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Academic Communication


Effective reading


Speed reading

One way of maximising the amount which you read is to be selective in what you read and how you read it. It is surprising how much you can absorb, especially if you are using the SQ3R technique, even if you skim or scan a text, deliberately skipping over chunks. It is also interesting how much of the meaning can be ascertained from reading down the middle of a page!

Reading speed can be increased by:

  • reducing the number of fixations you make. When you read, your eyes 'jump' across the page, and this involves training yourself to 'stop' less often;
  • increase the recognition span - in other words, try to take in more words at a time;
  • decrease the number of regressions - make sure that you don't go back and re-read things you've just read.

Diagram showing efficient reading eye movement

Although these may happen fairly quickly, it may be possible to lengthen the fixation. Someone who is not reading efficiently may actually read like this: Diagram showing inefficient reading eye movement

(Buzan, 1995 p. 41)

Reduce the number of words you say to yourself as you read

Often when you are reading you are likely to find yourself actually saying the words you are reading. Try to stop yourself from doing this as it certainly slows you down.

Build up your vocabulary

The more you understand what you read the first time, the quicker you will be able to absorb what you are reading. You can do this by widening your reading.