How do you read faster and retain information? As a student for over 20 years, I’ve asked myself this question multiple times.
In this post I will show you how I was able to read faster than the average human, but also retain all that information in college and as a medical student.
And let’s make one thing clear – I don’t want this to be an article where you read, get some generic tips, and still feel helpless on how to read faster and retain information.
I want to give you the direct steps and strategies you can use to become faster and a better reader today!
Now let’s get to shall we? You have some reading to do!
Note: If you want to learn how to read more books this year, check out my ultimate guide where I share 33 genuine was to read more!
Do You Even Need To Read Faster?
It’s a fair question. Is there anything really wrong with your reading speed?
The average reading speed is about 300 WPM
This means that you’d have to read 4 hours a week just to finish one 200 page book.
Now I don’t know about you, but finding 4 hours to read (even for leisure) is difficult.
But imagine if you could increase your reading speed to that of a university professor – around 675 WPM. You could finish that same book in just under 1.5 hours!
Big difference right?
Here are some added bonuses to reading faster.
Now in addition to reading more books, here are some advantages of reading faster.
- You can read your school and college material quicker
- You can read more books to help you with your future career
- You can have extra time away from school and work reading
- Your memory and focus will improve
- And much more!
How To Read Faster:
So you’re on board with wanting to read faster. But how do you do it?
Learn How To Speed Read
Speed reading has gain popularity of the last few years. To some, it’s another gimmick. To others, it’s a way of life.
But I promise you, if you can begin to apply the concepts of speed reading, you will be able to double and even triple your reading speed!
Want to learn how to speed read?
Check out this amazing article from Tim Ferris which got me on the speed reading bandwagon.
The day after reading the article (back in high school) I finished an entire book in one sitting. Oh and without any loss in retention.
Now full disclaimer: some have made speed reading into a gimmick and promise false results.
In reality, speed reading is really all about teaching you the proper mechanics of reading. It’s not about cheating yourself of the information.
For example, if we teach people how to run faster, we don’t call that cheating – it’s just running training. The same goes for your reading.
So check out the Tim Ferris article to learn the basics of speed reading.
Be Comfortable Skipping
Reading is like any other form of entertainment – there will be some boring parts.
But why make yourself read through it all when you can just move to the next paragraph.
Be okay jumping throughout the book if you find your interest fading. If you get confused on what’s going on, then simply go back to the last point where the material made sense.
I personally use this strategy a lot when reading self-development books. Many books often mention the same concepts (just with different examples). If I feel like “I’ve been there, done that” then I just skip until the next part which seems interesting.
There’s nothing wrong with not reading every word. In fact, a good author expects that your attention and eyes will jump around.
Now if you’re a student and think this tip doesn’t apply to you – I assure you it does.
As a med student, I often skimmed throughout my syllabus if I felt the paragraph was being redundant or irrelevant. You can do the same with your text.
Master Minimizing Subvocalization
If you’re familiar with the little voice in your head – then you know what subvocalization is.
As we read, we tend to speak the words as our eyes read them. It’s just how we learned to read growing up. (My brain is doing it as I type this.)
But as we mentioned, the average reading speed is around 150-250 WPM. This also the speed at which we talk.
Thus our speaking speed is causing our reading speed to slow down. And by a lot.
Think you can’t stop that little voice in your head from talking?
Think about the last time you drove up to a stop sign really quickly. Did you read “Stop” before making the action?
No! Your brain was able to process the intention of the word without working its way into the comprehension region of your brain.
Want to learn how to stop subvocalization?
Some things you can do are.
- Check on some gum. (This will help keep you occupied)
- Put in some headphones and play instrumental music (keep the volume low-medium to be similar to your own speaking volume)
- Scan your reading text faster than you talk (>300 WPM). Your brain will keep up with very little practice
Read In Chunks
I share a technique known as Pomodoro Chunking to my med school peers and it also works great for anyone wanting to read faster and retain information.
Here’s how it works.
The typical Pomodoro technique (a productivity tool) requires you work/read for 25 minutes and rest for 5 minutes.
