cartoon_read_moreI have been teaching efficient reading skills even longer than test prep. Eventually, I merged the core techniques of efficient reading with all of my test prep programs. It makes sense that strong readers always score well, so teaching efficient reading to those students who may not be readers is the foundation to raising test scores. That said, are there some BASIC efficient reading techniques that I can share with you for you to practice on your own? Yes there are.

The human eye can easily see three words at a glance as the average word is only five letters. This will happen if you use your peripheral vision, not only your core vision, when reading. Understand why silent word by word reading seems so natural. In grade school, when you first learned to read, the teacher asked you to read aloud to see if you could PRONOUNCE the word. Is that why you read now? Don’t think so! Your purpose now is for UNDERSTANDING. That said, if the purpose is different, then the process should be different.

Our mind can be trained to read silently, and understand ideas best, in word groups. Since the subject of communication is ideas not words, it would mean that if you stop at each word when you are reading, you are chopping up the author’s ideas. So if you read in word groups, you are not only reading about three times faster, but your basic understanding can actually improve.

Please note the purpose here is to develop your skimming skills. Skimming means to understand the point, not get all the details. This is how you need to initially approach a reading passage. (After skimming for the point, read each question SLOWLY, the relevant information in the passage SLOWLY, and the answer choices SLOWLY. There’s a time for skimming and a time for word-by-word reading based on content and purpose.) NOTE: In all of Breakthrough Test Prep programs, students will learn a particular system as to how to approach a reading passage. Skimming is merely the first step.)

How to read in word groups:

  1. DON’T SAY THE WORDS. TAKE A ‘PICTURE’ OF THE WORD GROUPS. How many times have your read a paragraph or even a page and said to yourself, “I have no idea what I just read.” You know you ‘said’ all of the words in your mind, but you had little or no comprehension. We’ve all done that, don’t say the words (in your mind), ‘take a picture’ of the word groups. Remember, the purpose of reading is to get ideas, not to say words. Not an easy habit to break. It will come with practice.
    • Begin with a column containing about six words per line
    • Preview as described above
    • Circle the thesis if it’s part of the preview
    • Write a title that rephrases the thesis (Recommended format: TOPIC :: FOCUS)
    • Move a pen or your finger down the center of the column, taking a ‘picture’ of the word groups
    • Your understanding will feel fragmented. This is normal. You are challenging yourself and reading faster than you can understand. Eventually your brain will catch up with your eyes
    • Regular practice will improve your reading speed as you’re training your eyes to move more rapidly down the page
    • With wider columns, take a pencil and draw a light vertical line about two words from the left margin and another vertical line two words from the right.
    • Preview/thesis/title
    • Without moving your eyes further than those lines, read quickly by moving a pen or your finger in a ‘z- motion’ between the two vertical lines as you try to read at a pace of one second per line. (One second equates to saying one, one thousand. Say it softly as you read)
    • IT USUALLY TAKES THREE WEEKS TO CHANGE HABITS. Practice this for three weeks using newspaper or magazines. Then you might want to practice with a novel.

READING IN WORD GROUPS: Click here to be directed to an exercise which will provide you with practice reading in word groups. You will also be able to compute how fast you read as well as test your recall.

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