Speed Reading Techniques and Mind Maps...

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Using Mind Maps and Speed Reading Techniques well go hand in hand. Tony Buzan, the inventor of the Mind Map, has a whole book,

Speed Reading: Third Edition (Plume)

, dedicated to reading. He demonstrates clearly and succinctly the latest Speed Reading Techniques

and he combines this with Mind Maps to ensure that you get the maximum results from your reading efforts by engaging the whole brain.

Let's explore how using Mind Maps when reading can not only help you read faster, but also comprehend better and remember more.

Reading since childhood

'We have been reading since childhood; so why the need for an article on reading?' you might ask.

To answer this question, we have to go back to the way we have been taught to read.

Most, if not all of us, have been taught using the phonetic method. We were taught to 'sound out' the words as we read them.

Once we could do this, at about seven or eight years old, we were left to our own devices.

The method that you use today, is probably still the one you were taught in Grade 1!
'So what?' you may ask again. 'Does this affect my ability to read and understand the material that I have to read?'

Yes, it definitely does! This article will explore some of the methods that could improve your reading speed, your comprehension and your memory. More importantly, it will show you what's possible.

The basic Speed Reading Techniques in this article can be applied immediately, without extensive training or hours of hard work, yet it lays the foundation for advanced Speed Reading Techniques

by highlighting some important principles.

The current method

Typically, most people say the words to themselves as they read. As you were initially taught to 'sound' the word as you read, when you started to read silently to yourself you continued in the same vein.

At the age of about seven, you were assessed and once it was evident that you could recognise the words, you were left on your own to read silently to yourself.

No further reading skills were taught to you since then. You are therefore probably still reading the way you did when you were seven years old!

Faults with current methods

Listen to the people around you speaking. How well do they speak? How well do you speak?

And the reason we ask this is...You speak to yourself when you read!'

You will therefore read only as fast as, or as well as, you speak!

If you are a slow speaker, you will probably read slowly.

When last have you read aloud?

Speeds possible

Now that you know that your reading speed is linked to your talking speed, you need to learn how to read at speeds that are above your talking speed - or increase your talking speed, if you want to increase your reading speed.

The current world speed reading champion reads at 3850 words per minute. To attain such a high reading speed, it's obvious that he cannot be reading at talking speeds.

This article introduces you to methods that enable you to read at higher speeds that you thought were possible. You don't have to read at over 3000 words per minute to realise the benefits of better reading methods, but the methods that we are showing you are the same methods used by the top speed reading champions.

Benefits of improving your reading skills

By using the techniques we teach you, you will not only increase your reading speed, but also your comprehension.

More importantly though, you will remember more of what you read.

Recognising Words

Think how you have reached the level at which you are now reading. You started by learning the sounds of the letters. Once you could recognise the letters you progressed to the sounding out of smaller words and then syllables, followed by whole words.

Today, when you read a word, you simply recognise not only the sound, but also its meaning without having to sound out letters or syllables unless the word is a very difficult one.

Even if the word is a difficult one and you don't know the meaning, you often get the meaning from the context. In fact, very few people go to the dictionary when they get a word that they don't understand. They simply read on. Only if they can't get the meaning from the context, do they look up the word.

The more you work on your vocabulary, the more words you will be able to recognise, the more you will understand the faster you will read.

Recognising Groups of Words

Without realising it, many people actually recognise groups of words, especially words that are often used together. The more you work on recognising groups of words the faster you will read.

Recognising Whole Sentences and more

The top readers actually recognise whole sentences with one glance. 'Impossible!' you might say, but without being able to do this, the top readers will never be able to achieve the speeds they do. In fact the very best readers even remember whole paragraphs and even pages!

Example of the brain's recognition ability

'Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe'

Most people will be able to read the above and with continued training YOU can learn to recognise more and more as you read.

Reading Patterns

If you look at a normal person's reading pattern, you will notice that the eyes do not move fluidly over the material. The eye moves in a number of jerky movements across the page. It almost stops at a number of points along the way. These stops are called fixations. Without any further training, the eye normally fixates on a word at a time.

Often the eye focuses backwards and forwards along the way, re-reading what it has already read. This back-skipping is called regression.

Eliminating regression can already improve your reading speed dramatically.

Controlling eye movements

Let's go back in time again; back to when you first started to read. The natural instinct when first reading was to put your finger on the page. You were immediately told to take your finger off the page, as it slows you down. How do they know it slows you down? Do they have any specific evidence? Wouldn't it be logical to tell you to speed up your finger, if they wanted you to read faster?
There is a reason that you use your finger in the first place. It keeps you focused and prevents you from 'losing your place.' Most people use their fingers when looking up a number in the telephone directory, or adding numbers in a list, or looking for a word in a dictionary, but as soon as they read, they remove their finger!

