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Is Speed Reading Just Skimming?

Speed reading is not just skimming. When you skim through a text, you glance over a text to find important or needed information. When you are speed reading, you use a set of reading tactics to go through a text faster. This is not done to read faster, but to comprehend the text faster. 

In skimming, you are not reading everything. Your eyes move through the text. Your brain tells you where to stop a quickly read parts of it. Usually, this is done to understand the general direction or information in a text. You are not looking for details. You are reading or skimming through a text to find out what is written. This could help you decide if you should read this text in more detail. 

Let’s explore more how skimming and speed reading are related (because they are)…

Is Skimming The Same As Speed Reading?

Skimming and speed reading are related. First, have a look at the different types of reading. These are:

  • Scanning
  • Skimming
  • Speed Reading
  • Active Reading
  • Comprehensive Reading

The 5 types of reading we have a look at are listed by their speed. Scanning is the fastest way to read. Comprehensive reading is the slowest one. Note that this is only listing them by their words per minute (wpm). This does not mean one is better than the other. It depends on what your goal is which one you choose to use. 

Skimming is faster than speed reading. The reason for this is that in speed reading you read every word. Skimming lets you jump through the text to get a general idea of what is written. You don’t see every word. You focus on the highlights. When you do this, you can summarize what a text is about. 

This shows you, in a nutshell, the goal of skimming. The purpose is to learn what you can expect when you read in more detail.  When you want to have an idea of how fast skim reading is… You can skim about 1000 words per minute. As you now know, this is different from speed reading…

Speed reading speed

What Is Considered Speed Reading?

Most people feel they are genuinely speed reading when they read at least 1000 words per minute. For me, speed reading is everything between 400 and 800 words per minute. Reading with over 800 words per minute is no longer proper reading. The comprehension drops significantly over 700 to 800 words per minute. 

I would not consider it reading when comprehension drops too much. You start skimming at that point. 

As you can see, speed reading is not as fast as skimming. The difference is besides speed, a matter of comprehension and detail you get from the text. 

Note that this does not mean that you could not be speed reading at 1000+ words per minute. With enough training and focus, I am sure people can read this fast with good comprehension. 

I tell my clients and students to think about how much time and energy they want to use to speed up their reading. Let’s say you can increase your reading speed by 50% (from 200 to 300 words per minute) in a few hours… That would be amazing for most people.

You could save 20 minutes every hour when reading! A 500-word text can be read in less than 2 minutes this way.

Even if you feel you are a slow reader, you should not be worried. I know many people who are “slow readers” who are good at comprehending what they read. And it still works wonders for them if they increase their speed by 5-10%!

 Read more: Is Speed Reading Actually Possible? 

How Can I Read Faster Without Skimming?

When you want to read faster, most people will start by skimming first. That is perfectly fine. You should investigate what you read before you dive into a text. Skimming gives you a good idea of what you will read. This helps you determine if you should read the text, and which parts are important. 

When you like to read faster, you can start by… reading faster. This can be done by not re-reading sentences. Don’t allow yourself to re-read. This will decrease the time you are reading. At the same time, you will train yourself to be a more confident reader. This is what lacks most people who re-read sections. A side effect is that your focus will improve. After all, you are no longer allowed to re-read. 

The next method you should start developing is reading every word. This may sound strange. You probably feel you are reading every word already… But believe me, you aren’t! You miss words (a lot). Start guiding your eyes through the text. Use a pen or your finger to point to all the words you read. By guiding your eyes through the text, you will not be distracted by other words that much. 

When you start reading these 2 simple methods, your reading speed will improve. The more important thing is that you will increase your comprehension! And this is what it is all about! Go through your text faster by getting the right information from it in a shorter time. 


Speed reading is not just skimming. They are both very good tactics for getting information from a text. Skimming helps you to get the general idea from a text. Speed reading will help you comprehend texts faster. There is a difference in speed. Skimming is usually faster than speed reading. 

Talking about how fast you can read, you need to understand this. Skimming is done at speeds of 1000+ words per minute. Speed reading is usually between 400 and 800 words per minute. Any faster than 800 words per minute results in lower comprehension. 

Next time you want to read faster, try them both. Start skimming through a text to find the general outline. Next, train yourself in speed reading (or faster reading), and read the entire text. You will be able to add the details to the general idea you already got from the text easier. Also, you will not be thrown off guard by new concepts discussed in the text.

And as always, let me know if you have any questions. 

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