Speed Read like Rain Man – 75% Increased Reading Speed in 20 Minutes

One of my goals in 2010 is to read a lot more. I bought so many books in 2009 and I bet I only read about 20% of them.

If you have seen my last post, you’ll know that I recently read the expanded and updated version of “The 4-Hour Work Week.” by Tim Ferriss. One interesting section was a little exercise in Chapter 5 called “How to Read 200% Faster in 10 Minutes.” A quick Google search led me to a similar post on Tim’s blog only this time it was called “Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes

I’m not going to talk about the exercises here because you can read it in much more detail over on Tim’s blog but I want to share with you my results and findings.

In the article, Tim provided a quick synopsis on how we read using a sequence of saccadic movements. Interesting. I never knew this and Tim provided us with a way to understand how it works: “To demonstrate this, close one eye, place a fingertip on top of that eyelid, and then slowly scan a straight horizontal line with your other eye-you will feel distinct and separate movements and periods of fixation.

To make a long story short, in less than a week and a half, I’ve become a much faster reader. Here are my results from following Tim’s exercises.

Day 1

  • Initial Reading Speed: 305 words-per-minute (wpm) Average reading speed in the US is around 200-300 wpm and I’m guessing it’s somewhat similar in Canada. We’re maybe a bit faster here:-)
  • After Test Reading Speed: 505 wpm – Amazing! A 65% Increase in reading speed the first time I did the exercises. I will admit that my comprehension of what I was  reading was terrible at this speed.

My results were not exactly 200 or 300% higher as Tim suggested but they weren’t bad either.

Day 2 – The very next day I decided to complete the exercises again. Using the same formula, I began the test by assessing my initial reading speed.

  • Initial Reading Speed: 370 wpm. While I hadn’t retained a speed of 505 wpm, I did come out of the gate faster and my comprehension was back at my normal level.
  • After Test Reading Speed: 540 wpm. 35 wpm more than my best speed yesterday.

Day 3 – Here’s where things started to get interesting.

  • Initial Reading Speed: 468 wpm! Today I came out guns blazing! I tested in at 468 wpm and comprehension was there! I managed to soak up everything with no back skipping.
  • After Test Reading Speed: 612 wpm. Insane. And you know what? My comprehension level was way up – of course this is based on my own self-assessed comprehension level of what I could remember and recall about what I just read.

Just to be sure I wasn’t going berserk, I went home and went on a reading frenzy. Over the next 5 days, I read a ton of books, flying through them at a speed I’d never been able to even come close to before. Maybe that’s the reason I very rarely finished a book – I was reading too slow.

Over the next 5 days I read:

The Catcher In The Rye
The Four-Hour Work Week (again)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
Bad Monkeys

I also limited myself to the following rules:

  1. An hour to an hour and a half of fiction reading per night before bed
  2. The non-fiction could be read whenever. I usually spent an hour or so reading after dinner while sipping a glass of red wine.

Day 4 – Five days later it was time to test myself again.

  • Initial Reading Speed: 416 wpm. Interesting results. In the time away from training and completing the exercises, I had slowed down but I had also read 5 books at a speed and comprehension level faster than I’d ever read in my life.
  • After Test Reading Speed: 624 wpm

The last test I did was three days ago. Since that time I’ve read a few other books and will continue to do so. My conclusion is that with daily training and practice anyone could easily double or perhaps triple their reading speed. I made a comment on Tim’s blog that I was having trouble finding any consistency in my results which you can see through my results. But I think it’s important to recognize that I’m getting faster, and with more practice and repetition I might find that consistent level.

Tim did mention that if your goal is to read at 900 wpm then you actually have to train at 1800 wpm, which is the equivalent of 10 seconds per page or 6 pages per minute. Could you imagine? 6 pages per minute!

If you decide to try the exercises, let me know your results and findings.

UPDATE

January 19th, 2009 update

I decided to re-test today as I felt I was slowing down with some books over the weekend but the tests said I was wrong.

  • Initial Reading Speed: Came in at 424 wpm with solid comprehension
  • After Test Testing Speed: 624 wpm – Funny exact same number I put up last time I did the test. I wonder if this is a max for me?

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