Speed reading programs vary greatly in terms of what techniques they teach, what they promise, and the actual outcome. This can be confusing if you have decided to explore speed reading for the first time, and had always thought (like many of us) that speed reading is a single concept or technique. Actually, there are at least two major approaches to speed reading that differ in fundamental ways. Most speed reading programs are based on one of these two major approaches to speed reading, though there are also a lot of individual variations between programs. Traditional speed reading programs are based on something that we all do naturally - instead of reading a passage in detail, there are times when we just scan it, letting our eyes travel down the page quickly. With simple scanning, most people can read up to 600 or 700 wpm (words per minute), as opposed to 200 - 400 wpm when we are reading carefully, for comprehension.
The first speed reading programs just improved on scanning. Many studies corroborate the fact that there is no need to read every single word in a passage in order to gain comprehension - the mind naturally fills in what we don't actually read. And to put it simply, the more we 'skip' while reading, the faster we read. Though this varies among individuals, it is generally true that a certain amount of material can be skipped without losing comprehension. Of course, some experts disagree, saying that speed readers typically comprehend only 50% of what they are reading, as opposed to 75% for regular reading.
Speed reading programs teach you to speed up the rate of your 'scanning' by leading your eyes across the page using the sweeping motion of a 'pacer' (which your eyes naturally follow) or by teaching you to use your peripheral vision while reading. Despite what some experts say about the low comprehension, there is considerable documentation of the efficacy of these speed reading programs. Some of the newer speed reading programs work on a different principle. They argue that scanning the page in a linear manner, whether or not you read every word, is unnecessary; in fact, it wastes time.
Rather, they posit that the human mind is capable of mentally 'photographing' a page - taking in everything that is on it in its entirety, in a very short period of time. Some speed reading programs claim incredible success rates based on this principle, though it remains controversial. Mainstream scientists are sceptical about these claims, arguing that the programs just teach people to scan really quickly, and that comprehension is poor. .
By: Robert Kokoska