How to read a book fast for school?
Boy if I had this blog post when I was in high school or college, I’d be blazing through my classes.
But after nearly 22 years of schooling (high school, college, and med school) I have finally figured out how to read a book fast for school.
In this post, I’m going to be sharing with you actual strategies you can take away immediately and get your assigned reading quicker.
Are you ready?
Let’s get into it!
How Fast Does The Average College Student Read?
Before we learn how to read a book fast for school, let’s quickly talk about what’s fast and what’s slow.
The average human reads at about 250 words per minutes. That means you can finish a 200-page book (roughly 50,000 words) in 4 hours.
The average college student tends to read a bit faster – near 350 words per minute.
That means that the same 200-page book may take you about 2.5 hours.
Now, this number will change depending on what you’re reading of course. (I was never able to read my biology text in 2.5 hours – that would be nice though)
How To Read A Book Faster For School:
So now that you know what the typical reading speed is for a student, let’s talk about some strategies you can use to read a book fast for school!
It’s a safe assumption that you likely will have to remember what you’re reading for school.
You may have a test or a paper on your book or textbook chapter.
So while we may want to read the book fast – we still have to focus on understanding.
That’s why I want to talk about Strategic Marking.
What is Strategic Marking?
If you want to learn how to read a book faster while retaining what you read – then strategic marking is a great strategy.
Here’s how it works.
Keep a pen or pencil nearby as you’re reading your text.
If you find a topic which you consider to be important, thought-provoking, and relevant for a test or class discussion – put a small mark right next to it on the far left margin.
These are typically the sentences you’ll read a few times because your brain recognizes them to be important.
But for now, just put a mark and move on. Continue to do so for the rest of your reading.
Now at the very end, come back and evaluate all your markings.
Ask yourself what made you mark that paragraph or line?
You can then either annotate right next to the marking (if the book is yours) or take notes in a separate notebook or word document.
Why Strategic Marking Helps You Read Faster
On the surface strategic marking may not seem that strategic, but here’s why it’s so effective and how it can help you read a book fast for school.
During typical reading our brains will bounce back and forth between reading, taking notes, memorizing, and comprehension.
Over a long study session – this leads to inefficiencies. We get distracted, confused, and often have to go back several times to understand what we just read.
When you’re using strategic marking you’re really only focusing on reading and being on the lookout for important topics.
But we’re not going to worry about memorizing or taking notes now – that’s for later.
Then when you’re done reading you can then go back to your markings and focus on learning and note-taking.
It adds to the efficiency.
I did this throughout my medical training and it would help me read through a 30 page (dense) chapter in just under an hour.
So try it yourself next time you have to read fast for school or college.
Now we can’t talk about reading faster for school without talking about speed reading.
Speed reading often gets a bad rep. It’s considered to be fake reading.
But in reality, it’s just reading with correct form.
Think about an athlete such as a basketball player or runner. All of us can shoot a ball or go for a run. But it’s only once we develop a good form that we start to see true results (accuracy and speed).
The same goes for reading.
The truth is we weren’t taught to read correctly. Well at least according to how our brain wants to read.
We grew up looking at each letter and word and sounded out each syllable. Then we moved to silent reading once we became comfortable not having to read out loud.
But our brains don’t naturally read one word at a time.
Instead, our brain reads words as blocks at a time. It can look at several at a time and derive meaning with little effort.
Let’s see this effect in action.
Read the following sentence by looking at the middle of the sentence only.
I am a fast reader.
Now you may have noticed that your brain was able to pick up on all the words in the sentence even though you were looking somewhere between “a” and “fast”.
Second, you may have derived meaning without having to sound out each word in your head. This is called subvocalization and it slows down our reading. (Learn how to read faster by minimizing subvocalization here).
These were just two principles of speed reading (correct form) which can help you read faster.
How To Use Speed Reading In School
So now that you have accepted speed reading is just a more efficient way to allow our brains to absorb info – how do we actually use to read a book fast for school?
The first step is to have a pen or your finger ready to guide while reading. Instead of reading word per word, however, we’re going to use our guide and skip to every 3-4 word.
This will help make your brain focus on the blocks of words vs. each individual one.
Next, we don’t want to start reading at the very first word on each line. In fact, let’s use our guide to begin reading the 2nd or 3rd word.
Don’t worry our brains will still be able to pick up the first word through our peripheral vision.
Similarly, don’t read until the last word in the line. Stop 2-3 words prior and allow your peripheries to see them.
The final step is avoiding subvocalizing. This is when we say the words in our heads as we read (silent reading).
When we subvocalize – we tend to read at the same rate we talk (~200 WPM). But we want to read faster than that for school.
So how do you stop subvocalizing? I’ve written a full guide on the topic here. (You’ll love the strategies).
But one easy way to do this simply moves your guide (pen or finger) a bit faster than comfort level.
Here’s why. First, your brain will tend to stop focusing on speaking the words because it can’t keep up, and instead focus on reading the blocks (what we want).
Next, our brains adapt quickly to challenges. Thus reading a bit fast comfort will become our new natural with a little practice. So if you want to read a book faster for school and all future books, try moving your guide faster than normal.
This was a quick overview of how to use speed listening as a student. If you enjoyed this brief lesson, check out the following posts.
Also, check out my favorite and first post that I ever read about speed reading from Tim Ferris.
This is a technique I loved shared in med school and works great for reading a book faster too.
Often it’s hard to go into a book or textbook because we simply don’t know what’s important. So we either take too long to read in the fear of missing important info or read too fast and comprehend less.
This is where reverse learning comes in.
Think of it as a primer before your actual reading session.
Here’s how it works.
Use an online resource such as YouTube, Sparknotes, etc. to get an overview of what you’re about to read.
For instance, if we’re about to read about the supply and demand in economics, read a quick video on YouTube on the topic.
If you’re about to read a novel, it’s okay to read the chapter overview before reading (be mindful of spoilers, however).
Both provide you a bit of background into what you’re about to read. Thus it becomes easier for you to follow along, avoid distractions, and read faster.
You already know the benefits of reverse learning. Think back to the last time you were reading about a topic you already knew well.
You may have been reading and mentally noting, “I know that and I know that..”.
This feeling is freaking awesome right?
So try your best to recreate it when possible. Use review resources online to give you a good foundation prior to divining into your reading.
Then combine reverse learning with speed reading and strategic marking to read your books faster for school!
Now I just had to include this because it’s what I did in medical school to read books faster – I listened to them.
The typical person reads at about 150-250 WPM, but we listen naturally at 300 WPM. That means we’re twice as fast at listening then we are reading.
In addition, we only tend to remember only about 10% of what read! (That’s awful!).
We tend to remember about 50% of what we see and hear, however.
Thus if you can find an audio file of a novel or book, try listening to it at 300 WPM (typically 2X) and follow along in the book.
Not only will you be done quicker but you’ll tend to remember it better!
And even if you just want to listen to the audio – you’re likely going to remember two times as much compared to when you just read the text. Sounds like a sweet deal to me!
Want some great tools to help you read faster for school?
One of my favorite tools as a student is Audible. I can read some of the best books in the world and read them at anywhere from 2-3X! (I’m already 27 books through within just 4 months!)
Grab 2 FREE Audiobooks from Audible here if you’re interested.
So give speed listening a chance if and when you can apply it!
But that’s going to wrap up this post about how to read a book fast for school. Hope you enjoyed it!
If you did like this post then I’m sure you’ll like other great strategies I have for you in the following articles.
Thanks for reading.
If you did find this helpful and want to return the favor – please share this post on social media, email, or just with a friend. It would help me out!
Thanks for reading!
Now go out and read more…