The Study Dude – Ultimate Speed Reading

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants than for you to have the ability to skim any document with better comprehension than had you read it with the painstakingly slow process that most overloaded students selectively avoid.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

Today’s study tips are based on a reading of Arthur Bell, Ph.D. and H. Bernard Wechsler’s Ultimate Speed Reading

Speed Reading: Several Methods
The Study Dude took up speed-reading in graduate studies when overwhelmed with readings that were superfluous to the material needed for class performance. Instead, I shot through the articles at lightning speed, picking up the pace with each reading and seeming to comprehend more than the small time span could seemingly offer. However, when it came to reading essential works, like chapters of a book or an article that held primacy to the subject matter studied, speed-reading was not an alternative.

Some people, like Kevin Paul (2009), the author of Study Smarter, Not Harder, insist that you should read carefully and deliberately everything for study purposes, while never at all taking up speed-reading. Study tip author Cal Newport (2007) as well as authors Jonathan Mooney and David Cole (2000), on the other hand, think that skimming has its place when overloaded with academic readings.

Yet, Arthur Bell, Ph.D, and H. Bernard Wechsler (2013) suggest that not only speed but also comprehension increases dramatically with a polished speed reading method. They say that speed-reading comprehension goes up by 15 to 20 percent, while the speed itself can increase tenfold. The Study Dude has yet to confirm this in practice, but perhaps with the following advice, it can be achieved.

Here are some of the approaches Bell and Wechsler (2013) use:

– Spend thirty minutes per day for three weeks honing your speed reading skills
– Pretend to underline the text with a pen or pencil tip held slightly above the paper, or with your thumb. Prior to each paragraph, remind yourself to “go faster”
– Omit the text on the endmost two words of the line in the underlining process (so, omit the first and last two words of each line); instead let your peripheral vision capture that text while speed-reading.
– Let your peripheral see what is to the right and to the left as well as what is above and below the text as you speed-read.
– Focus on the left, then middle, and then right side of each line. Take it further by mentally dividing the paper into three parts with two vertical lines and focusing on the point where the vertical lines intersect the text?allowing your peripheral vision to pick up the rest.
– Graduate to a z-pattern in speed reading where you speed read to the end of one line and then let your vision do a diagonal downward to the start of the third (or fourth or fifth, if you wish) line below, thereby creating a “z” pattern. Your peripheral is intended to capture or glean the missing material.
– The Study Dude’s favourite is doing the reverse “S” pattern, which is like a z-pattern but less rigid, forming a backward “s” that keeps looping. The aim is to make the loops tighter during the more difficult parts of the material. Just let your eyes follow the fast moving “s” patterns you make down your page, allowing your peripheral to pick up a good portion of what is not directly covered with the “s” pattern.
– A final strategy is to make “fist notes”, where each digit of your hand, starting with your pinkie, is associated with the following question words in order: “who” for pinkie, “what” for ring finger, “”when” for middle finger, “where” for index finger, and “why” for thumb. Then, “simply tuck a finger or thumb toward your palm as soon as you’ve answered the question it represents” (Bell & Weschler, 2013, p. 126).

One consideration for speed-reading is that the eyes need to be trained to take in peripheral information, and Bell & Weschler (2013) recommend such an eye exercise. The Study Dude read a good book on training the eyes through exercises such as eye rolling and working the peripheral. The book, Improve Your Vision Without Glasses or Contact Lenses, by Steven M. Beresford, outlines many eye exercises that you could do for, say, fifteen minutes to half an hour a day that would not only strengthen your eyes for speed reading, but strengthen your eyes in general so that your eye prescriptions will be less likely to worsen each year (at one point, we didn’t brush our teeth, and they worsened over time; now, we don’t exercise our eyes, and they worsen over time, but don’t tell your optometrist that: he or she’s in the big industry of eye care that will oust any such threats to its supremacy).

Also, The Study Dude had learned a different speed reading method which involved doing an initial large “s” pattern rapidly through the material and revisiting the material with tighter and tighter “s” patterns with each pass through. That approach seemed viable for a novice speed-reader, and may have implications for getting started with the above method.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

Bell, Arthur & Wechsler, H. Bernard. (2013). Ultimate speed-reading: The skills you need to succeed in the business world. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s.

Paul, Kevin. (2009). Study smarter now harder. Vancouver, BC: Self-Counsel Press.

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