Does Speed Reading Actually Work? | Iris Reading

Does Speed Reading Actually Work?

Speed reading works perfectly for silent readers who have mastered the art of eliminating subvocalization (silent speech) and using their peripheral vision to seamlessly connect different words into flowing sentences.

Individuals who read at pace use a cognitive strategy that focuses on improving their ability to scan blocks of text.

Speed readers also have better comprehension and the ability to recall the information they have read.

Speed reading is beneficial to doctors, lawyers, Ph.D. students, and people who need to consume and understand large volumes of text quickly.

Speed reading is perfect for:

  • Readers with a short attention span and struggle to maintain their concentration for an extended period
  • Readers who struggle with recognizing words quickly
  • Students who have a limited amount of time to study but have an abundance of material to read
  • People who need to read many documents or publications for a particular purpose, for example, doctors, lawyers, and Ph.D. students
  • Those who type very fast and don’t want to waste time reviewing what they’ve typed, like court clerks and stenographers
  • People with little time to read and struggle with their reading speed

Due to how speed reading requires fast eye movements, users have reported that speed reading significantly improves their thinking.

Speed readers process information faster over time as their brains learn to cope with the high information flow. As speed reading becomes more natural for them, their comprehension and memory levels improve.

Speed reading is a practice that holds a lot of promise and advantages, but unfortunately, not everyone can enjoy its remarkable benefits.

Here are a few instances where speed reading may not work for individuals.

  • Speed reading isn’t ideal for technical or scholarly text where the reader needs to internalize and understand complex topics.
  • People with poor concentration find speed reading hard. One of the essential things that speed reading requires is concentration. 

Concentration is the ability to focus on one thing for an extended time without being distracted easily. 

  • Lack of reading experience. Reading experience plays a big part in concentration and understanding what you read.

Reading inexperience makes it harder to understand the material you’re trying to read with speed. 

  • Poor visualization ability. Visualizing is a big part of speed reading. When you speed read, your eyes should be able to take in a lot of information at once and visualize what you are reading. 

People with poor visualization skills have a hard time speed reading.


  • You cannot speed read material that you don’t understand. 


People who try to speed read without knowing the information have a hard time concentrating on reading.

Some professionals like programmers who write code can’t speed read due to the complex nature of their reading material.

  • People who have grammar challenges or can’t read silently also find speed reading challenging. But with a positive attitude and enough training, their reading speeds may improve.

This article will clarify any doubts you may have about speed reading. 

Keep reading.

Speed reading is best applied to fiction books and other written materials that require a simple understanding of the topic.

The effectiveness of speed reading depends on the following factors.

  1. A reader’s speed

Your reading speed will be determined by how fast you recognize and perceive words in a text. 

So, if you want to increase your reading speed, you must first improve your ability to recognize words and phrases.

You need to build up a solid mental library of common vocabulary and phrases used in written text. The more words you know, the easier it becomes to read a text without any challenges.

  1. Comprehension speed

Comprehension speed is the pace at which you understand text when reading. Different people have different comprehension levels depending on their level of education, the complexity of the article, and their ability to focus.

Speed reading may decrease comprehension levels since it limits semantic processing. You must pay particular attention to the content of the text even while reading.

  1. Text speed reading

Text speed reading refers to the rate at which your eyes move over text. 

Even the fastest speed readers only read as fast as their eyes can move. To improve text reading speed, you need to increase your peripheral vision and reduce your saccadic (eyeball) movement.

One way to improve text speed reading is with the help of speed reading software that can highlight words at a preset speed.

You can also take a speed reading course that requires you to read without moving your eyes. Reading without moving the eyes is very effective in increasing your peripheral vision and reducing your saccadic movement.

  1. Coherence speed

Coherence speed is the rate at which you can link and make sense of ideas in the text you’re reading. 

A high coherence speed results in a more efficient reading process, meaning that you can understand what you’re reading faster. 

High coherence speeds reduce the total volume of text we need to read to understand the text.

Additionally, it eliminates confusion when reading.

