Today most universities have courses that help students learn to read quickly and critically. Harvard has a class that has been in existence since the 1940’s. It teaches students how to read fast with a level of understanding that includes analysis and evaluation.

These classes are evidence that reading faster does not have to take away from understanding what we read. Critical reading techniques help comprehension. They help you decide the value of what you’re reading and focus you on a purpose for reading the selected material.

Reading critically means paying attention to what you read then coming to some conclusion about the relevancy of the material. For example, how does the book or article you plan to read relate to the questions you have about the subject?

Reading critically, as with most things in life, means knowing what you want and then going for it. Clarity of purpose, a good understanding of what you already know and what you need out of the reading is the key to reading critically. In other words, if comprehension is understanding what you read, critical reading is going a step further and deciding on the relevance of what you’re reading.

Here’s and example, I was researching the hemispheres of the brain for an article I was writing for my website I found an interesting book on the subject I wanted to read. The question I was asking myself as I read was, “Are the right and left sides of the brain functioning differently, or is the brain functioning as a whole?” There was a lot of new research and I wanted to be up on the new thinking about the brain.

So, when doing research keep a few questions in mind. How is the text organized? Who is the audience? What does the author expect me to already know? What is the author’s background? These questions begin to sort out what you need and in what part of the author’s message you will find your answers. These questions begin to narrow your focus.

With these questions to guide you begin looking over the book. First stop, the table of content otherwise known as the book outline. Give it a good going over. Keep thinking about your goals and how the author can help you understand the questions you have about the subject. What is the author covering and what is she not including? Will this book answer my questions?

The next thing to do is look over the text. Get an idea of how the book or article is organized. Is the author using a pyramid format? Are the most important facts in the first paragraphs followed by details? Or is the good stuff you’re looking for at the end in the summary?

Keep forming questions you need answered to understand the subject. Ask yourself, “What is the author saying.” Revise your thinking as you gather more information.

Reading speed increases with the critical reading skill mentioned above. If you know what you’re looking for it’s easier to find. Remember 60% of the words we read are structure words. Structure words are words like and, or, the. Critical reading skills increase your ability to read fast and teach you to notice but not concentrate on the structure words. It also helps to keep you on task and focused on your goal.

The structure words will merely become secondary to the meaningful text. All three of the major stumbling blocks to reading; regression, subvocalization, and reading word-for- word will be minimized by your ability to prepare yourself before you begin to read. Good speed reading programs teach you how to do all the above with games and drills.
I also, recommend that you read familiar material until you begin to speed up. Then move on to more complicated or unfamiliar text. This way you’re not trying to learn new concepts and vocabulary at the same time you’re learning to speed read.
If you don’t want to go it alone, buy a speed reading program and practice speed reading skills in a systematic and consistent way. Speed Reading programs give you the added benefit of helping you increase your comprehension by training your mind to look for key words and chunk words together.

Increasing your comprehension comes from searching out the most important parts of the text. Comprehension and reading speed can increase if you devote a few minutes to getting to know what you want out of your reading, paying attention to the structure of what you read, and asking yourself questions about the material. Critical reading, comprehension, and speed come from your ability to read with purpose and focus.

Author's Bio: 

Magda Santos is an author, researcher, and learning specialist with over 23 years of experience teaching reading. She has a speed reading informational web site at