.
  3. When the timer goes, stop reading and place a post-it note at the top of the last page you read.
  4. Close the text and summarize out loud everything you remember reading.
  5. Put text away until the next day.

Day 2:

  1. Count the number of pages you read on Day 1 (from the beginning of the book to the post-it)
  2. Count off the same number of pages plus one more and insert a second post-it.
  3. Set your timer for 10 minutes and read fast enough to get through all the pages up to the second post-it in the 10 minutes.
  4. Now close your text and summarize out loud all that you remember.

Day 3 and after:

  1. Repeat the procedure for Day 2.
  2. Increase by 1 the number of pages to read by counting them off and marking your target with a post-it.
  3. Read fast enough to cover all the pages up to the post it.
  4. Close the text and summarize all you remember
  5. After a couple of weeks, increase the number of pages only every 2-3 days rather than every day
  6. As you increase the number of pages you read in 10 minutes, you will have to read faster and comprehend less.

How and why does this work?

We initially have to sacrifice comprehension to build speed.

As long as you can summarize even a few ideas at the end of 10 minutes, you are on track. Your comprehension will increase gradually with practice.

Doing this exercise regularly forces you to devise new strategies for covering pages of text more quickly.

You will learn how to find the most important ideas on the page in the fastest time. Try skimming to answer a question or to check out a prediction. Try focusing on headings, first sentences of paragraphs, bold words, dialogue, etc.

This type of reading also improves your risk-taking, a characteristic of efficient readers.

With practice, you will learn to make educated guesses at the ideas or information on the page by sampling some of the text and then elaborating with knowledge from your head. Efficient reading involves linking what's on the page and what's in your head.

Developing this approach to reading will gradually help you read with greater comprehension in less time, even for academic reading. You will become more efficient at finding the most important ideas in whatever you read.

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