Keep reading to learn how speed reading works and techniques to make the most of it.

How does speed reading work?

Speed reading works by eliminating subvocalization (internal speech when reading) and keeping your brain’s focus on the reading material. Speed readers take in more information at a faster pace than their reading speed. They quickly process written material, usually text or graphical information, to grasp the general meaning. 

You can quickly process written material, usually text or graphical information, using speed reading techniques and training

The speed at which you read is limited by the speed of your eyes and your brain. 

As your eyes scan across a sentence, they take in information one small fragment at a time, around 2 or 3 characters per fixation.

Fast readers typically take in information at around 6 to 7 characters per fixation. Using speed reading techniques (more on this ahead) allows slow readers to improve their reading speeds significantly.

Speed reading is not a natural talent or gift but rather an acquired habit. It takes some time to train and develop a high level of proficiency in speed reading.

Speed Reading only works when readers use specific techniques, which include the following: 

Change the way you look at words

Speed readers look at words in groups instead of singly. This is a vital component of speed reading since it allows you to process entire phrases or blocks of text at once instead of reading one word at a time.

Visual speed reading leverages connecting words into phrases, clauses, or even larger chunks of text. By looking at articles holistically, fast readers take in lots of information with each glance of a page.

Expert speed readers use their peripheral vision to capture more words at a time. Their eye movement quickly scans material divergently rather than linearly.

In speed reading, the eyes do not linger on any one word long enough for it to register in the brain.

The more you read, the faster your mind can work out the meaning of short passages without having to slow down.

Fast readers move their eyes across the page from left to right longer than usual, allowing them to take in a larger amount of information at a given time.

Common speed reading techniques will instruct speed readers to read in groups of 2, 3, 4, or more words at a time.

Scan the top line of text

When scanning a page, use your peripheral vision to focus on the first word in each line. As you read across the top line, quickly glance at every other line. This allows you to take in more information at once than if you were reading one line at a time.

By skimming the first line of text, you will take in the topic, title, and first sentence of a passage. You will then scan for keywords and view the entire page at once.

Silent speed reading

The silent speed reading method quickens your reading speed without changing the way you look at words. When speed reading silently, you tend to remove periods and commas from the sentence. Commas and periods are natural speed humps that reduce reading speed. By eliminating them, the reading process is noticeably quickened.

Silent reading allows you to move on to the next word or phrase without re-reviewing the previous one.

Additionally, silent reading reduces the mental and physical strain of having to decode words into sounds. By removing the vocalization process, you understand better since your brain can solely focus on comprehension.

Break down letters and words

Speed readers break down letters, words, and phrases into their most basic parts. For example, ‘a cat’ is made up of c, aa, and t.

Reading with this technique helps you comprehend the text quicker and eliminate the distractions caused by subvocalization (the act of reading by saying words in your head.)

This allows you to process information more quickly. You can then read the broken-down words both vertically and horizontally (this technique also works for non-native readers learning a new language)

Speed reading is widely being accepted today due to the numerous advantages it offers to users. It makes it possible for anyone to read more information in a shorter amount of time.

Here are a few advantages of speed reading:

  • Reading books and articles faster gives you more time to read and enjoy other materials.
  • Enables you to absorb and understand information three times faster than slow readers, which increases overall comprehension
  • Allows you to reduce the number of hours spent reading for work or leisure
  • Speed reading enables you to identify the main idea of a paragraph, leading to greater understanding and absorption of information.
  • Speed reading enables you to quickly scan for key pieces of information such as dates, prices, and titles.
  • Speed readers can focus better and get their reading tasks done quicker
  • Speed reading improves your knowledge base in diverse fields of interest.
  • With speed reading, you can better recollect the gist and message of a text.

Let’s look at some speed reading techniques that will help you make the most of the process.

Speed reading techniques

Speed reading techniques are mechanisms that speed readers often use to improve speed. Speed reading techniques include using speed reading software, practicing speed reading exercises, and eliminating subvocalization. You can also use a timer or use your fingers as a  guide. Finally, increase your eye movement and peripheral vision.

