Speed reading during your studies: read and understand complex texts faster
Do you feel stressed from all the reading you have to do during your studies? Maybe speed reading is the solution for you. Jonas Ritter, a trainer for effective reading, tells us how students of the IUBH can use this technique to their benefit.
Can you please tell us briefly about the principles behind speed reading, Mr Ritter.
Jonas Ritter: Speed reading is based on the understanding that neuronal circuits in the brain and their processing can be improved. The changes are quite impressive: Just as we increase our muscles with resistance training and our speed by doing sprints, we can significantly improve our cognitive performance in speed reading with similar efforts. But reading alone is not enough. We need the right kind of training too. Different methods of speed reading differ in how they approach this training.
You’ve developed your own method for speed reading. What’s special about it?
Ritter: My speed-reading method is characterised by a very focused type of training: for example reading to the beat, using a metronome. Readers learn to integrate regular “reading sprints” into their everyday lives and increase their reading speed. It changes neuronal fitness in a way comparable to sports. But unlike sports, the results are much faster. After one to two days of intensive training, participants read about twice as fast, with at least the same understanding of the text and constant recall of the contents. The new reading performance stabilises after three to six weeks.
Reading and understanding texts faster – that sounds fantastic! How did you discover speed reading and became a coach?
Ritter: I was overcome by an insatiable thirst for knowledge when I was a young adult. Every time I entered a bookstore, I was overwhelmed by the power of the knowledge that surrounded me. I thought it would be amazing to be able to read it all. But I realised I lacked the kind of reading power that was required. My reading pace was too slow and my concentration and stamina were too weak. To change that, I spent a year obsessively developing my own training programme. That quickly attracted the interest of my fellow students, and I eventually became a coach for effective reading.
What role does speed reading play for students in your experience?
Ritter: It depends on the method. I have increasingly geared my system to scientists with clients such as the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft or the German Aerospace Centre. So a lot of my training aims at teaching people to read better, smarter and more strategically, regardless of speed. It’s about understanding complex texts correctly, filtering out key messages and remembering them. When you master all this and fine-tune your reading speed, you can be significantly more effective in your studies. The most frequent feedback we get from our seminar participants is: If only I had learned to do this at the beginning of my studies.
Is it possible to retain what you speed read in your long-term memory?
Ritter: It’s important to repeat what you’ve read when you are reading. Markers, notes and later verbal summaries ensure you retain the information in your long-term memory. If you don’t repeat the material this way, the vast majority gets forgotten – regardless of whether we read it slowly or quickly. But all of this takes time – time that slow readers usually don’t have to spare. Reading something one time takes so long for them that proper post-processing and repetition is almost unthinkable. So fast readers are clearly at an advantage here.
Can any reader learn to speed read?
Ritter: As far as I know, yes. Even dyslexics have good results with our speed reading training. Some of them improve their reading performance more during a two-day training session than they did after years of classic dyslexia therapy. The reason is probably that certain problem processes in the brain are simply bypassed by the training. It would be extremely exciting to do an intensive study on this phenomenon.