What is the concept of speed reading

Speed ​​Reading - what's behind it

The term "speed reading" already suggests: It's about speed! In most cases, these include techniques that go back to Tony Buzan and that increase reading speed primarily by omitting them: cross reading, diagonal reading, slalom reading, etc.

There are certainly some useful uses for such speed reading techniques. In fact, a rough overview of a topic is often sufficient. There is simply too much information that storms us in everyday life. We don't have to understand everything in great detail. If we do not need the exact statements immediately, we simply save in this way that there is a text with this information. If necessary and with good filing technology, you can always read it later.

As part of the Improved Reading training, techniques that enable “general reading” are also taught. Most people understand this as “speed reading”. This primarily refers to the so-called foresight. Before reading a text, the following questions must first be clarified: What is it actually about? Where are the most important things? What is already known about this topic (own prior knowledge)?

With such a preview of the text, similar to speed reading, important meaning signals are recorded. This includes headings, diagrams, images, tables or highlighting. To put it simply: anything that looks different from the body of the text. This already contains a lot of information that provides precise information on the content: relevant topics, the order of these topics, their weighting and structure. In addition, we often notice a lot of meaningful signals within the running text: long, bulky words, names, numbers, paragraphs, etc. This information also helps to get in the right mood for the reading process.

In this way, it is often possible to rule out what does not have to be read at all because it simply does not seem relevant. “Not having to read” is of course a significant time saving and definitely the highest possible reading speed ;-). This also saves time for text passages that have to be worked on intensively.

A foresight is indispensable in preparation for the actual reading - and sometimes it is enough. But that can't be all that can be said about fast, efficient reading. Because just like the forecast, speed reading is not really reading at all, but a kind of “intelligent omission”.

Often, however, a good understanding of the text and a responsible handling of texts are important to us. In such cases, the omission can only take place in those places where we are sure that they do not contain anything for pending tasks or examination situations. In contrast, gaps in the crucial points are usually taboo.

Read quickly - and still read everything

Where good understanding is required, full text comprehension is wiser. From here on, the speed reading techniques are clearly overwhelmed.

However, that doesn't mean you just have to read slowly. Reading in full is also much faster - provided you use the right gaze processes, namely:

  • wide focus of several words per stop,
  • a clear forward orientation and
  • more "visual recording" (instead of speaking)

This allows you to achieve speeds that are significantly higher than the average reader. You will even get a better understanding. And if necessary, you will gain time to read several times. Because for understanding it is actually better to read twice quickly than once slowly. Try it out! So the term “speed reading” would make sense again.

However, it is a widespread misunderstanding that only omitting it enables fast reading and thus it inevitably comes at the expense of understanding. Unfortunately, the concept of “speed reading” strongly promotes this misunderstanding because it focuses solely on the “courage to leave gaps”. The considerable potential for efficiency when reading in full is thus masked out.

Learn more about the scientific background.