Here are a few popular ways of increasing reading speed.

1. Skimming

Skimming involves looking at an entire page quickly with no attention to details, complete sentences, or even punctuation. Instead, skimmers will often try to find repetitions to take note of important points. 

Skimming is a great way to get the gist of written text without reading every word on a page. You can use skimming to read and understand written content quickly. 

2. The pointer method

When speed reading, your eyes continuously move from left to right across a page. This is called the “pointer” speed reading technique because your eyes are pointing to where you want to go next on the page. 

To further speed up your reading, use the pointer or “hand” technique which involves pointing at each word with your index finger while reading.

3. The tracker and pacer method

The tracker and pacer speed reading method reduces regression (or re-reading text) by keeping your eyes moving at the same pace as the tracker. To speed read using the tracker and pacer technique, place your pointer finger on the page at the start of each line.

Make sure to keep your finger in position even when you’re not reading that particular word. This way, your eyes will always follow your finger, and you won’t be tempted to re-read lines.

The tracker and pacer method is a variant of speed reading with a pointer. The two speed reading techniques are very similar because they both keep your eyes from reading words again and help you read faster.

4. Reading chunks of text

Reading chunks of text is a speed reading technique that requires you to divide the text into different pieces and then read it in parts. To speed up the process, try reading every third word. This way, you get the general idea of the text without having to read every word.

You can take frequent brief breaks or pauses before speed reading another chunk of text. The breaks improve comprehension and reduce mental fatigue.

5. Anchoring speed reading

The anchor speed reading technique involves using your pointer at the beginning of a line or paragraph so that your eyes are forced to move from left to right without regressing.

Anchoring speed reading technique is best for beginners who are still learning how to speed read because it’s easier to use than the pointer speed reading technique. 

The anchor technique is useful in breaking bad speed reading habits because it doesn’t allow your eyes to slow down.

6. Speed reading exercises

Speed reading exercises are a great way to get your mind used to reading quickly. To read at a swifter pace, you have to understand that not all words are equal. Some words are more important than others and should be read with more focus, whereas filler words can be glanced over without losing meaning.

Speed reading exercises are done by ignoring filler words and focusing exclusively on the important words in a sentence. 

For example, take this sentence:

“I went to the park, and I was so happy.”

You would focus on content words like “I,” “went,” “the,” “park,” and “was.” All of these words give you information regarding the subject of the sentence. However, you would want to ignore all of the filler words like “to,” “I was,” and “so.”

Exercising this skill is fairly simple. 

You only need to read a sentence and circle all of the filler words. 

Once you have completed this, try to re-read the sentence with the filler words removed. 

If you can read it fluently, then great! 

Continue this exercise until your mind automatically skips all of the filler words.

You should repeat this speed reading exercise for every type of sentence, including simple sentences and compound-complex sentences.

7. Speed reading software

Speed reading software works by flashing chunks of words as you read. You can change the speed at which these words are flashed on the screen. This software is designed to help you focus on taking in larger chunks of information quickly. 

Speed reading software makes it so that there is less eye movement and fatigue often associated with extensive amounts of eye movement. The software focuses on words and phrases and not the smaller parts of the words.


Speed reading is a beneficial skill to have in today’s fast-paced world. It gives you a competitive advantage over those who spend hours reading.

Many people, including students, novelists, avid readers, and business professionals, use speed reading to improve their college grades or complete their professional and personal reading requirements.

However, speed reading may seem too complicated for some of the time-poor among us.

Fortunately, you can break down speed reading into steps: choosing your text, setting up your environment, skimming with purpose, and scanning efficiently.

These skills will allow you to pick up on information quickly from any type of text without missing anything that could be helpful later on. Readers can speed through text, pick up on important words and phrases, and understand the gist of the content.

You can improve your reading speed by taking up speed reading exercises, using speed reading software, speed reading books, and speed reading courses.

Try the Iris free speed reading mini-course today and start skimming large amounts of text.

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