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Speed Reading Myths Get Slammed!

There has been a revived interest in speed reading recently. As a result, many colleges and local schools are even starting speed reading programs, but does it even work?

Let’s take a look at some speed reading myths and see how they stand up to scrutiny.

Hand Motions

Some older books on speed reading, go on-and-on about fancy hand motions, moving in Z or S shapes, crossing yourself and saying a Hail Mary and the amazing reading speeds you can accomplish just by waving your hands over the words. When these methods are put to the test they fall far short of the claims. There is no magic hand motion that will make you read faster. Some people simply find it easier to use their hand as a pointer and some find it distracting. It depends on how your brain is wired. The only fact about hand motions is, if it works for you, use it, if it distracts you, don’t use it.


At what speeds can people actually read? What speed qualifies as Speed Reading?

A quick Amazon search reveals some systems from the 80s and 90s spouting ludicrous claims of 10,000 words per minute or more. These kinds of numbers have been repeatedly debunked because they are simply made up. No one can read 10,000 words per minute and remember more than a few words. That is not how real speed reading works and such outrageous numbers are nothing but marketing gimmicks.

There are documented, real speed readers who have taken no classes and picked up the skill on their own, at an early age. They have had a lifetime to use them and many do not even know they are speed readers. They think everyone reads the way they do. The average person reads 200 to 300 words per minute. True speed readers can read 500 to 2500 words per minute but more commonly average around 600 to 1000 maybe 1500 words per minute. That is still a lot faster than 200 words per minute.


Didn’t the Air Force Prove Speed Reading works?

The Air Force conducted some research to see how fast someone could recognize a symbol or single word. This was related to identifying enemy aircraft then later cockpit displays and labeling. It was not actually to test speed reading. They used a Tachioscope which was a dark screen and flashed a white or yellow word very fast and then disappeared. The person in front of the screen then had to identify the word. It turns out that a person can identify the word even if it is only shown for hundredths of a second. This does not in itself prove speed reading. It does prove that a person can recognize a word on-sight without using the normal sub-vocalization reading process. The technique used by the Air Force was not meant to test speed reading, but it does prove that the human brain can take in information much faster than many people thought. This technique itself will not teach speed reading either. It only proves a concept. It does not teach speed reading.


Speed Reading is fake. What good is speed reading if you don't have any comprehension?

This is one of the most annoying posts I see on message boards and it is always posted by someone who has never actually tried a real speed reading system or tried it for ten minutes and quit.

The act of asking the question proves that the person asking has no experience with genuine speed reading because this is simply not how the process works. Many nay-sayer’s say there is no comprehension or understanding of what is read when speed reading. That is simply untrue. What they fail to say is that they cannot comprehend, and instead untruthfully claim that no one can comprehend. The real comprehension problem is with the individual who has either not followed a legitimate speed reading training system, or has not developed the skills needed to understand what they are reading.

You must first learn the mechanics of speed reading. Once your brain can easily process those mechanics, then you build comprehension. You will go through a time when you have low comprehension, just as a first grader has low comprehension when they read.

Remember back when you were first learning to read. You would sound out each word in a sentence, read several sentences about the adventures of Dick and Jane running around with good ole' spot, then the teacher would ask you what you read. Your cute little 5 year old face would look up and scrunch your nose as you said “I dunno”. Why did you not know? Because you truly had no idea what you read. You did not comprehend it because you were still learning the mechanics of sounding out words.

Does this mean that no one can read anything because it is impossible for them to comprehend or remember what they have read? Obviously not. A child must learn the mechanics of reading, then they develop their skills and build comprehension through the 2nd, 3rd, grades. When someone learns speed reading, it is not realistic to expect the same comprehension level as they do at normal reading speed. Remember, they have had a lifetime to practice and develop that comprehension level. When speed reading you are learning a new set of skills and once those are mastered you can improve comprehension. Mechanics first, then comprehension. If you see anyone posting on a message board from someone claiming No One can comprehend anything they speed read(assuming they ever tried a real speed reading course) you can now correct them so they know 'they' can't comprehend and ask them not to speak on behalf of everyone.


Speed Reading is just Skimming isn’t it?

NO Absolutely not. Skimming is just that, skimming for keywords. Speed reading is the act of reading every word. It is not picking out the highlights and it is not ‘getting the general idea’.  Speed reading is NOT skimming. If any system tells you they are the same, toss it in the trash because they are trying to sell a Skimming system re-labeled as a speed reading system. Skimming is useless.


Find out for yourself.

Modern speed reading systems have gained a new popularity with the development of software which makes the training and speed measuring much easier.

You can take a free reading speed test using our Online Reading Speed Test Page and see if you read at a normal rate, slow rate, or if maybe you will be surprised to find you are already a natural speed reader.


I hope you see that speed reading is possible and within your reach. All you have to do is try it, risk free.

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Article by Michael Ford - Developer of the Speed Reader-X training system.


For screen shots and details about the online version of this training course, visit the Online Speed Reader-X Description Page.


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  The Speed Reader-X system can change the way you read. You will quickly find speed reading techniques are easier than regular slow reading. Speed-Reading is not 'pushing harder'. Anyone can push harder and read faster, but this only works for a few sentences. The techniques our system teaches you will change how you read and make reading magazines and books as easy as watching a movie.  
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