Break-Through Rapid Reading

If you’re like most people, you probably read at a rate of about 285 words per minute (WPM). But what if you could read at 500, 1000, or even 2000 WPM? Imagine being able to read your cases in half the time.

It was exactly this possibility that led me to pick up Peter Kump’s Break-Through Rapid Reading over the summer break, a book that promises to dramatically improve your reading speed without degrading comprehension or retention. Kump, the former national director of education for the famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics courses, is well qualified to write this book. He’s spent the last 25 years teaching thousands of people, from White House administrations to corporate giants to regular individuals, this method of rapid reading.

Kump teaches many familiar reading principles, such as using your finger to eliminate retraces (reading the same words multiple times) and reducing subvocalization. He also teaches several techniques which I had never seen before, such as ‘visual’ reading and out-of-order reading, or reading lines both forward and backward as your eyes sweep smoothly across the page.

Here’s one important catch: you cannot hope to improve your reading speed by simply reading this book. Like any other skill, reading is improved by practice&-&-boring, monotonous drills reminiscent of grade school&-&-rather than by a better conceptual understanding of the reading process. To get the results promised in this book, you’ll need to invest 30-60 minutes a day consistently for 4 to 6 weeks. The book is organized into a series of brief lessons, each with a set of short 10-15 minutes of exercises. At the end of each lesson, you must do a series of drills.

After working with Kump’s book for a little over four weeks last summer, I can tell you first-hand that the techniques work. My reading rate soared from 280 WPM to as high as 1,200 WPM (averaging around 900 WPM), depending on the type of reading material. My comprehension dipped at first, but eventually began to approach its original level. And my retention was actually a little better, thanks to some new techniques gleaned from Kump’s book. Had I spent more time practicing over the summer, I’m convinced that I could read as fast as 2000 WPM (some people can fly through easy material like pulp fiction at 5,000 WPM).
And how about those cases? Unfortunately, cases are densely written and full of facts, figures, and subtleties. I’ve found that they’re not nearly as easy to read rapidly as are most books or newspaper and magazine articles. Nevertheless, I’ve still cut by case reading time by 30-40 percent…not a bad ROI.