Increase Your Reading Speed

Reading is a skill that like any other, takes time and practice to excel in.Some of the techniques that can help you excel in reading are to read often, read widely, and read material that is difficult to comprehend.This will aid your speed as well as comprehension.As the saying goes, the more you practice, the better you get. Elizabeth Schotter, a researcher who studied speed reading, says that the average rate of speed reading for a college level reader is between 200-400 words per minute (wpm).


Speed reading is often a result of experience in reading regularly. This is also resultant of a large vocabulary and an increase in background knowledge that is familiar to the reader. This decreases the time taken to read.


In UPSC, we deal predominantly with reading non fiction and as a result we may feel boredom creeping in or find our minds wandering. In order to combat this, we can use a few strategies such as


  1. Connecting the material you’re reading with something you have a lot of interest in. This can be as simple as instead of reading, “On October 16, 1905, the Partition of Bengal occurred.” You can connect it with- 62 years ago, on the day my mother was born-October 16, 1905, the Partition of Bengal took place.

Also, when learning about the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, enter the dates into your Google Calender so you can be reminded about them and can observe the effects first hand.


  1. Find an optimal location to read. This can be  a little daunting because often you have locations where you do other things. For example, reading on your bed is inadvisable because the bed is a place you sleep and as such your brain is conditioned to relax and feel sleepy. This is incompatible with the focused, rigorous concentration required for learning.


  1. ‘Text Book Reading’ or reading while knowing the information you need to extract from this. You can supplement this method by Pre-reading. Pre reading is a form of reading where you only read the headings, the bolded words, and the vocabulary words associated with the text. By Pre-Reading, you’re priming your brain beforehand to notice vital information. this is not analogous with studying. Here, you’re simply learning to recognize important bits of information and remember them.


  1. Pseudo-Skimming: Cal Newport talks about the concept of ‘Pseudo-skimming’ in his book ‘Deep Work’. By skimming, you’re learning to engage only with main concepts and ideas presented in books. You can skim over the unimportant information. In lower class NCERTs, a lot of stories, and Imagine-If scenarios are presented and by skimming (looking for bolded words, reading up on concepts) you can significantly shorten the time taken to study them.


  1. Engage with the content. In order to learn something well, you have to engage with that content in a significant and impactful way. You can do this by

. Taking Notes

. Making Mindmaps

. Relating the content with real world problems

. Arguing an idea with a friend

. Teaching it to someone else.

. Making Dioramas.

Any method that helps you engage with the content in a manner that is insightful and makes learning easy to remember is worth pursuing. Keep in mind that the brain can remember content that is tangible much better than content that is abstract.


These strategies are some of the ways you can increase your reading speeds and cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Through judicious use of these skimming techniques you too can read faster without losing comprehension.


Published by

Officers IAS Academy

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