Commercial speed read programs:
Some businesses selling courses and manuals on speed read claim that it is possible to increase the reading to beyond 10 words per second with full comprehension, provided the course is followed and that the exercises are constantly practiced. However, a good deal of these courses and manuals are conflicting as to why and how speed reading should be adopted as a method. Some other businesses claim that a person can double or triple his/her current speed. So a person reading at 2 words per second (the average rate for untrained adult readers), can take a speed reading course and learn how to read at 5 to 7 words per second while maintaining, or even improving comprehension. One point of contention between the various speed reading courses is the assertions concerning subvocalization. Some courses claim that the main obstacle to speed reading is any form of subvocalization. Other courses claim that subvocalization can be used on keywords in order to speed up learning and reading. Some proponents of speed reading claim that subvocalization can be broken down into two levels, only one of which will reduce reading speed. Speed reading courses and books take a variety of approaches to the concept of reading comprehension. Some courses and books claim that good comprehension is essential to speed reading, and that comprehension will improve with speed reading. Special non-standardized reading comprehension questionnaires are provided in order to convince the reader of the effects of the program. Some courses advise that while comprehension is important, it should not be measured or promoted. Speed reading courses variously claim that not all information in text needs to be covered while speed reading. Some claim that speed read involves skipping text (exactly as has been measured during studies on skimming), whereas other speed reading promoters claim that all of the text is processed, but with some or most becoming subconsciously processed. Similarly, some courses claim that text should be serially processed whereas others say that information should be processed in a more haphazard or ad hoc fashion.
Real life speed readers:
According to some speed reading advocates, the World Championship Speed Reading Competition stresses reading comprehension as critical, and that the top contestants typically read around 1000 to 2000 words per minute with approximately 50% comprehension. The 10,000 word/min claimants have yet to reach this level. Much controversy is raised over this point. Speed read advocates claim that it is a great success and even state that it is a demonstration of good comprehension for many purposes. The trade-off between “speed” and comprehension must be analyzed with respect to the type of reading that is being done, the risks associated with mis-understanding due to low comprehension, and the benefits associated with getting through the material quickly and gaining information at the actual rate it is obtained.
Software for Speed Read:
Computer programs are available to help instruct speed reading students. A number of speed reading programs use different approaches. These programs present the data as a serial stream, since the brain handles text more efficiently by breaking it into such a stream before parsing and interpreting it. To increase speed, some older programs required readers to view the center of the screen while the lines of text around it grew longer. They also presented several objects (instead of text) moving line by line or bouncing around the screen; users had to follow the object(s) with only their eyes. A number of researchers criticize using objects instead of words as an effective training method, claiming that the only way to read faster is to read actual text. Many of the newer speed reading programs use built-in text, and they primarily guide users through the lines of an on-screen book at defined speeds. Often the text is highlighted to indicate where users should focus their eyes; they are not expected to read by pronouncing the words, but instead to read by viewing the words as complete images. The exercises are also intended to train readers to eliminate subvocalization, an auditory phenomenon that can impede users’ abilities to achieve high reading rates.
Skimming is a high speed reading process and involves visually searching the sentences of a page for clues to meaning. It is conducted at a higher rate (700 wpm plus) than normal reading for comprehension (around 200-230 wpm)(sometimes known as rauding), and results in lower comprehension rates, especially with information-rich reading material. Skimming on its own should not be used when complete comprehension of the text is the objective. Skimming is mainly used when researching and getting an overall idea of the text. Speed read courses which teach techniques that largely constitute skimming of written text also result in a lower comprehension rate (below 50% comprehension on standardized comprehension tests).