Speed Reading vs Intensive Reading: Differences & Similarities | Iris Reading
Speed Reading vs Intensive Reading

Speed Reading vs Intensive Reading: Differences & Similarities

Speed Reading vs Intensive Reading

Speed reading and intensive reading are both effective forms of reading, but for different purposes. While speed reading is about how to absorb information quickly and might imply a trade-off between speed and comprehension, intensive reading prioritizes comprehension above speed.

To improve your reading skills, you need to apply several reading strategies. Becoming a dedicated reader with excellent comprehension and material retention takes time, practice, and focus.

If you pick the right reading strategy, it will improve your reading experience and get you one step closer to your objective.

Secretaries are expected to read and create memoranda, lawyers are expected to read and verify the legitimacy of contracts, and students must read research papers, news stories, textbooks, websites, and lecture slides.

Knowing effective reading strategies might provide a significant advantage in light of all that reading. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast speed reading and intensive reading in more detail.

What is speed reading?

Speed reading is a necessary tool to cover ground fast while reading. In speed reading, rather than focusing on specific details on a page, the reader shifts their focus to recognizing and assimilating entire phrases or sentences as quickly as possible. It is not just the opposite of slow reading.

One further definition of speed reading describes it as any of several methods that claim to improve a person’s ability to read quickly. At work, we may be processing emails, reports, and websites; at home, we may be processing social media, books, and magazines. 

The amount of information that we can handle is expanding daily. There is probably a lot of pressure on us to get through all of this material as quickly as possible so that we can “keep in the loop” and make judgments based on accurate information.

The average reading speed of most readers is approximately 250 words per minute, and some people are naturally faster readers than others. However, if you can read quickly, that number could be increased by a factor of two.

Techniques for speed reading include scanning, skimming, breaking text into chunks, unison a pointer to trace the text, and reducing sub-vocalization.

Constant practice can help you read faster, but if you’re reading scientific literature, don’t expect to increase your speed by more than two times.

Legal contracts are much direr because the meaning sometimes depends on a single word or phrase, but a seasoned attorney can often fast read through such documents.

When it comes to books, however, your reading rate can be increased by as much as five times or more through the practice of speed reading.

You can enhance your reading speed even more if you stick to reading material like newspapers and non-technical publications, which tend to have a lower degree of depth.

The more complex the reading material being read, the closer the reading fluency is lowered to the level of “regular” reading, and this is because speed reading is based on physical methods of reading and methods of altering how your brain processes information.

What is intensive reading?

As the term suggests, intensive reading entails a careful perusal of brief texts to achieve some specific end, such as understanding the content and responding to questions about it or determining the relationships between individual sentences.

The purpose of intensive reading is not to read many texts to increase reading fluency but to read a condensed version to obtain a more thorough knowledge of that material.

There are many reasons to read intensively, and reading comprehension is just one of them. Gaining knowledge through reading is not the only purpose of intensive reading.

The intensive reading process feels like teaching rather than casual reading. When we are reading intensively, it becomes incredibly enjoyable.

Read the whole word each time you speak and focus on the vocabulary. If you recall a course you’ve taken that was primarily language learning, your memory is going on for a while. Read, and discuss every aspect of the page as you go. Often things are very stressful. Language education books are good for such activities, so they can sometimes get into classrooms.

Similarities between speed reading and intensive reading

The major similarity between speed reading and intensive reading is very basic: you have to actually read.

Another similarity between these two techniques is that they focus on one piece of text at a time. Unlike other techniques of reading, which might sometimes involve reading multiple texts for depth, speed reading and intensive reading focus on one text.

Differences between speed reading and intensive reading

Here are the main differences between speed reading and intensive reading:

Different reading material

Texts used for intensive reading are typically more challenging in terms of both subject matter and language. Meanwhile, speed reading is used to go through all kinds of texts, from emails to textbooks to technical stuff. 

Intensive reading is useful for identifying primary ideas and understanding unknown words that may present considerable difficulty in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and concepts.

The aim of intensive reading is to develop faculties such as inference and theme recognition.

Different objective

Speed reading allows you to cover more ground in a given amount of time. It helps to boost your capacity to quickly absorb and interpret textual material, as well as your ability to remember that knowledge later on.

In other words, speed reading makes it simpler for you to read more effectively. 

