FAQs Frequently Asked Questions about Speed Reading

This page is updated regularly with new questions and responses.
If you have a question about speed reading which is not answered here, please email us
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Can anyone learn speed reading?
How long does it take to learn speed reading?
What is the difference between learning speed reading from your book (The Speed Reading Bible) vs coming to the course?
What’s the difference between Speed Reading and PhotoReading?
Can speed reading and photoreading help people with dyslexia?
How can I use speed reading techniques to prepare for an exam better?
I’m coming to your speed reading course next month. How can I prepare for it to get the maximum benefit?
How to PhotoRead or download a book?
Is speed reading recommended for 12 year olds or kids?
How to apply thin slicing in speed reading?
Can Brain Gym help with reading?
Do the speed reading techniques apply to children? At what age should they start?
Do speed reading techniques work for dyslexics?
I don’t get through a book in 20 mins.
I’ve been slowing down since taking the speed reading course.
My mind wanders when I’m reading.
When reading I cannot help but read in my head every word. It’s a habit that I am struggling with. What is the best technique to use that will help me trust in the subconscious? How do I just “scan” the page and be happy that I am picking up what I need to or the sentence or page makes sense?
I get tired when reading for a long time. Any tips?
How can I calculate my reading speed (wpm words per minute)?
Is there any technique to quickly link the words with one another in the form of a chain when speed reading books. It happens as we speed read we forget the sentences or words read 2 or 3 pages before. If there’s a 10 or more concepts to be memorized we forget the first or the second one. How could we develop a technique to remember information as we speed read. Is there a way to mentally tag information or concepts as we proceed towards the end of the book.
FAQs about downloading (photoreading step)

 

Can anyone learn speed reading?
Yes. If you can read this sentence, then you can learn speed reading. Everyone can learn speed reading.

How long does it take to learn speed reading?
Only two days. Read more about our two-day speed reading course.

What is the difference between learning speed reading from your book (The Speed Reading Bible) vs coming to the course?
People learn differently. If you think you can learn speed reading from the book then, there is no need for you to come to the course. Have you ever learned any skill from a book? If the answer is yes, then have a go with the book first. Many people think they can learn from a book or tape but actually lack the discipline to follow through. With the course we can guarantee you will learn it in two days. The course is much more effective way of learning. It’s a bigger investment but the benefits are bigger too. The main benefit is that you will start saving a lot of time immediately and go through six books during the course. People read in a very inefficient way, wasting lots of precious time and energy.

What’s the difference between Speed Reading and PhotoReading?
Speed Reading is basically ‘normal sequential reading, only quicker – typically between two and ten times quicker. Speed Reading techniques include opening your peripheral vision, taking in more information with each fixation of your eyes, and scanning the page for hot spots of key information.

PhotoReading is both the PhotoReading Whole Mind System developed by Paul Scheele and one step of the system – the photoreading or downloading step – where you look quickly at all pages of the book trusting that they are registering in the non-conscious mind.

On our courses, we teach all the Speed Reading and PhotoReading techniques in a way which allows you to use them in whichever combination most suits your requirements (Strategic Reading). Read more about the differences between Spd Rdng / Speed Reading and the PhotoReading Whole Mind System

Can speed reading and photoreading help people with dyslexia
Since teaching speed reading and photoreading we have discovered that it is a particularly effective method for dyslexics. These methods encourage one to access thoughts in the order in which they come, which suits the dyslexics’ way of thinking. We have found that with this method usually for the first time in their lives the dyslexic is the first to finish the set exercises in the class.

In our opinion the reason why these methods work so well is because they allow the dyslexics to use their natural talents and not force them to use a system that doesn’t suit their way of processing information.

In addition to speed reading and photoreading we utilize many other methods to help with dyslexia including those of Ron Davis, the author of ‘The Gift of Dyslexia’, Educational Kinesiology, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Brain Gym and many other Accelerated Learning strategies.

How can I use speed reading techniques to prepare for an exam better?
Here are some easy speed reading tips that can be tried now:
1. Turn your book upside down and read – this is often easier since the muscle at the back of the eyes in dyslexics don’t work together properly.
2. If dyslexics have problems scanning to the right rotate the book 90 degrees and read from top to bottom. (Source: The Lancet, 2003; 361: 2159).
3. Find the best position to read – start reading the book in front of you and then move it to your left and continue reading and then the right and continue reading. Notice in which position it is the easiest for you to read.

