Speed Reading

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March 10, 2017 – MCAT CARS Passage

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

Learning to speed read seems like an obvious strategy for making quick work of all the emails, reports, and other pieces of text we encounter every day, but a new report shows that the claims put forth by many speed reading programs and tools are probably too good to be true. Examining decades’ worth of research on the science of reading, a team of psychological scientists finds little evidence to support speed reading as a shortcut to understanding and remembering large volumes of written content in a short period of time.

“Speed reading training courses have been around for decades, and there has been a recent surge in the number of speed reading technologies that have been introduced to the consumer market,” says Elizabeth Schotter, a psychological scientist at the University of California, San Diego and one of the authors of the report. “We wanted to take a close look at the science behind reading to help people make informed decisions about whether to believe the claims put forth by companies promoting speed reading technologies and training courses.”

The report, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows that that there are no magic shortcuts when it comes to reading more quickly while still fully understanding what we’ve read.

“The available scientific evidence demonstrates that there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy — as readers spend less time on the material, they necessarily will have a poorer understanding of it,” explains Schotter.

Reading is a complex dance among various visual and mental processes, and research shows that skilled readers already read quickly, averaging 200 to 400 words per minute. Some speed reading technologies claim to offer an additional boost by eliminating the need to make eye movements by presenting words rapidly in the center of a computer screen or mobile device, with each new word replacing the previous word. The problem, Schotter and colleagues find, is that eye movements account for no more than 10% of the overall time we spend reading, and eliminating the ability to go back and reread previous words and sentences tends to make overall comprehension worse, not better.

The biggest obstacle, science shows, isn’t our vision but rather our ability to recognize words and process how they combine to make meaningful sentences.

“So-called solutions that emphasize speeding up the input without making the language easier to understand will have limited efficacy,” says Schotter.

While some may claim prodigious speed reading skills, these claims typically don’t hold up when put to the test. Investigations show that these individuals generally already know a lot about the topic or content of what they have supposedly speed-read. Without such knowledge, they often don’t remember much of what they’ve read and aren’t able to answer substantive questions about the text.

This doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily stuck reading at the same speed all the time, however. Research does show that effective skimming — prioritizing more informative parts of a text while glossing over others — can be effective when we’re only interested in getting the gist of what we’re reading, instead of a deeper, more comprehensive understanding.

In fact, data suggest that the most effective “speed readers” are actually effective skimmers who already have considerable familiarity with the topic at hand and are thus able to pick out key points quickly.

The one thing that can help boost overall reading ability, science shows, is practicing reading for comprehension. Greater exposure to writing in all its different forms provides us with a larger and richer vocabulary, as well as the contextual experience that can help us anticipate upcoming words and make inferences regarding the meaning of words or phrases we don’t immediately recognize.

Ultimately, there is no one ability or strategy that will enable us to zip through a novel in one sitting or process an inbox full of emails over the course of a lunch break.

“There’s no quick fix,” says Schotter. “We urge people to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism and ask for supporting scientific evidence when someone proposes a speed reading method that will double or triple their reading speed without sacrificing a complete understanding.”

Adapted from sciencedaily.

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This was an article on Psychology.

Have a great day.
Jack Westin
MCAT CARS Instructor.
Contact Information

36 Comments


  1. SR programs=scam
    SR= lack comprehension

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  2. SR-poor comprehension, SR companies – mislead

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  3. MIP: Speed reading=/=understanding+remembering; solution=read diff writings.

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  4. Research shows SR not efficient for comprehension, solution is to read variety of writing forms.

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  5. MIP: SR = no magic shortcut + skimmers good at it

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  6. speed vs understanding, SR doesn’t work, skim = good, practice comprehension

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  7. Speed reading = not a shortcut due to the trade-off between speed and accuracy (Schotter)
    Effective skimming & practicing reading for comprehension can help

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  8. MI: Speed readers= skimmers w/ knowledge + no shortcuts=SR doesn’t work

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  9. SR =/= effective
    No shortcut –> Reading comprehension

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  10. Speed reading does not work, less time = poor understanding (RTA Schotter). Effective readers = effective skimmers. Improve reading = practicing for comprehension.

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  11. speed reading does not work, need previous exposure to comprehend effectively and understand faster.

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  12. No reading shortcuts exists
    Reading speed is indirectly proportional to accuracy
    Recognizing words=biggest obstacle

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  13. speed reeding=//= understanding + not worthy

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  14. speed reading= fluke. mus practice reading for comprehension

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  15. Companies have long touted the benefits of learning how to speed read in order to maximize efficiency. Although tantalizing, recent psychological research suggests that these claims are often too good to be true.

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  16. speed reading =/= comprehension + no shortcut strat + prior knowledge helps

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  17. speed reading =/= understanding + no shortcuts + prior knowledge helps

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  18. Scientifically speed reading cannot offer an improved speed with an improved comprehension. Be skeptical comprehension far outweighs input speed.

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  19. MI: increased speed = decreased accuracy (RTA: SCHOTTER)
    MI 2: skimming = effective to get gist
    MI 3: increased comprehension = increased reading ability

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  20. There are no shortcuts to reading fast and understanding. Claims about benefits of speed reading are not supported by research. We can improve speed by skimming and practicing reading for understanding.

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  21. MI: Speed Reading = not 100% true, practicing reading comp effective

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  22. MI: speed reading programs sacrifice comprehension for speed, the most effective speed reading strategy >> effective skimming

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  23. SR programs = hopeful for improvement + researched; speed reading skills =/= reliable; no easy solution to become a faster reader and understand what your reading

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  24. SR =/= accuracy comprehension; SR’s = effective skimmers = gist + background knowledge =/= deep understanding

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  25. speed reading= too good to be true + no proper comprehension

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  26. speed reading sacrifices comprehension, no shortcuts to enhance speed, effective skimming useful for MI

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  27. speed reading = poor understanding. Skimming = only effective with familiarity with topics. There’s no shortcut; we should practice reading with comprehension

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  28. Author is skeptical of the speed reading techniques out there in the market, psychologists cannot find evidence to back these techniques – Trade-off between speed and understanding, no shortcuts – Time spent on eye movements not significant, eliminating eye movements worsen comprehension – Recognize words and gain meaning from what you read – No such thing as prodigious reading skills as they have already been equipped (further supported) – Priority reading serves to get the gist, cannot have deep understanding – Expand vocabulary, write more, read for comprehension can boost reading ability – People should remain skeptical and demand proof when they hear about speed reading techniques

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  29. MIP: Speed reading = not true + no shorcut; SR = worse understanding
    Tone: Neutral

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  30. MIP: speed reading = bad; obstacle – read + process words; no speed strategy good

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  31. Speed reading tech= too good to be true
    familiarity of topic + good skimmer= speed reader

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  32. There is no shortcut to reading “faster” without compromising comprehension. Speed comes with skill, which is acquired through practicing comprehension.

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  33. MIP: no shortcuts for reading + speed readers = skimmers w/ background knowledge; tone = neutral

    Reply

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