Standardized testing, for some of us, is a breeze. For others, however, it can be a time-consuming monster, especially if you read painfully slow. Actually, scratch that — even just reading at a “normal” pace, the amount of time it takes you to fully mull over what the answer may be can end up costing you some points if the test is timed. As someone who tends to dwell incessantly over her answers and over the smallest of details, I can personally attest to feeling stressed during exams not because I didn’t know much about the exams’ contents but because I took an inordinate amount of time reading through prompts and answers. Fortunately for me, however, I learned about and developed a skill later on that allowed me to improve the rate at which I read, giving me peace of mind during exams and reading-based assignments. It’s called speed reading and, done correctly, it can not only cut time from reading activities but also serve as a great test-taking tool.
How to Start Speed Reading
The most important thing to understand before starting to speed-read is a concept called “subvocalization,” which is the voice we hear in our heads when we read. Seeing as the rate at which we read in our heads tends to be slower than when we read aloud, for speed reading, this has got to go. Rather than reading in our heads, then, we should focus on our breathing as our eyes move across the page. This will feel a little odd at first, but it is integral to speed reading and so practice is imperative. Once you have that down, you can begin to add the speed reading tips LifeHack.com offers:
1. Try to not repeat
By this I mean that you should not repeat words either in your head or out loud because it just cuts into your reading time. You will be apt to do this when you first begin but don’t worry; it eventually becomes easier to just move through a chunk of text without needing to repeat words. Instead, focus on your breathing or repeat something like “1 2 3 4 5” in your head while you read so that your eyes become the main tool through which you read.
2. Use your fingers
If you remember elementary school well enough, this should be fairly simple. Using your finger to trace each word as you read will help you focus on that word so that your eyes do not get lost in the text. Furthermore, it will allow you to gauge your reading speed.
Don’t let your mind wander, however tempting that may be!
4. Don’t start too fast
Anytime you’re trying to get from A to Z, it’s easy to want to start at a pace much quicker than you can handle in hope that it will take you to your end goal (Z) faster. But you need to understand that you have to take your time and try to not get frustrated. Start slow by just focusing on eliminating subvocalization, add in these tips, and then increase your speed.
As for standardized testing, once you have speed reading down, reading through prompts, questions, and answers becomes a much easier task and, eventually, you learn to identify key words, concepts, and the like as you read more and more. It definitely helps with reading assignments as well, something that I have plenty of as a college student.