Tips for Speed Reading Competitors

Comprehension and Speed Reading

People often confuse comprehension and recall. Comprehension begins with identifying the main ideas. How are they supported? How do they relate to each other? Remembering has a part in the thinking process, as you have to know what the ideas are, before you start to look for links. The questions which used to be set for the World Speed Reading Championships were recall questions, not comprehension questions.  Answers involved recalling details, such as names, places and events. We read unpublished books.

There are some things which you can do to improve recall, whether you speed read or not. Make learning as multi-sensory as possible, using your imagination to mentally recreate what you are reading. You have to notice something as the first step to being able to remember it later and creating imagery is a great way of paying attention to your reading material.

A skilled reader will also use questions to engage with books. If you are already used to doing this, it is probably something that you hardly notice, as it is habitual. Beginner speed readers sometimes worry that they are not ‘taking in’ what they are reading. This may be partly because speed reading technique has not become automatic yet and it is distracting them from absorbing what they are reading. It can also be that they are not using their own questions and don’t have a way of assessing their understanding as they read. Questions boost recall and encourage a personal response to written content. Become a critical reader and you will escape from the fog of self-doubt.

Questions don’t have to be complicated to be useful. These ‘journalists’ questions’ are great starting points: who, what, where, when, how, why and what’s the outcome?

You are in control when you ask your own questions and find answers. When you stop worrying about whether you are absorbing information you will have more capacity to process and store it. Prepare your mind and allow it to find the knowledge you seek.

Building Speed

Speed can be affected by such things as size of print and layout, as well as your familiarity with the style, genre and concepts. Expect your speed to vary with different types of reading material.

If you have a target speed, it does make a difference to experience it. Read and reread your practice material, until you achieve your target speed. Familiarity with your material will enable you to read faster. You are training your brain to process more quickly. Afterwards try new, unread material and you are likely to find your speed has improved.

I use a guide to act as a pacer and to help my eyes track through my reading material.

Guiding technique varies with how the material is presented and level of speed reading skill, as well as issues to do with vision and whether you are left or right handed. I write about this in detail in my book, ‘How to be a Speedy Reader’. There are many different ways to guide your eyes. Finding what works for you is important. It has to be what’s best for you.


Enjoy competing. That’s what it’s all about. Discover what you can do.


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