43Becoming a Faster Reader

By Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

Happy Holidays

At NIC, one of the most common activities that we do is Timed Readings. For Timed Readings, students have to read an article as quickly as they can. Then they have to answer questions about the article. The purpose for this is to improve reading speed. Many students read very slowly. This is a problem because when students go abroad, they will have to read a lot very quickly! Below are some tips for students who want to read faster. In July of 2004 I wrote about becoming a better reader, but this article is about how to become a faster one.

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According to research, faster readers...

Look for clues from the title, pictures, or captions
Sometimes a photo will give you a clue about the reading. The title will also tell you what the reading is about. It’s good to begin a reading by quickly looking at the title, photos, or any words under the caption (if the reading has one). This will help to prepare you for the content.

1 Pace yourself with your finger

A fast reader will force himself/herself to read faster. You can do this by putting your finger on the words and moving it through the reading at a regular pace (like the photo on the right). This really forces you to read faster because you have to read at the same speed as your finger moves.

2 Scan for key words

A key word is an important word. When you read, always pay close attention to names, dates, steps (to do something), explanations, and other information that you think is important. In most cases, you will have to answer questions about those key words.

3 Group words together

Imagine if someone drop a bag of coins. Is it faster to pick them up one at a time or in small handfuls? Of course, it is easier to pick them up in handfuls. Well, fast reading is the same way. Single words don’t tell much information to a reader. Instead, fast readers group words together. So instead of reading word for word, try to read words together in small groups.

As an example, which one is easier to read?
A. There? was? a?very? large? hole? in?the? side? wall,? so? the? police? officer? thought? that? the? criminal? might? have? made? it.

B. There was a? very large hole? in the side wall?so the police officer? thought that? the criminal? might have made it.

Of course, grouping the words together is a faster way to read this. As you can see, the key words above are in dark print.

4 Question the author as you read

When you read, your brain should not be turned off. Instead, it should be very active. You should ask yourself many questions as you read such as: “What does this mean?” “What is important here?” or “How can I use this information?” Asking yourself these questions will help you to prepare for questions you will have to answer after you read.

Hopefully, doing some of the ideas above will make you a faster reader. Ther