The term speed-reading is a common one, yet it really doesn’t mean what it says—not the way it’s being used today. People who say they “speed-read” are not really reading, they’re “idea-culling.” And when someone tells you his reading speed is, say, 1,500 words per minute, remember this: Authorities on reading have effectively demonstrated that it is physiologically impossible to read more than 800 words a minute!

The misconception goes deeper. When we’ve asked people who claim to be able to read thousands of words per minute whether they remember what they’ve read, there’s usually a moment of slightly embarrassed silence. And, slow reading is usually a memory problem.

Most often, it is regression that slows you down. The very slow readers are horizontal regressors. That is, by the time they get to the end of a sentence, they’ve forgotten or haven’t grasped what was at the beginning of that sentence—so their eyes must go back, horizontally, to the beginning. The vertical regressors are a little better off. They’re the readers who will get to the third or fourth paragraph and forget what was in the first—their eyes must go back, vertically, to that first paragraph.

how to master the art of speed reading

Don’t misunderstand; there are ways to reasonably improve your reading speed. But, in our opinion, there is only one way to read better, faster, and more effectively—and that is to read at your normal rate of speed and remember as you read. The goal is to be able to read any material only once, and know it! Eventually, achieving this goal will also increase your “normal” reading speed. To paraphrase educator Mortimer J. Adler: When it comes to reading material, the point is not how fast you can get through the material, but how much of the material can get through to you.

After Learning Memory Techniques You Should Focus On Speed Reading

You now have the necessary knowledge to remember any reading material, as you read. The facts in reading material are usually sequential, so you would apply, basically, the Link system of memory. Within any reading material, you may come across names, words you’re not familiar with, numbers, letters, facts, concepts, whatever. None of these need hang you up, because you’ve learned how to memorize them. You know the Substitute Word system, which will help you remember the names, words, facts, and concepts. You are aware of the Key Word or thought idea, which, along with the Link, will help you to keep these things in sequence. You know how to picture numbers and letters, and that takes care of remembering them as you read.

All you have to do is apply the systems you’ve learned to reading material. Let’s assume you want to remember the facts in a news item like this one:

In the history of railroading, few tracks have been laid faster than those of the Tanzam Railway in Zambia. At this moment, it is moving from the port of Dar es Salaam to Zambia’s copper belt. The 1,162-mile line is being built by Chinese laborers, with the help of a $402-million loan from China. Already completed are 21 tunnels and 200 bridges. The entire line is expected to be completed about 18 months ahead of schedule.

This news item is about Zambia and its railway, so you should start the Link with a “heading” picture, a Substitute thought that will remind you of Zambia. The one we used is zombie. Sam be here, some be here, Sam bee, or Sam be a would all do as well. The one you think of yourself is usually best for you, but we’ll assume you’re using zombie to start your Link for Zambia.

how to master speed reading

Before going into the Link, we want to be sure you realize that although we need a lot of words to describe them, the silly pictures are formed as fast as thought. All right then. Picture a zombie walking very fast along a railroad track; the sun is so hot that it tans ’im. This silly picture will remind you of the first few facts: You’re reading about Zambia, the railway tracks are being laid very quickly, and the railway is the Tanzam Railway. Before you continue, be sure to see that ridiculous picture.

Now, to continue the Link: There is salami (Dar es Salaam) falling on the zombie’s copper belt. See a silly picture of millions of pieces of salami falling on the zombie’s copper belt. Salami is probably enough to remind you of Dar es Salaam but, if you like, you can see yourself pointing to the huge salami and saying, “There is salami.” You can also put in an association for port—port wine would do. Most important is that you actually see the picture.

See the zombie’s copper belt (or the salami, since either one can be considered as being the last thing in your mind) turning into a taut chain that stretches for miles. This picture reminds you of the next fact: taut chain transposes to 1,162, and the picture tells you that the railway will be 1,162 miles long. You may have thought of dud chain, tight chin, or did shine, but we’ll assume you’re using taut chain.

Continuing: You might picture many Chinese people (picture the slanted eyes, or see them with shiny knees) laboring to hold up that taut chain. Each one is getting a gigantic raisin (402) from a giant Chinese man. This silly picture reminds you that Chinese laborers are building the railway with the help of a $402-million loan from China.

For the next few facts: See a gigantic raisin running through a tunnel as it ties a knot (21) or throws a net (again, 21) around the bridge of its two noses (200). This will remind you that 21 tunnels and 200 bridges have already been completed. See that picture. (Remember that if you think up your own silly pictures, you’re more Originally Aware of the information. Just trying to form the associations is half the battle—you’re concentrating on the material as you never have before.) Finally, see a gigantic dove (18) fying ahead of the raisin—the railway is expected to be completed 18 months ahead of schedule.

A fast review: That dove, which is the last thing in your mind, is flying ahead of the raisin (18 months ahead of schedule) that is running through a tunnel, tying a knot around the bridge of its noses (21 tunnels and 200 bridges have been completed); a gigantic raisin is being given or loaned to Chinese laborers by a giant Chinese man (the railway is being built by Chinese laborers with the help of a $402-million loan from China); many Chinese laborers are holding up miles of taut chain (the railway is 1,162 miles long); the taut chain comes from a zombie’s copper belt upon which salami is falling (the railway runs from Dar es Salaam to Zambia’s copper belt); the zombie is walking quickly along a track as the sun tans ’im (track for the Tanzam Railway in Zambia is being laid quickly).

If you’ve really tried to see the pictures clearly, you should be able to fill in the following blanks:

What country is being discussed? _____.

What is the name of the railway? _____.

The railway is moving from port _____ to _____’s _____ belt.

The railway will be _____ miles long.

It is being built by _____ laborers, with the help of a $_____ loan from _____.

Already completed are _____ tunnels and 200 _____.

The line is expected to be completed _____ months ahead of schedule.

Even though you’ve made a Link, which is used to remember things in sequence, you’ll know any fact without having to go through the entire Link. Try to answer these without going over the Link in your mind:

How long will the completed railway be? _____ miles.

What is the name of Zambia’s railway? _____.

How many millions did China loan Zambia? $_____.

The first few times you apply the systems to technical reading material, they will slow down your reading rate. On the other hand, you won’t have to spend time going over the material again and again. And as you apply the system, you’ll see that you’ll
eventually be reading close to your normal rate of speed—and reading the material only once. And as your proficiency increases, so will your “normal” reading speed.

In our example, every fact from the news item was included in the Link. Obviously, when you’re doing this on your own you’ll be selective—you’ll Link only what you feel you need to remember.

The idea is applicable to any kind of reading material—and the more technical the material, the more useful the ideas. As you read, you can remember the names, places, and events of a historical novel, the names and applications of new drugs in a medical magazine, the style numbers and prices in a business report, the names and legal precedents in a law journal. Anything!

If you wish, you can even remember the page number on which a particular fact or quote appears. Simply associate a Key Word from the fact or quote to the Peg Word that represents that page number. If you have no Peg Word for the page number, make one up—it will work just as well. This idea can be used to remember, say, biblical or Shakespearean quotes. The association will help you remember both the fact and the page number—and, if you like, the book title. You can associate chapter titles, section headings, or facts to page numbers. You can, for particular intents and purposes, effectively memorize an entire book this way!

As a bonus here is a free video crash course for you with even more techniques.