Reading Efficiently

by David Barker

In a nutshell

1. Efficient reading

Rather than speed reading, it is better to improve your reading efficiency.

  • Read less! Be selective and prioritise your reading.
  • Preview to determine if it is worth investing time and effort to read a particular item.
  • Make reading an enjoyable habit – the more you read, the better you get at it.
  • Keep a reading file of articles and reports to fill gaps in your time schedule.
  • Read in the best environment – physically and mentally.


2. A brief overview of speed reading

Speed reading is an over-used term and for practical purposes, speed alone is not enough.

  • The fastest speed readers tend to achieve a comprehension rate of only around 50 per cent.
  • Many courses are advertised, but it is wise treat some of their claims with caution.
  • Choose an appropriate speed and technique to the task at hand.


3. Comprehension and recall

Understanding what you read, memorising what you need to and then recalling the information are as important as speed of reading.

  • Read with a purpose.
  • Tune in, focusing on what you know and what you hope to learn.
  • Preview – read about the author and look at the introduction and conclusion first.
  • Make notes.
  • Review what you have learnt and check your notes.


4. How fast do I read now?

If you are to track your progress, then it is important to know your reading speed.

  • Leran how to calculate your reading speed.
  • Check your comprehension.


5. Key techniques to improve reading speed

Most of us read a lot slower than we could, often as a result of how we were taught to read in the first place.

  • Overcome fixation, back-skipping and regression.
  • A guide may help to force the pace, but hold it above the line rather than below it.
  • Minimise subvocalisation – avoid moving your mouth or tongue as you read.
  • Skimming can be used to pick up key ideas.
  • Scanning is used to find specific pieces of information.


6. How to read a non-fiction book

Simply reading the book from cover to cover is most definitely not the best way to learn.

  • Step 1 – think about what you want to learn and what you already know.
  • Step 2 – preview it by looking at endpapers, foreword, contents list, introduction, conclusion and glossary. Now decide whether to continue or not.
  • Step 3 – skim, reading the first and last paragraphs of each chapter and skimming the rest. Jot down notes and further questions. Skim again, as often as required to extract what you want.
  • Step 4 – review your notes and consolidate by returning to them several times.


7. Making notes

Mind Mapping is a highly visual way of recording information that enables large quantities of data to be recorded on a single page in a format that maximises retention and learning. You can use it to remember the important information from a book.

  • Write the title in the centre of a blank page.
  • Surround it with key words representing major ideas and join these to the title.
  • Link subordinate ideas/key words to the relevant major words and so on.