Is Speed Reading Just Skimming? (Explained for Beginners) | Iris Reading
Is Speed Reading Just Skimming?

Is Speed Reading Just Skimming? (Explained for Beginners)

Is Speed Reading Just Skimming?

Speed reading is not the same as skimming. Skimming is one way to improve your reading speed, but it is not the only one. Speed reading also involves using your peripheral vision and your eyes’ rapid, jerky movement to take in chunks of text at a time.

There is a misconception that when you speed read, you skip words and get the general overview of the text you are reading. That is a speed reading myth, and you must learn to distinguish between skimming and speed reading.

In the era of information, there is so much to read. Professionals like content writers may find covering all sub-topics related to the study topic challenging. 

Similarly, students must read tons of technical journals and articles to pass exams or finish an assignment.

Try polishing your skimming skills if you have difficulties identifying the most crucial aspects of a blog post, book, or journal. But if you have loads to read and long for a faster, more convenient approach to glean knowledge from books without losing comprehension, consider speed reading.

In this post, we’ll distinguish speed reading and skimming and show you the basics of speed reading. We’ll also share tips to help you read faster without skimming. 

Let’s dive in! 

The basics of speed reading

Speed reading is the skill of rapidly recognizing and taking in chunks of words or phrases without losing comprehension.

The tenets of speed reading are: 

Avoid sounding out words and hearing them as you read

Subvocalization or inner monologue is a poor reading habit where you sound out words and hear them as you read. It slows the speed of reading down.

To stop this habit, chew gum, let some instrumental music play in the background, or hum as you read.

As you do this, your reading speed improves, and you assimilate words in groups rather than singly. 

Avoid rereading words

Slow readers frequently reread the text. Returning to reread words repeatedly causes you to lose the flow and structure of a piece of writing and muddles your overall understanding of the subject. 

The erratic eye movement quickly tires you out. If you fall in this category of poor readers, you’ll dislike reading because it is difficult for you to concentrate and comprehend written information.

Train your eyes and brain to read and assimilate groups of words quickly

Unlike the eye, the mind doesn’t have to ‘read’ one word or phrase at a time. Your mind is a powerful tool that, when trained, can understand a sentence or even a paragraph at a “glance” if the eyes give it the information it needs.

The most important thing is to identify the fixations and regressions that slow down so many readers. Luckily, this isn’t too hard to do. Once you figure it out, you can read as fast as your mind allows, not as slowly as your eyes permit.

There are many ways to break eye fixations. Some tools are hard to use and expensive, but most of the time, you don’t need anything more advanced than your own hand, which you can train yourself to follow as it moves across and down the page faster and faster.

Bring together your thumb and first two fingers. Move the “pointer” across a line of text a little faster than your eye can comfortably move. Make yourself keep up with what you’re doing. Keep doing this and make your hand move faster. Before you know it, you’ll have doubled or tripled the speed at which you can read.

Read more

Text familiarity enhances speed reading because the more you see a word, the easier it is for your brain to process and make meaning out of it. Reading more exposes you to different genres and phrases used in various fields, building your familiarity with those words.

Improve your vocabulary

When you encounter a new word, you’ll often try to guess its meaning or look it up in the dictionary. That slows you down and makes you lose the flow of the text. 

Try to build your vocabulary by taking quizzes or grammar classes to know more words, their different meanings, and how you can use them in sentences.

What is skimming?

Skimming is an active reading strategy where you only read the most relevant parts of a text to get an overview or general idea.

To skim efficiently:

  1. Avoid reading passages in depth.
  2. Focus on the book introduction, section summaries, topic, and concluding sentences of each paragraph.
  3. Instead of reading every word, note the bolded words, figures, illustrations, and table of content.

Other parts you should skim are:

  • The abstract/ Executive summary
  • The title
  • All subheadings
  • The conclusion
  • Repeated words

Remember, you’re skimming to get the author’s main intention of writing rather than the finer details.

If you are required to understand text in depth, skimming is not a good idea.

When should you skim text?

There is no definitive answer for when you should skim. It largely depends on your reading intent and personal preferences. 

Still, skimming documents for work purposes or academic reasons happens when you don’t have much time to get into the details.

It is also a good idea to skim when researching a topic to get a rough idea of an issue before speed reading through to understand the author’s point of view or to gather statistics.

When reading for pleasure, or seeking to support an opinion with facts, deep reading for comprehension is essential, and you cannot afford to skip words. 

Is skimming the same as speed reading?

Skimming and speed reading are not the same. Speed reading is reading at reading speeds above the average 250 words per minute while still retaining much of the content. 

On the other hand, skimming is not reading but looking for the general idea by hovering over crucial areas such as topic sentences, introductory paragraphs, and the conclusion. 

Skimming and speed reading are great when trying to get through text fast. However, if you want to learn something new or read through a technical text, you should not speed read or skim text; instead, you should read to understand.

How to read faster without skimming

Speed reading is the only way to read faster without skimming, and there are several benefits, including improved memory. Here are a few tips to help you read faster without skipping words.

Get comfortable

Get a comfortable chair or reading desk. Keep your feet firm on the ground or floor and your back straight. Make sure the space is also well lit because brightness affects comprehension.

Enlarged font size

When the font is large, it is easier to read faster in print or in soft. Personalized fonts help increase speed reading and reading comprehension. 

Focus and get rid of all distractions

Speed reading has a lot going on. You are reading many words, assimilating them, and the brain is processing the information faster than usual. Concentration and total focus are critical to speed reading with reading comprehension.

Take a productivity course

To have more productive reading sessions and focus better, learn the productive skill by enrolling in an online Personal Productivity Course.

Use the pointer method

To help you read from left to right, place your thumb at the beginning of the line you are about to read.

Don’t move your head; fix your gaze on the space under your thumb. Start reading left to right, guided by your finger.

After the fourth line, instead of continuing to the next line, you should move your thumb to the start of the next line and continue reading.

Increase your pace steadily rather than all at once

Do not expect to increase your reading speed instantly, and don’t force yourself to read any faster than is comfortable. 

If you feel yourself losing concentration, we recommend you take a little rest and resume your work at a more leisurely pace.

Practice and more practice

Practice reading faster every day by timing yourself as you read. You can also try AccelaReader, a speed reading tool that flashes words in groups.


Speed reading and skimming do not mean the same. Skimming is a speed reading technique that helps you get a general sense of the text, while speed reading is a skill where you read faster without skipping any word.

Enroll in the Iris Reading Maximizing Memory Course, where you’ll get lifetime access to memory techniques to understand better and retain much of what you speed read. 

The 90-minute content is accessible via smartphones so that you can also review the memory techniques while on the move, away from your PC or desktop.

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