IN MY 10 years of teaching people how to read faster, thousands have attended my classes, grasped the techniques of speed reading within six hours and made significant improvements in their reading speed.

Most people think that reading faster is a difficult skill. But increasing reading speed is perhaps the most easily attainable improvement in personal skills.

However, few are aware of the need to increase reading speed. Most of us are currently reading at the same speed as we did when we were 12 years old. In almost every other area of life, people have made improvements and developed skills, except for their reading speed.

In learning how to read faster, you can simplify it to just three aspects, ABC. A is for the approach, B is for beliefs and C is for calibration. If you get them right, not only will you be able to read faster, you will also be able to improve comprehension of what you have read.

Approach

There are three approaches to speed reading. The first approach is learning to read in groups of words instead of focusing on single words. We have the ability to pick up a chunk of words, just like how we pick up chunks of words when we listen to someone speak.

If we hear them singularly it would sound like a computer speaking to you — well, at least the computer of the old days.

We naturally pick up chunks of words that mean something to us. The trick is to use this natural instinct to pick up more words when reading than what you are doing now. One simple way is to tell yourself to focus on reading for meaning.

The second approach is to reduce the time you spend on reading the words. The typical time a person stays on a word is about 0.5 to 0.25 of a second. If you read one word at a time, this translates to a speed of between 120 to 240 words per minute.

You will be surprised at how fast you can recognise words. I was once asked to recognise random words at a speed of 125th of a second, and I could — without any training, so could you. But we do not need to read at that speed to improve our reading speed.

The third approach is to eliminate regressing during the reading task. Many readers return to sections of text they think they do not understand or re-read chunks of text to try to remember the information.

However, re-reading text is not a smart way to go. It is better to complete the reading and then return to the sections you think you did not understand.

This way, you get more contextual information to help your understanding. As for trying to remember more by re-reading, it would again be better to re-read the whole article at a later time to help improve memory.

Beliefs

Beliefs are powerful thoughts that control our behaviour. This also applies to our reading. A common struggle among readers trying to read faster is the belief that they lose comprehension when they read faster. Another deep-seated belief is that we should only read one word at a time.

All these beliefs hold a person back from reading faster. Studies have proven that you can increase speed without losing comprehension.

The Harvard Business Review reported that at Johnson & Johnson, a group of executives underwent speed reading training and increased their speed from an average of 215 words a minute to 425 words a minute without loss of comprehension. These results are similar to the results of many groups who have taken speed reading training in Singapore with only six hours of training.

The increase in productivity in the Johnson & Johnson study was so evident that many well-known companies have been training their executives to read faster. Among these institutions are household names such as GE, IBM, Mutual Life Insurance, The Gulf Oil Company, and the White House.

Calibration

Calibration is the ability to know how fast you are reading. Outside the controlled environment of the training room, there are no “word counts” and “timers” to help you determine your reading speed. Knowing how to “feel” the speed is the beginning of a lifetime of speed reading.

If you have taken more than three minutes to read this, you need to increase your reading speed.