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Why Should Speed Reading and Comprehension Go Together?

When you study (or read a lot), you must have heard about speed reading. People who do this read with a thousand plus words per minute. They flip pages like you are breathing in and out. How is this possible?

How can people still comprehend what they read? Is there a relationship between reading speed and comprehension? Let’s investigate!

Speed reading seems to be the best thing you should learn when studying. After all, when you can double or even quadruple the number of words you read… you will be able to study faster (and have more personal time). Now that sounds amazing, right? This is something you should be doing.

But then… you probably have doubts about what you will understand. Is reading faster helping you to understand your books better? Let me tell you this upfront…

Yes, reading faster helps you to comprehend more. But this doesn’t work indefinitely. There is an optimal speed. Here is what you should know…

What is the connection between reading speed and comprehension?

Speed reading is like watching a movie faster. You can probably understand most of it, but you probably lose some details. When you train yourself to watch movies faster, you can become better at it.

Still, when you watch a movie when there is a lot of difficult dialogue, you may miss key ideas.

Usually, people would think that the relationship between reading speed and comprehension looks like this:

perceived reading speed vs comprehension

This looks logical. After all, when you read faster, you are more likely to miss certain things. When you start training yourself in reading faster, you will actually see that reading faster will improve your understanding!

That’s right… reading faster helps you to comprehend more!

But this doesn’t go on forever. After a certain speed, you will quickly see your comprehension drop. The above figure looks something like this in real life:

real life reading speed vs comprehension


Can you speed-read and comprehend at the same time?

Yes, you can most definitely read faster and comprehend at the same time. In fact, you can probably say that reading slower than what you do now is not helping you comprehend.

A lower reading speed gives your brain more time to get distracted. Reading slower helps you to comprehend less. Reader faster improves understanding. 

Let’s investigate this: What happens when you start reading just a little bit faster? I’m not talking about reading 50% faster. Just aim for 1-5% faster. Do you think you will miss out on details? 

I truly believe you will read better than before. You will remember more and understand the text better. The simple reason for this is not your increased reading speed. It is simply because you are (mostly) less distracted! 

A focused mind is able to do much more than a mind that is all over the place! Make sure you keep your eyes (literally) on the prize. This helps you to read faster and still comprehend better at the same time!

How can I increase my reading speed without losing comprehension?

This is going to be a fun section! How can you increase your reading speed and still understand what you read? Here is a quick overview of 3 important things to do: focus, have a clear goal, and increase your speed a little.

The first thing to do is start reading with focus. This means that when you read, you only do the reading. No phone, internet, people, or any other distractions. You don’t even take time to take notes while you are reading.

View reading like this as downloading the information from your book. When you do many other things at the same time, you decrease the speed of downloading (comprehension).  

A simple way to do this is by removing your distraction!

Always have a goal when you read. What is it that you want to get from it? Do you have questions you like to have an answer to? Do you want to see how a story develops? Or are you looking for ways to disprove an idea someone talked with you about?

You can write down your questions upfront, but you can also get ideas by going through a manual, or syllabus, or by simply skimming the text before you read. 

The third thing you should be doing to read faster with the same (or better) comprehension is simply reading faster! That’s right, read faster. Don’t start reading too fast. Increase your reading speed by 5% or so, just slightly faster. Aim for feeling a little bit uncomfortable.

When that happens, you are read fast enough. The trick in this is that you will read faster, and feel slightly uncomfortable, and through this, you will focus better. This improves your understanding 🙂


Many people still think that increasing your reading speed will decrease your comprehension. Fortunately, this is not the case. I’ve seen over and over that an increase in reading speed helps people to understand more. 

So if you want to comprehend more while reading, you can use the tips above and reduce your reading time today! Start reading with more focus and more intent. The result will be a better comprehension (and you will save time as well).

Questions? Let me know so I can help you become a more efficient learner!

The Productive

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