The most often question I get asked is, "How can I read over 1500 words per minute and still understand, or comprehend the material?" Stated in another form, "Does speed reading really work?" Without writing an entire course, this article will try to answer these questions.

When people question about reading fast and not comprehending, there is a basic misunderstanding of terms. As I've written in previous articles, reading is the mind's response to print. If your mind is not responding when you are applying any speed reading technique, then you are in fact not reading. The word reading, then, always assumes some level of comprehension.

If you have been exposed to some program that teaches you how to move through materials at very high rates in the thousands of words per minute range and you are not comprehending, then the program has failed you. Recently I got an email from someone who told me they had been working with a computerized program and that they had increased their speed to over 2000 words per minute but were not comprehending much and asked if I could help. This was an excellent example of bad, misguided training.

There are two primary aspects of "speed reading." The first is improving the mechanical aspect of reading. That happens with some sort of eye movement techniques. In fact, it is possible to physically move the eyes and see all the words in the material at rates of 10,000 - 100,000 words per minute. Naturally a speed reading program will contain this aspect. But unfortunately, this is about all that is trained, leaving the user frustrated as I so often hear.

The second aspect of speed reading is comprehension. Comprehension is the mind's response to the symbols on the page. In effect, then, reading is thinking. You can read as fast as your mind can respond to the print. So, to truly speed read, you need to learn how to move your mind faster as well.

To answer the question, Does speed reading really work," I say no! You work it! That means there are ways to train your brain to respond differently as you accelerate your speeds. What I have found to work best is to teach learners the mechanics first with some level of comprehension, but letting them relax and not worry about getting(memorizing) as they go thru this initial skill building stage.

After the learner is more comfortable with the physical/mechanical skills, then we build comprehension in a purposeful manner. When the learner has broken out of the old habits they have accumulated in the past, then they are taught how to monitor what the mind is doing as they don't have to think so much about the eye mechanics.

One of the keys to comprehension is preparing the mind for reading. There are a wide assortment of tools to help this phase of training. The comprehension approach breaks the learner out from the traditional left brain approach they learned in early life and engage the whole brain. Or, in other words they learn how to activate the right hemisphere as well. One way of helping to do this is looking thru the material in a manner that gives you the "30,000 foot view" instead of the word-by-word view you were taught when first learning to read.

From that "high" view, you then learn to navigate at various levels depending on you needs and purposes. But remember, comprehension is you. It's your mind's response to print. As your eyes are moving through the material, ask yourself, "what am I thinking about?" If it has nothing to do with the print, you are not reading. You're doing something else, possibly daydreaming, or criticizing yourself. Bring it back to the print. Again, speed reading does not work. You work it! Learn how to build better comprehension. Monitor what your mind is thinking about.

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