The Pomodoro chunking has you break a large task such as reading a book into smaller chunks – which are free to move around throughout your day.
Let’s say for example you needed to read for an hour and a half for a college class. That’s 1.5 hours or 4 Pomodoro Chunks.
Now you can split these 4 chunks throughout different parts of your day. You can do some in the morning. One maybe after lunch. And then finally the last two in the evening.
How does this help reading speed?
Well just like a sprinter can run at their fastest speed forever, you can’t read at your optimal reading speed for long. You’ll likely get fatigued out. Especially if you’re new to reading faster.
Thus breaking your fast chunks of reading over multiple sessions will keep you fresh and ready to push through even more pages next time.
How To Retain More Information:
So reading fast is nice. But you came to this article because you wanted to learn how to read faster and retain information.
So let’s talk about how to help you retain your reading material better.
Try Out The Feynman Technique:
Richard Feynman was a Noble Prize-winning physicist. But in addition to being really smart, he was an expert at learning.
His technique – now coined the Feynman technique, is just a fancy version of teaching.
Feynman would be famous for learning very complicated topics, such as quantum mechanics, and then try to teach the concept to others.
But here’s the trick – it wouldn’t matter if there was no one to teach. It was simply the requirement that he should be able to teach the topic which made him a better learner.
Now how does this apply to us retaining more info as we read faster?
Act like as soon as you finish each page, chapter, or book that you’ll be asked to explain the events/topics to a stranger.
Seems silly but your brain will be sure to read with a different type of focus. It will begin to focus on not only each individual word but how they all tie together to create the intended message.
Try this next time you sit down to read for 30 minutes. Plan to teach what you read to your significant other, sibling, or friend.
If you try out the exercise you’ll realize that there was likely a lot that you remembered. But there were also likely details you forgot. This is a sign that you need to go back and just quickly refresh yourself.
I used this strategy throughout medical school and it saved my butt. Try it out next time you read!
Use Strategic Markings:
I once took part in a US and Politics course during my freshman year in college. The only problem was – I hated politics and had no interest reading about it.
Unfortunately, the class had 7 books we had to be reading (simultaneously) to help facilitate class discussions.
To help myself get through the history of polling booths, sociodemographic changes, and the dynamics behind each major presidency (I know…) I had to use strategic markings.
If I read something which I considered to be important, I would place a simple mark right next to it on the left margin.
I would avoid marking simple details but “big picture” facts or “interesting points” which would help me in class discussions.
Since I was reading so fast (using speed reading) I still wanted to make sure I was able to participate in discussion.
Thus, once I had my markings, I would go back throughout the pages once I was done reading and review what each mark pertained to.
Initially, I would annotate my thoughts next to it or put a sticky note on that page with my points. Over time I found that I was able to remember what each mark meant without any reference.
So if you struggle between reading and stopping throughout your reading, try strategic markings to help you come back. This way you can read through the text and then spend focused time on the retention.
Use Prime Working Hours:
This is a bit of medical background coming out – our bodies and brains don’t work at optimal levels at all times of the day.
In fact the hours between 2-4 PM are often low energy times for many of us. This has much to do with our body’s biochemical composition, our diets, and our sleep cycles.
But for the purpose of this article, use this concept to read at times optimal for you.
For many this includes the early morning hours, where our brain is low the inhibitory neurotransmitter – adenosine.
For some of you it may the late hours after a long day.
Test it out for a week and see which times of the day you’re able to get through your reading quicker and with better focus.
Once you identify this time, attempt to cluster a majority of your reading blocks here.
Hope you enjoyed this article on how to read faster and retain information! My only hope with each article is that you can take away at least one strategy or thought and apply them to your own life.
Did you enjoy it? If so I’d and appreciate your help. Could you share this post with someone you think it may help?
A simple Facebook or Instagram post, Tweet, or email would do the trick. Thank you for your help!
Have some of your own tricks on just thoughts regarding this article? Comment below and let me know what you think!
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