Yet the easiest way to control your eye movements is by simply using a pointer. And the pointer that you always have with you is...your finger!

By simply moving your finger smoothly along the sentence as you read you will automatically increase your reading speed. Some people find that this method alone can double their reading speed! If you use a thinner pointer, like a knitting needle or chopsticks, you can improve even more as the eye can fixate on the surrounding words as well.

This skill can be re-learned in about an hour, as it is something that you probably did as a child. As time goes on, start moving your guide only across the middle part of the sentence. With dedication and practice, you can even progress to moving the pointer shorter and shorter distances.

The top speed readers can simply slide their pointer down the page!

You don't have to worry if you don't get there. By simply using a pointer, you will already make sufficient progress.


There is a strong link between your vocabulary and your success in school, university and later, work.

Vocabulary ranges

If you don't read, you won't improve your vocabulary. It's as simple as that!

Reading for leisure is one of the surest ways to increase your vocabulary. Most adults use a very small vocabulary in their everyday speech. This is most likely not sufficient to help you increase your vocabulary.

We actually have three types of vocabulary:

  • Speaking Vocabulary
  • Writing Vocabulary
  • Recognition Vocabulary
Of the three, our speaking vocabulary is the smallest. As we spend more time thinking when writing, we often use a wider vocabulary range.

Recognition of words is far greater than the words we use in reading or writing. We can recognise words and their meaning even if we never use them in our speaking or writing endeavours.

Studies show that people living in poorer communities, or people living in communities with a lower general level of schooling, actually feel embarrassed to use 'big words'. In fact they may even be ridiculed for using those words.

Growing your vocabulary and your understanding of the structure of language and words will make the learning of any material much easier.

Reading Goals

Having a reading goal is the best way to kick start your concentration when reading.

Here are a few questions you can ask before you start your reading session:

  • Why am I reading this?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • How do I achieve this?
  • How will I know when I've achieved this?
  • When must this be complete?
This is just a sample of questions you can ask, but by knowing the goals for the reading or study session will ensure that your comprehension and retention is maximised.

Today, many education systems use an 'outcomes based' approach, which defines the goals upfront.

Using Mind Maps when reading can help you define your outcomes or your goals before you start reading. This will provide 'hooks' for the brain to attach the information to as you read.

Retention and Recall

Retention and Recall go hand in hand. An important fact to note is that retention without recall is useless. You have to test whether your retention strategies are working by practicing recall.

Key Words - Single Most important skill

We believe that learning the use of Key Words is the single most important skill that you need to learn if you want to maximise your reading efforts.

In standard note taking, more than 90% of the words written contribute nothing to remembering the material being studied. Most of the words form part of the supporting structure of the sentences and has nothing to do with its meaning. E.g. recording the following fact: 'The speed of light has now been determined to be about 300 000km/s', can simply be written as 'Light Speed: 300 000km/s'.

Key Words, simply put, are words which provide the Key to understanding, remembering and recalling a passage. In many cases a single word can trigger the recall of whole paragraphs of information.

Learning to use Key Words can be a challenge initially, but learning how to use them is definitely worth the effort.

When choosing Key Words, ensure that the Key Words are good 'recall words' and not 'creative words.' If you look at your notes days, weeks and even months later, the Key Words should enable you to recall the information accurately.

Only by constant application and persistence will you master the art of Key Word selection.

As an exercise, take a few paragraphs of any text and try to reduce it to as few words as possible, while still retaining its meaning.

Reading Steps

We cover the steps you should take when reading your study material in our study methods section. For now, we would just like you to focus on one simple step, 'Survey'.

Always survey your work before reading. Some call this step 'Preview'. This is like a land surveyor checking out the lie of the land before making any further excavations.

When surveying your work, look at what is to be covered. Read quickly over any headings and even sub-headings. Look at pictures, graphs, tables etc., as well as anything else that catches your eye.

Check if there are any 'learning outcomes' stated upfront. Are there any summaries at the end?

This will give you an idea of the style of the author, as well as the structure of the text.

Spend no more than 5-10 minutes on this, no matter how large the volume of work is. Typically, you would cover the material that you are going to study in the current study session.

Once you have done this, you will have given your brain an unbelievable head start.

Now do a Mind Map Overview of the material. We cover this in the article on How to Mind Map a text book.

You will now have a Memory Map for your reading efforts.

This article serves only to give you a taste for what's possible. There are many advanced techniques that can take your reading levels to unbelievable heights. Tony Buzan's Speed Reading: Third Edition (Plume)

covers this in great detail. Click here to learn about our unique Learning Management Program...

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