Ten most common speedreading mistakes

This blog was originally built to address the most common and recurring problems of my students. As we learn and improve our materials, our students also improve and make different mistakes. In this post, I want to address ten of the most common speedreading mistakes I currently find with our students.

  1. Ignoring PAO. A person performing an action on an object is the most common and intuitive form of visualization. One word within a text is typically not sufficient to convey meaning, 3 words are. The first word should be visualized as a person, the second as an action, the third as an object. Always use the simplest word fro the action and the hardest for the object. When you need to remember numbers, do not use the professional 6-digits PAO: start with 10 people, 10 actions, 10 objects and upgrade only if you need to.
  2. Choosing not enough words. When choosing words you need to visualize, do not choose one word per paragraph. Typically we need 6-12 words per paragraph. Write down the words you have chosen to visualize and try to recreate the text using just them. If you fail, you need more words.
  3. Not rereading texts. To be honest 70% of the time I just preread text, very fast (at 5000wpm 20% retention). Occasionally I reread the text for comprehension, slowly (at 1500wp 85% retention). Sometimes I still miss some key ideas, I skim the text focusing only on the information I need. Then I may want to memorize the structure of the text and I scan the text with my eyes (at 10000wpm 10% retention). This is just one of the rereading strategies. I use ~10 different strategies based on the text. I cannot stress this enough: if you failed to understand or memorize the article read again and read differently.
  4. Using complex visualizations. Visualizations that are too elaborate are slow. Your visualizations need to be fast, so basically use the first spontaneous visual association you have. The first couple of weeks of training we encourage you to generate very specific visualizations to prime your mind into generating this sort of imagery. If your spontaneous visual associations are not good enough, you are welcome to repeat the training.
  5. Reinventing visualizations. Most of the time for most of the situations we reuse the same visualizations as a sort of visual dictionary. Each word gets its own visualization. If you come up with a different visualization spontaneously, you are welcome to use it but do not force yourself to be original each time you have something to remember. You can distinguish between visualization by context within the PAO, mindmap or memory palace you use. You can also add thematic details based on the subject of the text you read.
  6. Suppressing subvocalization too early. When I learned with Anna she made sure I can memorize 20 words in 1 min before she allowed me to suppress subvocalization. If you speed up your reading before you can visualize faster than you speak, you will loose the text comprehension. With time your retention may catch up, or you may get used to reading texts without understanding them. This is a huge gamble.
  7. Emphasis on speed rather than comprehension. You should be able to comprehend and remember what you read well before speeding up. If you take a text you do not understand, do not expect speedreading to solve the problem. It is better to use the extra time to analyze the text and connect it to your body of knowledge than to read the text slowly. In any case comprehension and retention take priority higher than the speed, otherwise, while bother reading the text?
  8. Skipping notetaking. Do take notes when you read the text. Use google sheets, a piece of paper or whatever works for you. You can do it at the end of a meaningful section or chapter or when you take the Pomodoro break. You will remember the thing you write down and review much better than the rest of the text.
  9. Not stopping at the end of each section. At the end of each section of 2-3 paragraphs stop briefly and make sure you understand what you just read. Use the time for some intellectual activity: creative thinking about using the new information, critical thinking and facts-checking, organization of the new information in your head, emotional reaction to the content, technical analysis of the style. Choose one or two activities from the list. The activity needs to be meaningful and relevant to the new information you acquired by reading. A couple of sec are typically enough for meaningful processing of the text.
  10. Not using the resources. We make resources for you to use because we think you really need them.
    • Do search this blog if you have a question: with more than 500 articles we have, it is very hard to find something otherwise.
    • Apply (mail to [email protected]) for the mobile app beta testing: the experience is significantly better than using the website.
    • See if you can find articles you enjoy in https://www.reddit.com/r/keytostudy/. These articles have been chosen for a good balance of an interesting and complex subject and clear informative text.
    • The 1:1 with Anna is expensive but well worth the money. If you want to apply, the best time is the third week of independent training. Do not attept to finish the training and apply afterward.

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