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How to Improve Reading Speed?

What is your challenge in reading? The typical answer – you find the passages very boring. Yet there are occasions when the passages you read are interesting. Why? The theme of the passage is related to your area of interest. So how is interest developed? Is it because of the background? 2 people with similar backgrounds are likely to have interests which do not coincide. So there must be something else that matters, when it comes to generating interest. What is that?

Interest happened when there is a need for information. If you are working at Infosys with a Capitals market client, then a passage which tells you about Fund management would be of the highest interest to you! When you can relate to what you are reading it becomes interesting. Most of the times, we don’t even try to do that – so most of the times it is boring. Those of you who have watched the Stanford convocation address of Steve Jobs, will remember his being interested in calligraphy classes, which ended up being used in the proportionate fonts in the Mac OS that he designed many years later.

The first key to fast reading is to look at how you can use the information given in the passage in your life.

Another trick to reading fast is to read less. Now if that confuses you, let me set about explaining. Most of you have a habit of poring through every word of a passage, probably anticipating that the question can come from any random place in the passage. School education has also drilled in to you the skill to memorize just about any piece of paper placed in front of you. So what is slowing you down is actually this combination of memorization and perfection.

So how does one read faster by reading less? When you write a mail, when do you start a new paragraph? Answer: when there is something new. So how many thoughts are there in one paragraph? Answer: One. So what is the implication for reading? That there will be as many bullet points / thoughts / ideas in a passage as there are paragraphs. Most of the passage deals with details, which we tend to focus too much on, in the process missing out on ideas. So ensure that what you remember is not details, but ideas. Two to three words are enough to represent the idea of a paragraph. At the end of reading the passage, you need to know the central idea - compressed into fewer than 10 words, generalized, without being too vague or too specific.

Learn to look at the big picture. Look out for the 2/3 words which represent the idea of a paragraph.

Do these two things and watch the Reading speedometer accelerate from the 2 digit words per minute that you are likely to be doing now, to a possible 4 digit words per minute which good readers can zoom up to with smart reading.

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