1) Concentration/focus – the physical/emotional aspect:
Hold your arms slightly away from your body, close your eyes, take a deep breath in and let it out slowly  and consciously relax your shoulders,  stomach, buttocks and thighs. Repeat.

2) While you’re doing the exam, consciously think about the details as well as the big questions so you don’t make the silly mistakes in the first place.

3) When you’ve finished the paper, you now need to look through the questions again as if you are the teacher, checking for silly mistakes. You really want this student to succeed, so you’re going to check everything. Any time you feel yourself tensing up, then do the relaxation/focus exercise in 1) before you continue. After a while it will get to be second nature. (Start practising NOW, so you find it easy in the exam)

I’m coming to your speed reading course next month. How can I prepare for it to get the maximum benefit?
Preparation for the course.
Go to a bookshop or (preferably) a library and start looking through lots of books on subjects you think are important to you.
1) Look at the covers of 3-4 books on the same subject and decide on gut feeling alone which ones you think will be most useful to you.
2) Then spend not more than 5 minutes per book (same books) looking at the cover, the index, the chapter headings (the date of publication if relevant) and flicking through the books. Decide which ones you now think really are important to you and which ones you think will be less important for you. Notice where they cover the same information and maybe quickly look at the chapters relating to that information and decide which book is better.
3) Compare your first decisions with your second decisions. If they’re not the same, notice what it was that ‘deceived’ you when you were just looking at the covers the first time, since your second decision is likely to be more valid.
If you have time, read through two of the books ‘properly’ to see how good your decision-making is. (But don’t worry if you don;t have time for this last bit.)
The aim of this is to build you ability to choose the right books to read and therefore save yourself a lot of time reading unnecessary books. Also to build your ability to trust your ‘gut reaction’ as well as your ‘intellectual evaluation’.
Be ready to discuss what you noticed when you come on the course.

How to PhotoRead or download a book?
The non-conscious mind will take in the information whether the words are in focus or not, and whether the conscious mind is concentrating or not – so. Jan likes to photoread / download books while watching TV, as long as all four corners of the book are within his peripheral vision. Sometimes the conscious mind gets in the way of taking in information effortlessly which is why some people prefer to download without the words being in focus. I very often ‘rapid read’ the book (looking consciously at every page, possibly reading the top lines and then looking quickly at the rest, or just letting my eyes run down the page looking for any information which seems important), confident that my non-conscious mind will take in other information which I don’t notice consciously. (I therefore don’t often do downloading on its own.)

Is speed reading recommended for 12 year olds or kids?
Speed reading is not only about reading faster. It’s about reading at a speed appropriate to the material and the purpose, it’s about having that purpose in the first place – in fact it’s mostly about how to think about what you’re reading so that you get from it what you want in a way which allows you to build your understanding, implement your new knowledge and remember what you need to remember.

Children develop their reading skills at different rates – it depends on the individual. Once they have learnt basic reading skills (ie they can read age-appropriate material), then it is helpful for them to learn different reading/thinking skills (causation, inference, message or moral of a text, vocabulary building, dealing with unfamiliar vocabulary, etc), and to learn different approaches to reading. Children also need to be encouraged to read a lot, and to read for fun because it helps them pick up a lot of information about how the language works, and so that they have some experience which they can relate to when they’re learning new skills.

Currently our open courses are aimed at adults who might be expected to have most of the basic understandings about reading (even if they are not explicitly aware of them). Numerous 12-year-olds who have already reached this stage have found our adult courses very helpful. One of them (admittedly an incredibly bright and advanced boy) was heard to say to his mother ‘If only I’d done this when I was eight – I have wasted so much time!’ While others have been slightly bored at times – but only because they were ‘getting it’ so much quicker than some of the adults around them.

However, when we do courses for groups of 12-year-olds, then we change the focus slightly so that the information, materials and examples are more appropriate to the age-group.

So yes, speed reading is recommended for 12-year-olds who are ready for it.

