7 Tips for How to Read Faster (and Still Understand What You Read)

iStock
iStock

Whether you skim a blog post, peruse files for work, or browse through a book, you most likely do some type of reading every day. But slogging through dense passages of text can be time-consuming, mentally exhausting, and hard on your eyes. If you want to read faster while maintaining reading comprehension, check out these seven tips.

1. PREVIEW THE TEXT.

Viewing a film’s trailer before watching the movie gives you context and lets you know what to expect. Likewise, previewing a text before reading it prepares you to quickly gain an understanding of what you’re about to read. To preview a text, scan it from the beginning to the end, paying special attention to headings, subheadings, anything in bold or large font, and bullet points. To get a big picture understanding, skim the introductory and concluding paragraphs. Try to identify transition sentences, examine any images or graphs, and figure out how the author structured the text.

2. PLAN YOUR ATTACK.

Strategically approaching a text will make a big difference in how efficiently you can digest the material. First, think about your goals. What do you want to learn by reading the material? Jot down some questions you want to be able to answer by the end. Then, determine the author’s goal in writing the material, based on your preview. The author’s goal, for example, might be to describe the entire history of Ancient Rome, while your goal is simply to answer a question about Roman women’s role in politics. If your goal is more limited in scope than the author’s, plan to only find and read the pertinent sections.

Similarly, vary your plan of attack based on the type of material you’re about to read. If you’re going to read a dense legal or scientific text, you should probably plan to read certain passages more slowly and carefully than you’d read a novel or magazine.

3. BE MINDFUL.

Reading quickly with good comprehension requires focus and concentration. Minimize external noise, distractions, and interruptions, and be mindful when your thoughts wander as you read. If you notice that you’re fantasizing about your next meal rather than focusing on the text, gently bring your mind back to the material. Many readers read a few sentences passively, without focus, then spend time going back and re-reading to make sure they understand them. According to author Tim Ferriss, this habit, called regression, will significantly slow you down and make it harder to get a big picture view of the text. If you carefully and attentively approach a text, you'll quickly realize if you’re not understanding a section, saving you time in the long run.

4. DON’T READ EVERY WORD.

To increase your reading speed, pay attention to your eyes. Most people can scan in 1.5 inch chunks, which, depending on the font size and type of text, usually comprise three to five words each. Rather than reading each word individually, move your eyes in a scanning motion, jumping from a chunk (of three to five words) to the next chunk of words. Take advantage of your peripheral vision to speed up around the beginning and end of each line, focusing on blocks of words rather than the first and last words.

Pointing your finger or a pen at each chunk of words will help you learn to move your eyes quickly over the text. And it will encourage you not to subvocalize as you read. Subvocalization, or silently pronouncing each word in your head as you read, will slow you down and distract you from the author’s main point.

5. DON’T READ EVERY SECTION.

According to Dartmouth College’s Academic Skills Center, it’s an old-fashioned myth that students must read every section of a textbook or article. Unless you’re reading something extremely important, skip the sections that aren’t relevant to your purpose. Reading selectively will make it possible for you to digest the main points of many texts, rather than only having time to fully read a couple.

6. WRITE A SUMMARY. 

Your job shouldn’t end when you read the last word on the page. After you finish reading, write a few sentences to summarize what you read, and answer any questions you had before you started reading. Did you learn what you were hoping to learn? By spending a few minutes after reading to think, synthesize the information, and write what you learned, you’ll solidify the material in your mind and have better recall later. If you’re a more visual or verbal learner, draw a mind map summary or tell someone what you learned.

7. PRACTICE TIMED RUNS.

Approaching a text strategically, reading actively, and summarizing effectively takes practice. If you want to improve your reading speed, use a timer to test how many words (or pages) per minute you can read. As you’re able to read faster and faster, check in with yourself to make sure you’re happy with your level of comprehension.

