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There is little relationship between rate of read and comprehension

Research shows that there is little relationship between reading rate and comprehension. Some people read rapidly and comprehend well, others read slowly and comprehend badly. There is some reason to believe that the factors producing slow reading are also involved in lowered comprehension.

In checking of thousands of individuals taking reading training, it has been found in most cases that an increase in rate has been paralleled by an increase in comprehension, and that where rate has gone down, comprehension has also decreased. Although there is at present little statistical evidence, it seems that plodding word-by-word analyze (or word reading) inhibits understanding.

Whether you have good comprehension depends on whether you can extract and retain the important ideas of reading, not on how fast you read. If you can do this, you can also increase speed reading. If you "clutch up" when trying to read fast or skim and worry about comprehension, it will drop because the mind is occupied with your fears and you are not paying attention to the ideas that you are reading.

If you concentrate on the purpose of reading (locating main ideas, and the details, and force yourself to stick to the task of finding them quickly) your speed and comprehension should increase. Your concern should be not with how fast you can get through a chapter, but with how quickly you can locate the facts and ideas that you need.

Most adults are able to increase their rate of reading considerably and rather quickly without lowering comprehension. These same individuals seldom show an increase in comprehension when they reduce their rate. In other cases, comprehension is actually better at higher rates of speed. Such results, of course, are heavily dependent upon the method used to gain the increased rate. Simply reading more rapidly without actual improvement in basic reading habits usually results in lowered comprehension.

Comprehension during speed reading is in many ways easier than during standard reading. Firstly, the mind is busy looking for meaning, not rereading words and sentences. The average reader spends about 1/6th of the time they spend reading actually rereading words.

Rereading interrupts the flow of comprehension and slows down the process.

The second advantage is that, on the logical level, you use the knowledge of the subject to fill in needed information by looking at one or two paragraphs. Meanwhile, on the visual level, you absorb up to a page of information and process it. This stimulates many areas of the brain.


Scan the chapter first. Identify the sections to which the author devotes the most amount of space. If there are lots of diagrams for a particular concept, then that must also be an important concept. If you're really pressed for time, skip the sections to which the least amount of space is devoted.

Read the first sentence of every paragraph more carefully than the rest of the paragraph.

Take notes on headings and the first sentence of each paragraph before reading the chapter itself. Then, close the book and ask yourself what you now know about the subject that you didn't know before you started.

Focus on nouns and main propositions in each sentence. Look for the noun-verb combinations, and focus the mind on these.

Basic advice about reading

Reading may not be the skill that you want to improve in the immediate future. You may think that you read in usual life anyway, so you don't need to spend extra time on it. Another worry is that you may not be able to tell whether you have become a better reader or not after some time of learning. You will find that it is not impossible to evaluate the progress you have made in reading. Also, you may get a surprise bonus: both writing and speaking facilities could have improved, too.


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Habitually returning to what is already read, that usually decreases the speed of reading, no longer happens. Reading each word individually becomes unnecessary because skillful fast readers do not individualize the text when reading at high speeds. 
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