How to apply thin slicing in speed reading?
The aim is to understand as much information as possible by reading as few words as possible and spending as little time as possible.
Geologists do not have to test every bit of earth in order to know the composition of the ground – they just take test samples from different
areas. We do the same with books. To get the message from a book in 20 minutes you do an extended version of ‘previewing’. You might look at headings and the blurb no the cover, and look quickly through the index. Check whether there’s an introduction or first or last chapter which gives a summary of the whole book. Read a page or two a little more slowly to judge the author’s style – do they get the information across clearly, do they give lots of examples, do they add lots of details, etc.  Then look through the book to see what each chapter is about – which you can usually do by reading the beginning of the chapter, and then looking at the top of each page, or glancing at each page to see if you notice any key information. Basically taking the approach you would take with a newspaper.

The term ‘thin slicing’ comes from Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. The key concept of the book is ‘thin slicing’ which is our instinctual or intuitive ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. In other words, spontaneous decisions are often as good as – or even better than – carefully planned and considered ones. Gladwell draws on examples from science, advertising, sales, medicine, and popular music.  However, your ability to thin slice can be corrupted by your likes, dislikes, prejudices and stereotypes, and you can be overloaded by too much information. The key message is to learn when to trust your gut reaction. One key strategy for getting the gist of a book is to ‘thin slice’ the cross-section of the book to get the most of it without reading it from cover to cover.

How do you slice a cake in order to find out what it’s like? Vertically. You wouldn’t eat the cake layer by layer, would you? But that’s how people read books – from cover to cover. It might be enjoyable for reading a novel but not very efficient or effective if you just want to get the information from the book.

Can Brain Gym help with reading?
Any brain friendly activity including Brain Gym can prime the brain to process information faster. It’s like warming up to a mental activity. There is some evidence that it helps with reading. Read: Preliminary research results of study on effects of Brain Gym ® on visual processing speed and reading. There’s a book in brain gym which gives lots of different exercises – with illustrations: Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole Brain Learning by Paul E. Dennison Ph.D. and Gail E. Dennison.  Or visit Brain Gym by Paul Dennison and Gail Dennison.

Do the speed reading techniques apply to children? At what age should they start?
Start speed reading techniques aged 12+: The speed reading approaches and techniques that we recommend are designed for adults. We recommend that young people start using the techniques after they’ve had some experience of reading conventionally and when they need to be more efficient. This is probably aged about 12+, at a time when they need to read more for study purposes rather than (or as well as) for pleasure.

Aged 5 – 15: read a lot, for pleasure: Before that, there is much to be gained from reading more slowly – you build up vocabulary, learn how sentences are structured, understand how stories develop. So the best thing children can do is to read as much as possible – of anything which interests them. It doesn’t matter whether that’s stories, football, factual information or comics. The parents’ main job is to offer them books by authors which they might not otherwise come across by themselves. But the worst thing you can do is turn children off reading by making it a boring chore. Foster a love of reading in any way you can – read yourself, talk about books you’ve read, and keep books available for them to ‘discover’ by themselves.

For all children we also recommend that parents and teachers help children  with ‘learning to learn’ techniques, which will lay the groundwork for improved reading skills. Recommended books for getting started are: The Great Little Book of Learning’ and ‘The Great Little Book of Revision’ both by John O’Brien, and ‘Accelerated Learning Pocketbook’ by Brin Best.

Do speed reading techniques work for dyslexics?
Dyslexia is a catch-all term used to describe any number of ‘reading difficulties’. For many people, dyslexia (whether diagnosed or not) is more a problem of writing (spelling) than reading, and many work out their own strategies for coping. For these, the techniques in this book will probably be a relief and should certainly help them read more effectively.  We have had numerous people on our courses who said they were dyslexic, and they could all use the techniques as effectively as anyone else.
For parents or teachers who want to help young people who may have dyslexia, we recommend as a practical starting point the book ‘Dyslexia Pocketbook’ by Julie Bennett

I don’t get through a book in 20 mins.
You cannot necessarily get through all books from beginning to end in 20 mins. But set a specific purpose which is achievable in 20 mins. You may set more than one purpose if the material deserves it. Your first purpose may well be to find out the message of the book – get an overview of what it’s about. You can do this in 20 minutes with even the longest book – but the longer the book, the more detail you will leave out initially. When you know what the book is about, you can set another purpose which will be to find specific information. The key question to ask yourself, is what do I want this information for? What do I want to do with the information? That will help you formulate a specific purpose – and you then look only for the information to fulfil that purpose. After each 20 minute session, ask yourself how much of your purpose you have achieved, then take a break before deciding whether or not you need more information from the book. (Your first instinct is often that you want more or everything, but in reality that may well not be true.) Even if you have several 20-minute sessions with complex or demanding material, using this approach means that you will gather and remember the important information much more easily and quickly than using traditional reading.

