The most often asked question I get when people either see me read or when they submit a question to my website goes like this: “Does it really work?” Or, “Can you really comprehend when you read really fast? The short answer is yes! This article will explore the question behind that question.

Because I’ve been using the skills so long, I’ve been perplexed about why this question is so often asked. In my mind, if you’re not understanding or comprehending the material, you’re not reading! You must be doing something else. Perhaps your mind is wandering - a common problem with untrained readers. Or, perhaps, you are struggling saying all the words to yourself (sub-vocalizing) to hear them in your mind before you believe you understand them. This is surely a block to effective speed reading because you can only read as fast as you can hear the words.

Reading is defined as the mind’s response the printed symbols. With this definition then, you can only read as fast as your mind can understand (decode) the symbols. It is a visual process, not a sub-vocal process. Did you know that some cognitive researchers estimate that our mind can compute between 80,000 to 100,000 words per minute? That’s the speed of your brain when both the right and left hemisphere are engaged! Do you believe your brain is that powerful?

However, the untrained reader does not utilize both right and left hemispheres when reading. This can be verified by using an EEG monitor. Because of the way most people have learned to read, reading has become an offshoot of processing language - a left hemisphere function. Also, because the untrained reader usually reads word by word, by nature the approach is left hemisphere dominant. Traditional forms of reading are literally half-brained!

How many years have you been reading? If you’re reading this article, you have probably been reading for at least 10 years, if not much longer. That’s a long time of ingrained habits. Because these habits are so ingrained, you have developed a belief system that tells you that’s how to read. Your mind can not comprehend there are other possibilities without conflicting with your ingrained beliefs. You have a difficult time imagining doing it any other way.

Another part of the speed reading vs comprehension belief system has to do with your own self-image of yourself as a learner. If you’ve been struggling as a learner for many years, that defines your capability in your belief system. On one hand you may desire to become an effective speed reader who can comprehend anything, on the other hand, since you don’t have the personal experience of having done it yourself you won’t believe it’s possible, or you won’t believe it’s possible for you.

But beliefs are subjective. They are not facts. Therefore, you can change your self-limiting beliefs to ones that nurture your growth and development.

Beliefs do shape our thinking and actions/behaviors. Many of the beliefs we hold in our mind are self-limiting and will hold us back until we try new ones instead. However, your self-limiting mind will initially cause you resist the new patterns of thinking.
Perhaps one of the most-told stories about the power of beliefs was provided by the great psychologist Abraham Maslow. A patient refused to eat because he believed that he was a corpse. In exasperation, the psychiatrist finally asked him if corpses bled. The patient said that he did not believe so.
The psychiatrist then proceeded to prick him with a pin, after asking the patient’s permission to do so. At which point, the patient started to bleed. In amazement, he declared, "Wow…corpses do bleed after all!"

This story illustrates the difficulty you might have when you think about changing a particular behavior or belief you may have. On one hand it’s simple. On the other hand it’s hard to change those habits of your thinking. What limiting habits of mind/belief do you suffer from? Are you willing to confront them for your own best interest and self-development?

In my live courses, we begin the program with the participants filling out a simple form asking them about their beliefs and experiences as learners and what they believe about accelerated learning. During the training if someone appears to be struggling, I look at the form they filled out. Inevitably, the ones who are struggling have written negative beliefs about heir own abilities or the possibility of reading/learning in an accelerated manner.

The great industrialist Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right!” In other words, your mind will rally to support what you hold to be true.

Towards a positive self-improvement direction, the popular psychologist, Wayne Dyer has said, “You’ll see it, when you believe it!” What do you want to be true about your learning to successfully read faster, comprehend better, and recall more? Your strong belief will make it happen so much easier. Perhaps you have no role models around you. That can be dis-heartening. But the fact is there are many thousands of speed readers who read fast with good comprehension that I have trained. There are probably millions worldwide.

In closing, then, speed reading doesn’t work. You work it. The road to comprehension is built as a system, or method. The speed is merely part of the process. Learning the process may get bumpy at times. So, I’d like to ask you: What do you believe about your learning abilities? What do you believe about accelerated learning/reading and you abilities? What do you believe is possible for your mind’s abilities? What could interfere with your learning these skills, and how can you overcome these obstacles? As a user for 32 years, I can say, without these skills my life would be much poorer. I am a believer. I am a user. You can be too!

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and, Inc. You can learn more at: and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."

Additional Resources covering Speed Reading can be found at:

Website Directory for Speed Reading
Articles on Speed Reading
Products for Speed Reading
Discussion Board
Ed Caldwell, the Official Guide To Speed Reading