If you want to get smarter, speed-reading is worse than not reading at all

From Quartz:

We all know that reading is important. But we’re also busy. So we try to optimize by reading more quickly. And in this way, we miss the point of reading entirely.

I’ve noticed this tendency since I began posting about what I learn from reading over 100 books a year. One of the most frequent questions I get is about how to read faster. Inevitably this request includes a link to a book, “scientific article,” or random blog post declaring that there’s a way to read 10 times faster. But if you care about more than bragging rights, the point of books isn’t how fast you read, or even how much you read. It’s reading for deep understanding.

. . . .

Moreover, while reading is the key to getting smarter, speed-reading is really just a fancy way of fooling yourself into thinking you’re learning something. In reality, you’re just turning pages quickly. A May 2016 review of studies on speed-reading, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, reported, “there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy. It is unlikely that readers will be able to double or triple their reading speeds (e.g., from around 250 to 500–750 words per minute) while still being able to understand the text as well as if they read at normal speed.”

Link to the rest at Quartz

4 thoughts on “If you want to get smarter, speed-reading is worse than not reading at all”

  1. Many courses actually teach efficient reading, but that doesn’t quite sound as interesting as speed reading. I took one in seminary. We were tested for speed and comprehension. I started at 250 WPM and 65% retention. I ended at 500 WPM and 85% retention. Essentially, they teach focus.

  2. I tested out at 950 words per minute back in high school. I’m probably down below 100 now.

    The difference is, when I was a teenager I vacuumed up information indiscriminately. I had a good memory, I moved stuff from the page to wetware and back as needed.

    As I got older I no longer just absorbed text uncritically. I stop and think about what I’m reading, compare it to what I already know, and make mental notes on what to follow up on later.

    I read fiction a bit faster than nonfiction, but now I tend to spend time thinking about that, too. As well as dissecting how the story is put together.

  3. I took a speed reading course in college. (Tip: To double your speed now, put your finger below the line you are reading, follow your reading with your finger, and never go backwards.) I read 250-300 wpm normally. I can read 5,000 wpm; I read The DaVinci Code at that speed. When I practiced law, on some documents my speed dropped to 250 words/hour.

    Speed is a function of purpose. Enjoyment = a page a minute. Gist = 5,000 wpm. Total recall = 250 words/hour.

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