I’ve been slowing down since taking the speed reading course.
Make sure you stick to 20 minutes. Use a timer. Make sure you have a clear purpose. Remember to speed up your brain before you start reading, using the super-duper-reading technique.

My mind wanders when I’m reading.
Get into state before you start reading: take a deep breath in, smile and focus on your point of concentration. If you now have a clear purpose and stick to time, you should be able to keep your mind on track quite easily. Remember, though, if you are experiencing strong emotions, it is physically harder for you to concentrate. Make an agreement with yourself to put your emotions aside while you’re working with your book for 20 minutes – you can always pick up your emotions again afterwards.

When reading I cannot help but read in my head every word.  It’s a habit that I am struggling with.  What is the best technique to use that will help me trust in the subconscious?  How do I just “scan” the page and be happy that I am picking up what I need to or the sentence or page makes sense?
This query falls into three separate categories.
1) trusting in your subconscious
If you look at every page of a book, then your subconscious is picking up the meaning – but, as we said on the course, at first you need to treat this as a bonus. If you do the other conscious techniques then the subconscious one works. If you just try to rely on the subconscious, then it won’t be so effective, you won’t notice the benefits, and you get yourself on a downward spiral.

2) ‘scanning the page to be happy that what you read makes sense’
You’re doing this consciously, so you know whether it makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense to your conscious mind (ie if you don’t know what you’re reading) then do something different – see below.

3) Speaking the words in your head
The two ways to overcome speaking the words to yourself as you read (which, as you say, will slow you down) are:
• read more quickly using eye patterns such as horizontal underlining (cutting off the beginnings and endings of each line), super-reading (down the centre of the page/column), or skittering (eg zigzag down the page, or just look randomly at the page) to find hot spots of information
• talk to yourself as you are reading about what you are reading, eg summarise the message in different words, explain the meaning to yourself, ask yourself questions. It is quite possible for the brain to take in information and make notes at the same time – you’re making mental notes.  While you’re talking to yourself about the material, you can’t also be saying the words that you’re reading. This will allow you to speed up.
In addition:
• get your brain working more quickly by super-duper-reading (put your finger in the middle of the top line, move it swiftly down the page – about 4 seconds per page – and look at the words just above your finger. Do this for about 10 pages or until you begin to see some of the words/phrases (even though they won’t make full sense to you). Then go back to reading with comprehension – and it should be quicker than before
•   focus on looking at the meaning of the sentences rather than looking at each word individually

Remember that the key things you need to be doing every time are:
• getting into a good state – take a deep breath, smile, focus on your point of concentration
• set a clear purpose – makes sure it’s specific and measurable
• work in 20-minute blocks – stick to time
• take notes in a rhizomap or mindmap as you go (if you’re reading on a train, then make notes in the book or on post it notes)

I get tired when reading for a long time. Any tips?
Do eye yoga. Exercising your eyes is important for achieving healthy sight. Strengthen and stretch your eye muscles by moving them clockwise, roll your eyes so you can follow the extremes of your vision. You can do this with your eyes closed. Don’t push too hard or strain your eyes. Once you have completed a clockwise circle, stop, rest and then roll your eyes anticlockwise. Repeat three times in each direction, then blink quickly a few times, and close your eyes and relax. More eye exercises

How can I calculate my reading speed (wpm words per minute)?
• Number of pages read …. (this is enough for most people, but if you want to be more accurate, then do the remaining calculations too)
• Average number of lines on a page …. (choose three representative pages, count the number of lines on each, add them together and divide by three)
• Average number of words in a line …. (choose three full lines, count the number of words in each, add them together and divide by three)
• Number of words read in five minutes …. (multiply together the three previous calculations)
• Reading speed in words per minute …. (divide the number of words read in five minutes by five)

