It is claimed that some of the best speed-reading courses can improve reading speed by two, three, or even four times, it can increase productivity at work, and is a way for students to gallop through those tedious text books. Therefore, speed reading online courses can certainly work.

However, besides speed, it’s also important to ensure that you retain comprehension during reading, and many online courses fail at teaching this. Can you imagine a medical student, for instance, speed-reading a text book on brain tumour removal, or a heart surgeon speed-reading the manual for fitting a pacemaker? No, nor can I, so speed-reading can’t be for everybody.

Real speed-reading should include ‘speed comprehension’ – it’s all well and good to speed-read, but do you understand fully what you have read?

Speed-reading is really ‘skimming’, which means you take the main ideas from the written page without reading all the words. You look for and grab the words that appear to give the main meaning, and you are basically skimming to read when time is short or when you need to understand the basic ideas but not all the peripheral details of an article or book, and for this reason your reading comprehension drops when you skim.

However, it appears that trained (note the word ‘trained’ here) speed readers have a slight advantage in both comprehension and speed to untrained skimmers. It is thus suggested by experts that speed-reading is most useful to those who need “to skim a large amount of material or need to improve their study skills” and less useful to those who read “highly technical material that requires careful study of each sentence”,which to me means it is useful for revision purposes but not full understanding.

I love to read, and half the pleasure of reading is setting time aside to sit quietly somewhere, away from the television or radio, and immerse myself in the written story, and get the most out of what the author has spent a lot of time creating.

I can’t imagine speed-reading being of any use to me – though I have to put my hand up to sometimes ‘skimming’ over perceived boring bits to get back to the meat of the story!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan