Speed Reading Techniques

sped reading techniques

Meta Guiding

‘Meta guiding’ is a very simple and proven one of the speed reading techniques, and one you may be familiar with already. Essentially, it involves using your finger to trace underneath the words you are reading. The point is to move your finger at a faster speed you would normally read, forcing your eyes to follow and read faster than normal! Of course you do not necessarily have to use your finger; you could use a pen, stylus, or any other implement you see fit.

Meta guiding is so effective for one main reason: It reduces the chances of regression, i.e. looking back over what you’ve already read. Regression is bad a few reasons – it means you are not reading well enough to understand what you’re looking at the first time around, and it slows you down. Meta guiding will ensure that you are reading every line, and that you are constantly progressing through what you’re reading. Meta  guiding is also good because it is easy to start practising. Start with a slowish speed, only slightly faster than you naturally read, then work your way out of your comfort zone. With a bit of practice, you will surprise yourself with how well you can keep up with your finger, even if it is going improbably fast.

If you find yourself tempted to look ahead of your finger, or onto the lines below, you can use a sheet of paper to block out what’s underneath the line of text you are reading. This will ensure that you are focusing on the correct line, and that maximum comprehension is maintained. Meta guiding is also useful if you only need to ‘skim-read’ a piece of text. Now for the next of the speed reading techniques, chunking.

Chunking

Chunking is arguably an extension of reducing sub-vocalising (as discussed in a previous blog about speed reading) – it revolves around using peripheral vision to absorb ‘chunks’ of words at a time i.e. more than one word at a time. There are a few ways you can approach this, one being to use ‘guide words’ as we did earlier. Read on to find out how, with two chunking speed reading techniques!

Chunking Technique 1 – Split the Page in Half

One great way to use chunking is the following: As the above title suggests, split your page of text in half with an imaginary, or indeed real, line. Then, incorporate another technique we discussed in the previous blog – guide words and saccadic eye movements. Focus on guide words every one, two, or three lines, choosing ones on each side of the line that splits your page. Then, read by looking at these two words every two or three lines, using your peripheral vision to catch most of the words. Your eyes should be moving in a zig-zag pattern down the page. This will see you read a whole side of text much, much faster than normal, and comprehension should remain at maximum. You could even experiment with including meta guiding here as well – use a finger or pen to jump from word to word.

Depending on your preferences, splitting the page in half may be a technique that’s better suited to educational purposes, such as taking notes on a topic you need to write an essay on, rather than reading for pleasure.

Chunking Technique 2 – Three Columns

This method is fairly similar to the last method, but with a couple of key differences. First, draw, or imagine, two vertical lines on the page you’re reading, thereby splitting the text into three even sections. Then, try to read the page just by looking down the central column. It will be difficult at first, but you will eventually be able to read the whole page mainly using your peripheral vision. This is a very fast method of reading, and one you should definitely try out. Due to the nature of this technique, it is probably best to save it as a skim-reading tool; use it on text you only need to get the gist of. However, with practice, you might be able to get good results with maximum comprehension.

As previously mentioned, for an introduction to speed reading, please read our previous blog on the subject: What is Speed Reading?

For an in-depth guide on speed reading techniques, have a look at our book, Rapid Study Skills for Students – Speed Reading Pocketbook.

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