Is there any technique to quickly link the words with one another in the form of a chain when speed reading books. It happens as we speed read we forget the sentences or words read  2 or 3 pages before. If there’s a 10 or more concepts to be memorized we forget the first or the second one. How could we develop a technique to remember information as we speed read. Is there a way to mentally tag information or concepts as we proceed towards the end of the book.
Memory is reconstruction, so you’re absolutely right, if you want to form strong memories, you need to construct them well. The basis of forming memories is LINKING – you make links between a new item of information and something you already know (how the brain works naturally), or,  you can artificially use the natural power of the memory by making a link between a new thing and a sequence you have created and learnt ( sometimes called ‘pegging’), or between one new thing and the next  (chaining) .
The one which makes most sense in this instance is the sequential chaining one (as you mentioned). The way to do it is:
•   note the first fact/thing you want to remember
•   make it concrete, something you can easily imagine (so an abstract word like ‘love’ might be represented by a heart)
•   do the same with the next fact/thing you want to remember (eg dustbins)
•   make a strong link between the first thing and the second – make it more memorable by making it visual, larger than life, in colour, unusual, if possible add an emotion, and a sound (imagine a huge dustbin with a big throbbing heart on it going ‘boom boom, boom boom’)
•   imagine the next thing you want to remember (eg the mayor) and link it to the first two in the same way (the dustbin with the throbbing heart is chasing after the mayor – who is weighed down with his chains of office – because it is in love with him. He looks terrified.)
Keep going till you have a (ridiculous) sequential story linking all the facts together. Make sure that as well as making each fact memorable in its own right, you also have strong sequential links between the different facts so that one leads naturally to the next. It might take a little bit of practice initially, but you’ll find it’s well worth the effort to train your memory in this way.

FAQs about downloading (photoreading step)

What’s the most number of books I can download?
Physically the only limit is time. We often download 5-10 books at a time when we’re working on a new subject. It is perfectly feasible, for example, to preview (spd rdng technique 2) and download all the books on a study course booklist in about a week to give you a head start on your course.

How many times should I download a book?
Once – on the basis that it has gone into your long-term memory. But if you are coming back to a book after a long break, you might profitably download it again, or if you are working on a complex subject which is new to you, then you might download it two or three times over a period of weeks to give your brain more ‘hooks’ to help you understand it. In between each download, though, do other work (eg consciously use other spd rdng techniques) on the subject.

Do I have to use the other conscious spd rdng techniques or will I eventually be able to rely on the downloading technique?
The more you use the downloading technique together with the other conscious spd rdng techniques, the more you will come to understand how it works and the more you will be able to rely on it. Initially it works best if you rely on all the conscious techniques and do downloading as a ‘bonus’.

You could also rapid read from cover to cover (spd rdng technique 24) after you’ve worked with a book, confident that while you consciously look for hot spots (spd rdng technique 11) of information, your non-conscious mind is taking in everything else.

Can I download from the computer screen/mobile device?
Yes. Downloading digital texts is easy. Make sure you can see the four corners of the page/s, and set your computer or reading device to scroll the text in front of your eyes at a rate of approximately one second per page to begin with. As your experience and confidence grow, you can go faster.

By the way … Downloading is known as ‘mental photography’ or ‘subliminal photography’ in the system originally developed by Dr Richard Welch (www.subdyn.com). Paul Scheele called it the ‘photoreading’ step in the PhotoReading Whole Mind System where you are told to consciously defocus your eyes as you do it – mainly to break the habit of ‘reading’ slowly, and because the non-conscious mind responds well to ‘weak’ signals. We (Jan and Susan) don’t defocus because it takes a moment or two to refocus when we want to read consciously again and we (along with others) find defocusing uncomfortable or tiring.

Is it necessary to have vision in both eyes to be able to speed read efficiently?
No – I have very poor vision in one of my eyes and have no problem with speed reading.
If you are thinking of ‘photo reading’ or what we call ‘downloading’  into the non-conscious mind, then it is not necessary to put your eyes out of focus or into ‘photo focus’ (as Paul Scheele calls it). You can just look quickly at each page or double page and be confident that the information is going into your non-conscious mind.

If you have a question about speed reading which is not answered here, please email us.