You open your textbook to begin your homework, read through page after page of text, only to discover that it has taken you hours and you haven't retained anything. This can be a frustrating, time-consuming problem. Not only are you using up valuable time, but you haven't understood what you were reading.There are several techniques to help you read faster while still retaining information. You will not learn to read quickly overnight; it is a skill that can be developed.
Time yourself to discover how many words per minute you read. This will set a baseline and help you to notice improvements later. Set the stopwatch timer for one minute and read. Once the timer goes off, take your pencil and mark where you stopped. Go back and count how many words you read.
Practice holding a pencil along the line as you read. This helps you to focus on what you're reading, and it sets a pace for you.
Cover up the last line that you read with an index card. People's eyes often wander without them noticing. They backtrack and reread the lines just read. This takes up a lot of time. To prevent backtracking, cover up the lines that have been read. This helps train you to not let your eyes wander.
Read the first and last sentence of a paragraph. This is especially important when it comes to textbooks. Usually these two sentences alone tell you what the paragraph is about. If you understand those two sentences, you can skim through the paragraph and move on.
Learn to read in blocks. It takes time to read each individual word. Train yourself to skip over any words that do not add to the concept, words such as: and, the, is. If you can teach your eyes to skip these, you can improve your reading time while focusing on the information you are reading.
Concentrate on the nouns and main propositions of each sentence. Familiarize yourself with the noun-verb combinations; this will help you to focus on the key concept of the sentence. Gail Kluepfel in "Being a Flexible Reader," recommends that readers take notes graphically --using only the key words -- instead of reading every word.
For instance, if the sentence reads: The nervous system is divided into the brain, spinal cord and the nerve cells, your notes might read: Nervous system / into brain, spinal cord, nerve cells
You can cut out six words in this one sentence. If you can do this for every sentence, you will have increased your reading rate. Plus the graphic note-taking will be helpful in reviewing and retaining information.
Highlight key words or phrases as you skim through paragraphs, or jot down notes. Later on, review the highlighted text. It also helps your retention if you discuss the information you've just read with someone else.
- Glendale Community College: Reading Better and Faster: Dennis Doyle
- "Being a Flexible Reader": Gail Kluepfel
Tina Cisneros began writing professionally when she accepted a job that included grant writing in 2007. Her writing was featured in an anthology released by the Society Muse of the Southwest. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in English from the Colorado College then went on to receive an alternative license in elementary education from Northern New Mexico College.