5 Techniques to Read and Study Three Times Faster

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By Sophie

In between juggling work, life and studying for the CFA, there’s hardly much time to sleep nor eating well. There’s never enough time, isn’t it? 

We’ve talked about various ways to organise ourselves for more effective and productive study sessions, such as designing your own study plan, incorporating revisions during the work week, devising rewards and incentives to boost motivation and beat procrastination and how taking frequent breaks isn’t a waste of time

It just occurred to me that we have overlooked the largest area of improvement in terms of time management. Given that we spend 70% of our time revising (and the rest doing tons of practice papers), wouldn’t it be amazing if we can learn and improve our speed reading effectively for CFA studies? Imagine how much time you’d save during revision and the exams by being able to read 3x faster! Let’s do it.

#1. Stop saying words in your head
The habit of “hearing” words in our minds as we read them – subvocalisation, as the experts call it – is one of the key reasons why we read slower than we should. Breaking this habit can dramatically improve reading speed, and luckily for us there are a few tricks we can use to practice on: try chewing gum, humming, eating while you’re reading or even repeating “A-E-I-O-U” as you read to teach yourself to stop reading with your mouth. 

#2. Avoid “Back Tracking”
This is a habit I noticed in myself during CFA revisions. There is a tendency to skip our eyes back and forth to dwell on words we’ve just read, it’s kind of like a “visual stammering” which slows us down. One of the ways to break this habit is to be mindful of it when reading and jotting it down every time you notice yourself doing that. You know we’re big fans here at 300 Hours of tracking progress, as it’s the first step to making real improvements!

#3. Point at the text
Another useful technique to break the “visual stammering” and backtracking habit is simply to use your fingers to point at the text to guide your reading. Why? Well, your fingers hopefully don’t skip backwards as often as your eyes! Of course, you still need to concentrate on each word to retain information, but it’s a pretty effective and simple way to speed read through paragraphs of texts.

#4. Skim and scan intelligently
This requires your personal judgment and practice as you go along, but very useful during item set and essay-style questions in Level II and Level III. Skim through sections of the texts that don’t deliver valuable information for the purpose of your reading, as not every word is important when conveying an idea. With practice you can train yourself to look over these unnecessary words and focus on the important stuff.

Another good tip to help focus on keywords is to skim through the book’s table of contents and section headings so you have a general idea of what the section is about. This will prime your brain to be on the look out for words related to the topic when you actually start reading.

#5. Practice (and track progress) with free web apps
Train your eyes with free web apps. I highly recommend Spreeder as it helps reduce backtracking and subvocalising, while training our eyes and mind to read more than one word a time. This is how it works:

  • Just copy and paste the text you want to speed read into Spreeder. 
  • Spreeder will then flash chunks of your text on the screen until it goes through the entire text. 
  • You can decide how many words Spreeder will show at a time and how fast you want the words to appear. 

I’ve started with 300 words per minute (WPM) speed, and thought it was SO fast though manageable. Apparently that’s the base speed and by increasing the speed gradually through shed loads of practice, you can easily achieve 1,000 wpm over time. Amazing!

Do you speed read? What’s your current WPM? Did you find these techniques useful? Share your thoughts and comments with us below! 

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