“Are speed reading courses effective?” is like asking if all fruit is delicious. Some fruit is delicious and some of it not so much. Some people like some sorts of fruit and others don’t. Some speed reading courses are effective, some aren’t. Some make some people happy and other people don’t like those courses. Speed reading courses, on the whole, are very different from each other. However, they do have one underlying goal in common, they want you to read faster.
Some courses are very good at teaching you how to accelerate the level at which you read. Unfortunately, sometimes these courses accomplish this goal by sacrificing comprehension. Reading quickly for no reason other than reading quickly is not a very smart goal. Reading quickly while also retaining a very high level of retention is what we’re really after. Unfortunately, that’s a difficult thing to do effectively. Many courses throw any thought of comprehension out the window because it’s much easier to measure how quickly someone can read. It’s also much more impressive to use in their own marketing materials. Comprehension isn’t flashy. Reading 700 WPM is.
To answer the question at the top of this article you first need to decide what it means to you for a speed reading course to be effective. Is it pure speed your after or speed with comprehension?
All speed reading courses will use similar tactics and technique to force yourself to get outside of your comfort zone. The only way to become a better basketball player is to practice right at the edge of what you’re capable of and what you’re not. Effective teaching is about helping someone find that zone between using their abilities to their fullest extent and pushing them outside their comfort zone. A lot of these techniques are very simple and I recommend you trying them on yourself before investing in a course.
For example, take your finger and run it under the words as you read. Now, move your finger a little bit faster than what you’re usually comfortable with. Force your eyes to keep up with your finger while reading the words. This will force you to read faster and the more you practice it, the more natural it becomes. It’s like working with a running coach that is continually pushing you to go faster. Except your finger is the coach and you aren’t paying anybody to yell at you.
Another way to learn how to read faster is to read groups of words or phrases instead of individual words. A trick of most speed readers is that they read much fewer words than you probably imagine. Instead, they can take a look at a sentence or even a paragraph and snatch the main idea out of the words without digesting each one. This dramatically decreases the amount of time it takes to get through a body of text. And guess what? You can easily practice this on your own. Try to read a sentence at a time instead of a word at a time. Skip over small words like “a”, “the”, and “and”. You know they’re there and you know what they mean. Don’t waste your time on them. The more you practice the more you’ll be able to read at a glance and the faster you’ll be reading.
Speed reading courses may indeed be effective. If you work better with outside motivation then it might be a good idea to invest in a course. However, I’d recommend trying to teach yourself how to read faster first. The internet is an awesome resource for information and the principles behind speed reading are very simple. Develop your own speed reading course and keep your money in your pocket.