The 20 Best States for Singles

monkeybusinessimages, iStock via Getty Images
monkeybusinessimages, iStock via Getty Images

Being single on Valentine's Day means you don't have to worry about cards, gifts, or date ideas. But if you'd like to do something romantic on February 14, your chances of snagging a date in time may depend on where you live. WalletHub crunched the numbers to create a definitive list of the best states to be single and looking for love in America.

To come up with its rankings, the personal finance site analyzed numerous data points for each state, including the proportion of single adults, nightlife and entertainment opportunities, and economic factors like cost of living. Combined, these qualities paint of picture of where you're most likely to find, afford, and enjoy a date.

Florida secured the number one position with a total score of 69.21 out of 100. Though it comes in 33rd out of the 50 states for economics, it places third for dating opportunities and fourth for romance and fun, earning it the top slot. It's followed by California with a score of 67.41 and Texas with 66.77. You can check out the top 20 states below, and see how all 50 states ranked at WalletHub.

  1. Florida // 69.21
  1. California // 67.41
  1. Texas // 66.77
  1. New York // 65.29
  1. Pennsylvania // 64.61
  1. Ohio // 63.10
  1. Illinois // 62.61
  1. Wisconsin // 61.13
  1. Massachusetts // 59.11
  1. Michigan // 58.56
  1. Arizona // 57.22
  1. New Jersey // 56.71
  1. Georgia // 56.11
  1. Colorado // 56.01
  1. North Carolina // 55.58
  1. Minnesota // 55.42
  1. Virginia // 54.98
  1. Washington // 54.76
  1. Missouri // 54.29
  1. Nevada // 53.64

The world uses Valentine's Day to celebrate romance, but you can take it as an opportunity to embrace singledom in 2020. If that's your plan, here are some vintage tips for living alone to keep in mind.

Keep Your Food and Wine Fresh for Longer With These Vacuum Lids

Equilibric
Equilibric

Despite how carefully you try to store your leftovers, most plastic containers aren't airtight, and oxygen is often the culprit behind why food and wine lose their flavor or spoil so quickly. But Equilibric is looking to solve this issue with their Freshly! vacuum lids, which they say can keep food fresh for five times longer than standard plastic containers.

The company just launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Freshly!, which you can back starting at $69. With this pledge, you'll receive three lids of different sizes, a wine seal, and the handheld vacuum used to give your food a proper seal.

The product is easy to use: Simply put the lid on whichever container you wish to seal, attach the vacuum to the air valve, press the button on the vacuum, and your food is ready to store in a matter of seconds. When you’re ready to eat, open the air valve, remove the lid, and enjoy.

When air comes into contact with your food, it can promote the growth of both mold and bacteria. Similarly, when air comes into contact with your open bottle of wine, it can kick off a process called oxidation, which is why your vino can taste flat after it's been opened. But when you use a Freshly! lid, you’re storing your food or drink in "an oxygen-less environment."

The dishwasher-safe lids are universal, so they don’t need to perfectly match the dimensions of the container you are trying to seal. The largest size measures 10 inches in diameter and it's recommended for large salad bowls, pans, and skillets; the medium lid is 7.9 inches in diameter and is best for standard-sized bowls and lunchboxes; and the smallest lid is 5.7 inches in diameter and is recommended for cups.

Vacuum-seal lids for food
Equilibric

According to the campaign, Freshly! lids can keep dishes like cooked chicken fresh for up to 10 days, whereas it only keeps up to five days in regular plastic containers. On average, about 30 to 40 percent of food is thrown out in America, according to the USDA. So, not only will you keep leftovers longer, but the lids can help reduce your annual food waste.

This isn’t Equilibric’s first time making equipment that helps make life in the kitchen easier. They launched a Kickstarter campaign back in March 2019 for the balanced bowl-colander hybrid that helps cooks save time and water.

The campaign has already made more than $70,000, surpassing its original $7000 goal, but you can still help bring this project to life until February 23 by heading here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER