What is speed reading?

Speed reading is a method of reading through text material rapidly. Learning speed reading helps you identify, comprehend and retain important words or key parts in a sentence. The average rate most people read at allows them to process 250 words per minute (WPM).

Who might benefit from it?

Transcribers convert live speech and audio-recorded material into readable content. This is a beneficial service for many businesses, as it helps employees focus during a meeting whilst receiving a comprehensive transcript of what has been said at the end of it. In many cases this is a legal requirement and transcripts must be maintained for extended time periods.

From a transcriber’s perspective, an effective way to proofread the material converted from audio to text would be to speed read it. Since the content is already heard, therefore partially retained in the memory, it is much easier to skim through the text to gauge if anything has been missed or if any corrections are to be made.

Translators, similarly, need to understand vast amounts of content prior to converting it from one language to another. Gaining good understanding of a topic fast and being able to focus on research is key to any quality translation.

This is where speed reading comes in handy. Translators can use the technique to sift out key information that helps them research the topic at hand and focus on the overall meaning.

Speed reading, like any other skill, requires practice and beginning with a simple book or article will help you gain confidence in the skill you are developing.

After every few paragraphs, pause and think about what you have understood. If you rush through the text for the sake of it, chances are that you will not comprehend or retain any of it, thus defeating the purpose of the exercise. Mentioned below are a few tips and tricks on making speed reading a simpler process.


Here are a few different techniques on how to speed read. Try them out and decide which one of these works best for you.

  1. Skimming
  2. Meta Guiding
  3. Rapid Serial Visual Presentation
  4. Survey, Question, Read, Recite & Review (SQ3R)

1. Skimming

Skimming helps you familiarize yourself with the text, to get a summary of the content. Skimming involves rapidly scanning through the text and highlighting words or parts of a sentence that you feel will be important.

You don’t need to read every word. You only need to quickly read through the text and stop your eye where you find the highlighted portions. This will help train your eye to look only for the relevant parts. You will automatically eliminate portions that are not as important. This technique of reading will increase your reading speed.

There is, however, a downside to it – the skimming technique will not help you retain key details of the text. This technique would be suited to reading material or concepts that you are already familiar with.

2. Meta Guiding

The meta guiding technique involves using a visual guide. A pointer, which can dramatically improve focus and assist the eye movement. It will effectively guide the movement of your eyes to the line you are reading in the text. It is not necessary that you use a linear movement for guiding your eyes. Any movement that acts as a motion guide will help you focus.

Other types of Meta Guides that you can use are – a pencil, pen or pacer. A pacer can be a piece of blank paper or cardboard. You can also use a debit/credit card. The objective is to help guide the movement of your eyes. It also helps reduce re-reading and distraction by covering words you have read.

3. Rapid Serial Visual Presentation

When you are at a bookstore, and you come across a book that you may find interesting, you tend to quickly riffle through its pages to determine if you want to purchase it or not. Similarly, Rapid Serial Visual Presentation involves rapidly reading through the text to determine the content and its value for you.

This technique involves reading a text quickly, without pausing. It is used widely in smart device apps to train the reader’s eye to quickly read and eliminate regression. It also helps cut down sub-vocalization and improves concentration.

4. Survey, Question, Read, Recite & Review (SQ3R)

As the name suggests, this technique is to be implemented in a step by step method. It helps you read and comprehend faster. Let’s take a look at each step.

  1. Survey: Review the content to understand the initial meaning from headings, bold or underlined text (and images or charts, if any).
  2. Question: Establishment and asking of questions. These questions are based on the material read and are related to concepts and ideas in the text.
  3. Read: Read through the text thoroughly and while doing so, look for the answers to the previously established questions.
  4. Recite: After you have read through a particular part or section, the concepts and ideas are now clear. Recite what you have understood, in your own words.
  5. Review: Go over what you have recited and/or understood and compare it with the text.


Speed reading is a great way to save time. It works well if reading for leisure is one of your hobbies that you find hard to keep up in your busy lives. In professional fields, it is effective for proofreading or when reading content that you are familiar with.

Transcribers, editors, translators, bloggers, journalists, and others will find speed reading useful in their day-to-day routine.

Restrictions to the use of speed reading should, however, be considered. This especially applies to medical and legal documents and any text where you need to grasp every detail, for your own understanding or to explain it to someone else.

A thorough review of the top speed reading courses can be found on our guest bloggers website.

Author: Jimmy from myspeedreading.com