Is Speed Reading Good for Comprehension? (Helpful Examples) | Iris Reading
Is Speed Reading Good for Comprehension?

Is Speed Reading Good for Comprehension? (Helpful Examples)

Is Speed Reading Good for Comprehension?

Speed reading involves utilizing your peripheral vision and eliminating subvocalization (silent speech) to scan blocks of text. Speed reading can not only save you time, but it can also help improve the comprehension of what you read and the ability to recall that information. 

Speed reading can help you consume large volumes of text and understand it in a short amount of time. Professionals like doctors, lawyers, research scholars, and pretty much anyone can improve their reading comprehension and retain more information utilizing this reading technique. 

In this post, we will talk about the benefits of speed reading in improving reading comprehension, followed by some useful tips that will help you improve your recall. 

So, let’s get straight to the point! 

What is reading comprehension? 

Reading comprehension is why you want to read anything. Comprehending involves reading a piece of text, processing it, and extracting its meaning to understand what you are reading. 

When you comprehend something while you read, you don’t exactly remember the sequence of the words. Rather, you form a mental model of the information being conveyed by integrating the sense of what the words say into a meaningful picture. 

Good comprehension is crucial for reading to serve its purpose. After all, you are reading something not just for the act of it, but to understand and recall it in the future. 

Going through large tomes in a short time is useless if you are unable to understand what the text says and, more importantly, not able to recall what you read. 

Once you have mastered the art of speed reading without losing comprehension, you might want to check out our course on maximizing memory so you can recall the information you comprehended. 

Does speed-reading lower comprehension?

There is no point in being able to read fast if it compromises the ability to comprehend the information. Some people might think that when you are speed reading, you will skip several words leading to a loss in comprehension. However, this notion is incorrect.

Let’s take a small example to understand the relationship between reading speed and comprehension. When a student reads a textbook, they tend to read every word thinking that it will help them understand and remember the information better. 

However, when the same students read novels or other extra-curricular books, they tend to skim through the book and read it at an increased speed. Despite reading the book at a greater rate, they can still follow the story and understand what is being said in the novel. You might have had a few similar experiences yourself. 

But why is it so? The simplest answer to this question is that most words in a sentence are not essential to understand the meaning it is trying to convey. Consequently, if you can train yourself to scan a text block rather than going through each word, you can still get the information you want. It means you can save time while reading without losing the ability to comprehend the text.

We can glean from the example above that speed reading does not reduce your ability to comprehend. However, it must be pointed out that speed reading might not be a good solution if you read a scholarly text like a research paper, where you need to internalize very specific information regarding a complex topic. 

How to read faster without losing comprehension?  

Speed reading is not just going through your “to be read” pile at flash speeds. It is much more than that. It strives to strike a balance between lowering the time required to read a piece of text and the ability of your mind to comprehend it.  

Here are a few tips that can help you increase your reading speed while maintaining high comprehension. 

Set your expectations before you begin

Before you begin reading any text, the most important thing is to have a clear end goal in mind. If you know what you want from the text, you are reading primes your brain to look for specific, highly relevant words and sentences that are more important for comprehension. 

Setting clear expectations also helps you stop wondering through the text and helps you have a targeted approach, which improves your comprehension. 

You can always slow down a bit whenever you reach a comprehensive piece of information within the text to improve your understanding. Planning before you read is the key. 

Use Selective scanning and skimming

Skimming involves picking up a part of a text that seems the most important to you. If you have followed tip number one above, you already know what you want to get out of the material, and skimming can be very effective. 

A few peer-reviewed studies have also shown that skimming the text before reading can improve comprehension. So, there is scientific evidence behind using this technique. 

Let’s take an example to establish how you have already been using skimming and scanning techniques. Remember when you were in school taking an important exam where time was a constraint? 

Rather than going through all the questions word-by-word, you skimmed through the test paper to determine the type of questions asked and what portion was worth more points. Once you knew the general nature of the exam, you strategized accordingly and managed your time. 

The same technique you have used all these years to scan your exam papers can help improve your reading speed without losing comprehension. Skimming and scanning are best for non-fiction books, but with a little practice, you can also use the technique in fiction books. 

Use a pointer while reading

A pointer such as your index finger, a pen, or a pencil can help you improve your reading speed and comprehension, especially when you are new at speed reading. The goal of having a pointer is to help stabilize your wandering eye movements and keep you on track. 

Using a pointer can also help you improve your focus and concentration. The more you stay focused, the better you understand and comprehend the text. 

Stop subvocalizing

Subvocalization is speaking the words in your head as you read them. It is one of the most important factors slowing down your reading. For most people, subvocalization is so ingrained into their reading experience that they can’t imagine reading without needing it. 

Your brain and eyes have a lot more ability to comprehend and process words than you might think; just by stopping that voice in your head while you read almost double your reading speed. 

If you are used to subvocalizing, it can be difficult to quit. The best way to prevent it is to be conscious of the act and actively distract yourself. Using a pointer can help you in this regard. Many people can successfully stop subvocalizing when they use a pointer. 

Read entire phrases and not individual words

Do you know that your eye span is 1.5 inches long? It means you can read as many as nine words simultaneously. 

Viewing a piece of text as made up of chunks of phrases will improve your reading speed and won’t compromise your comprehension. While it can be a difficult skill to master, practice can help you get there. 

Start by looking at every fifth word in the text rather than going through each word. It will help you take in more words at a glance and also help you stop subvocalizing. When you go through the text one word at a time, you tend to read it in your mind slowing down.

Enjoy what you are reading

The best tip to speed read without losing comprehension is to read on topics that interest you. Even the fastest readers in the world won’t be able to keep up with their reading speeds if they read something that does not interest them.

As you can imagine, it is not necessary that whatever you will read will interest you. For instance, you might have to read for an exam about boring topics. Being more optimistic and open-minded about what you are reading can help in such cases. 

Putting context into the information you read can make it more interesting. For instance, think about how the information you are reading will help you in your daily life. 

Having a good memory also helps with comprehending large volumes of text. If you need help improving your memory, try our Maximizing Memory course, which covers practical techniques to remember what you read.


Speed reading can be a great tool that can give you a competitive edge in today’s modern, fast-paced world. You can get more information and keep yourself updated without spending hours reading books. 

From students to professionals like doctors and lawyers, speed reading is one of the best ways to propel your career. However, speed reading can be difficult to master without the proper guidance. 

Here at Iris, we are committed to helping all avid readers who want to improve their reading speeds. Try the Iris speed reading course today to jump-start your speed reading journey. We also have a free speed reading tool to get you started.

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