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Is It Better To Read Slow Or Fast?

Reading fast or slow both has its benefits and problems. Whether you read fast or slow depends on many different factors. You can think about the difficulty of a text, familiarity, and even your state of mind. You can also take into account the time you have to do your reading. The most important factor is your goal. Why are you reading your book and what do you want to do with the information?

When you know your WHY, adjust your reading speed to it. You will read a difficult text a little slower. You read general texts faster. But…

Is It Bad To Read Slowly?

Reading slowly is not a problem. It will become a problem when you read too slowly! This will hinder you from getting the right information from your text. Note that reading slowly isn’t a bad thing. Research shows that if you read slowly you have a better eye for detail, which speed readers might miss. 

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What is considered slow reading? When are you reading too slowly? These are questions you surely thought about before. We are all slow readers when it comes to new or difficult materials. They need more of our attention. Slow reading helps you to digest the information. 

Reading too slow isn’t often a case of reading words slower than normal. Too slow occurs when you re-read too much of your text. When you read your sentence too fast, you have to go back because you did not understand what you read. You may need to go back again to fully understand it. This way you read the sentence 3 times. Your average reading speed is now a lot slower, all because of re-reading. 

Slow deliberate reading with full attention focused on understanding is smart. You could even say that it is a sign of intelligence that you read slowly. You understand that parts of a text need more time and attention. It would be a silly thing to say that slow readers are less intelligent! 

There are other cases where you may read slower. You could be reading in a foreign language. You may not know or understand all the words you read (because of jargon or prior knowledge). Also in this situation, reading slowly doesn’t say anything about intelligence! 

(Read more about the correlation between reading speed and intelligence)

Is reading fast better? Let’s investigate…

Is It Better To Read Faster?

For general reading, many people should be reading faster. This will help them to have more focus. The reason for this is that when you are reading at your normal pace, your inner voice is often distracting you. When you read faster, the volume of that inner voice is reduced (a lot)! This makes it easier to focus on your text. 

Here’s a little experiment you can do right now. Take a book and time yourself reading one page. Read to understand the content. Read in silence. Write down how long it took you to read that page. Now read another page, but this time read it out loud. How long did it take you this time?

Which one was faster? And more importantly, what did you remember from each page? Did you notice that reading out loud made you see each word more clearly? Was there less noise when you read out loud?

For me, reading fast or slow isn’t only about reading a certain number of words per minute. You are a fast reader if you can get your information from your page in less time. You may be reading fast. But if you re-read too many sentences… your reading speed drops significantly! 

Better focus on reading fast by reading every line as few times as possible. 

Here is some good news about reading speed. You will become a faster reader when you read more. The reason for this is simple. You train your eyes more to read. You learn more words so you can go through the text easier. You may even start to enjoy reading 🙂 

All this helps you to become a faster reader. And with faster I mean you don’t simply read more words per minute. You will be able to read faster with better comprehension. This is the true meaning of speed reading! You will be able to extra the right information from your text in as little time as possible.

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One final question about reading faster I receive a lot is this: Is it possible to read 1000 words per minute? Simply reading this fast is possible, but don’t expect to have good comprehension. When you read on new topics this fast, you are surely missing key ideas. 

(Read more about reading with 1000 words per minute here)

How Can I Adjust My Reading Rate To Read Smarter?

The best way to determine your reading rate is by first having a clear goal and by knowing how much time you have. Here is an overview of your reading strategy.

All the time

In a hurry

Reading for knowledge

Skim first, then slow reading and take notes

Skim and mark important ideas, and return to checkmarks to read in more detail

Checking things



For example: If you are in a hurry, but you want to extract important pieces of information… you do this. Start by skimming the text. Do you find something important, relevant, or interesting? Add a checkmark on the sideline. Take no more than 4 to 6 seconds per page. 

After that, you go back and read in more detail what you checked as important. The reason you do it this way is that you first go over the full text. This already gives you a good idea of what you will learn. In the second round, you dip into the text for more detail and context. 


As you can see, reading speed itself is not a fixed thing. You can read parts of your book fast and others slowly. Make sure you don’t read too fast or too slow. You will lose comprehension. You will not understand what you are reading anymore. 

My aim with a text is to retrieve relevant information. This could be by going deep and studying new concepts. It can also be that I only want to check something in a text. Both use different reading speeds. 

When you have a clear goal, you can choose the appropriate reading rate. Make sure you continue to keep moving forward through a text. Don’t start re-reading. You need to give your brain no chance to continue to re-read. This is the one thing that will slow you down! 

Always remember this. Your reading speed is irrelevant if you don’t understand what you read. Start reading for context. Your reading speed will increase automatically when you start reading more. 

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