Thursday, April 26, 2012

Summary of Findings (Green Team): Speed Reading (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 12 articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in April 2012 regarding Speed Reading specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility, its ability to effectively use unstructured data and its ease of communication to a decision maker.

Speed reading is a modifier that allows an analyst to more easily process information in order to enhance productivity. When used effectively, there will be an increase in reading speed in addition to some increase, or at least little decrease in comprehension or retention. Speed reading can be understood as reading faster than the average word per minute rate, where 200-300 wpm is considered average for normal readers. With the variety of techniques available, speed reading is flexible, though the effectiveness of techniques varies.

The two main techniques are skimming, which is a process of speed reading that involves visually searching the sentences of a page for clues to meaning, and meta-guiding, which is the visual guiding of the eye using a finger, pointer. or notecard, in order for the eye to move faster along the length of a passage of text.

  • Very simple
  • Can be applied to most forms of text
  • Once mastered, can be switched on and off depending on the material at hand
  • Greater comprehension can be achieved by understanding the bigger picture
  • Can be used to increase comprehension for non-native speakers

  • Involves breaking old habits
  • May miss important information if applied incorrectly
  • Effectiveness is disputed
  • Once techniques are learned, they must be continuously practiced
  • The effectiveness differs from native speakers to non-native speakers
  • Less effective with new vocabulary

Although there are a variety of techniques for speed reading, almost all start with a benchmark/test of your current reading level (wpm). The most common application of speed reading involves reducing cognitive sub-vocalization, which involves silencing your interior voice in order to absorb the text faster. Other methods to improve reading speed that are accepted as effective include:
  • Reading a book, using an index card to guide your eye is another technique that keeps the reader moving forward.
  • The ability to skim over “non-essential” words like “and” “be” “it” while concentrating on the main words of a sentence will also help increase reading speed. (
  • Alternatives to speed reading is to selectively choose the types of material read, then reading the conclusions to decide if a full article is worth reading.

Personal Application of Technique:
The exercise to demonstrate speed reading was divided into two sections. The first part of the exercise was designed to measure each participant’s words per minute read and their comprehension rate. Using, each person read a paragraph to determine the WPM. The class read at rates between 200 and 600 wpm, with the average being near 350. Once WPM was discovered, a comprehension test was applied based on the paragraph read. The class scored between 65% and 85% comprehension. The two fastest wpm scores recorded the lowest comprehension scores.

The second part of the exercise was to demonstrate an online tool to help increase speed reading. Using, the class read a set piece of information at 300 wpm, with 1 word on screen at a time. Once completed, the words per minute was increased to 600. At the faster speed, it is designed to move just beyond the internal “voice” of a reader. The exercise is then repeated at 300 wpm to demonstrate how much slower it seems. The software can be customized to any wpm and chunk size, allowing to read several words at a time.

One problem with Spreeder is that it repeats the same content with each iteration. It would be more effective at demonstrating increased reading speed if the content changed with each attempt.

Further Information:
Information on speed reading can be found
Online tests are available, the class used the resources at provided an excellent online program for increasing reading proficiency

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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