Some objectives of intensive reading are learning and practising linguistic structures such as vocabulary and grammar, with emphasis on concepts, themes, and topics.

Difference in focus and attention to detail

In speed reading, you scan and skim to get the gist of what you’re reading from the context, but you don’t pay attention to the specifics. When it comes to speed reading, you must refrain from “sub-vocalizing” (mentally pronouncing and “hearing” each word as you read it) to read quickly.

You instead “skim” over lines or chunks of text because your comprehension speed is significantly higher than your production speed, whereas intensive reading requires you to concentrate on each word in order to increase your level of comprehension.

Intensive reading involves reading in depth with specific learning purposes and tasks in mind. In addition to this, it intends to do an in-depth analysis of words, phrases, expressions, and word order. As a result, it is solely concerned with the construction of the sentences.

Different reading pace

Speed reading, as the name implies, involves reading at a rate grater than the average. It is basically about reading more than you normally would in the same amount of time.

Intensive reading involves greater concentration, with no pressure to cover more in less time. The reading pace is not important in intensive reading as long as the reading process achieves its goal, that of o deep understanding of the material being read. 

What kind of text is speed reading appropriate for?

Speed reading can be used to read any kind of text, from leisure literature to technical books. With practice, you can speed read even scientific literature, but it is more effective for reading newspapers and non-technical publications, which tend to have a lower degree of depth.

If you want to improve your reading speed, there’s one thing you need to know first. When applied to various topics, speed reading takes on varying degrees of effectiveness.

Reading text with great attention to getting a detailed study, especially a great bit of data, will always take time and can eventually reduce your reading speed.

What kind of text is intensive reading recommended for?

The purpose of intensive reading is to grasp every nuance of a text. Hence these texts must be concise. 

Reading materials such as Wikipedia, short stories, and blogs are great for intensive reading. Moreover, since it requires great attention to detail, intensive reading is also great for difficult materials such as scientific articles, legal contracts, or technical guides.

Intensive reading is dissecting a text to extract as much meaning as possible. You can accomplish this by going through a text and meticulously checking every word, phrase, or collocation you don’t understand.

This is a task that calls for intense concentration and mental fortitude. This means that the student who reads intensively needs to take care to adhere to certain word rules or criteria to avoid boredom and burnout.

Texts intended for intensive reading should be engaging; otherwise, the reader will lose interest and become less receptive to the process of reading extensively.

To avoid mental fatigue, it’s best to stick to shorter texts because performing in-depth research on longer texts is more of a chore.

As mentioned above, you should concentrate on reading for only short periods to avoid mental tiredness.

To move from no understanding to full knowledge of a text requires a lot of concentration and work; thus, it’s recommended to keep intensive reading sessions to no more than 30–35 minutes at a time.

How to choose the appropriate reading style?

Knowing what you hope to accomplish through reading will help you decide which reading strategy to employ.

One of the first things you learn is that there are a variety of reading strategies and that students or even just readers should be able to choose which strategy is most appropriate for a given book and reading activity.

Exam conditions place a premium on students’ reading, learning, and memory speed, training them to know the varied reading approaches and language development techniques and utilize them when crucial.

A wide variety of reading strategies are available, from intensive and extensive to speed reading and beyond.

Keep in mind that speed reading is great for going through long materials in a short amount of time. It is also helpful when you need to quickly process emails, blog content, magazines, social media, and more.

Meanwhile, intensive reading is best for concise materials, but it can also be helpful for some difficult long texts as long as you keep your reading sessions short to avoid mental fatigue. Reading a lengthy section carefully is necessary if you need to create a chronology of events.

This kind of reading is quite useful for language learners because it allows them to learn new vocabulary by understanding what words mean in the context in which they are used.

More than that, it aids long-term memory retention, so the knowledge you gain when you read texts is not lost after a break.


Reading is a compulsory skill, and knowing your way around it gives you the edge. 

In this article, we’ve highlighted the modalities of these reading styles, their differences, and their similarities. We clarified what kinds of text each reading style is suited for and how to choose the best one depending on what you need to accomplish. 

Do you want to become better at speed reading? Iris Reading has several speed reading courses that can guide you through the process of increasing your reading speed.

How to Increase Reading Speed for CAT (Explained!)
10 LSAT Reading Comprehension Tips