Ace the LET! How to improve reading speed and comprehension

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Many people can read, but only a few realize that reading is a skill that can be improved with practice. Reading utilizes our fine motor skills (eye movement) and our ability to absorb information. Expertly combining these two can give people advantages in their day-to-day activities. For those in the profession of teaching or writing, excellent readings skills are necessary to lead the pack.

Our reading skills are put to the test when we take an exam. The LET is one such test, and it challenges us to read fast and read well at the same time. Here are some tips for improving reading speed and comprehension that you can incorporate in your training for the LET:

1. Train like an athlete

The secret of the world’s top athletes lies not in their rigid training program or their top trainer. The secret is self-discipline.

Emulate athletes and religiously follow a reading routine. Read every day to train your eye muscles, at least 15 to 30 minutes a day. Create a reading list that progresses in reading difficulty, from easy fiction pieces to more technical works, to elevate your comprehension and increase your confidence. Test yourself from time to time with sample exams and time yourself so you can track your progress and continuously raise the bar of your performance. Commit to this routine until the day of the LET, and follow the footsteps of great athletes like Michael Jordan who rose to the top with hard work and discipline.

2. Condition yourself for reading

Set aside a specific time every day, say, half an hour after breakfast, or 30 minutes before going to sleep, for your reading practice. Having a set schedule will help you develop a habit, and eventually this habit will stick.

Create the atmosphere that you need for reading. Eliminate distractions such as music, television, internet and focus on the text. For extra ease, Dr. Richard Feldman of Columbia University recommends propping up reading materials by 45 degrees to avoid eye strain.

3. Eliminate “inefficiencies” to speedy reading

Speed reading is hindered by bad reading habits that we accumulated over time. Some of these are prolonged fixations (snapshot of the text within focus area), back-skipping (subconscious rereading) and regression (conscious rereading). These bad reading habits take up precious time, and taking them out of your system can help you read three times faster.

Maximize fixation time

Training your eye muscles is important in increasing reading speed. The faster your eyes gloss over the text, the quicker you will finish reading.

A tip: Use a pencil or pen as a tracker and pacer to train your eyes to read per line faster. Underline each line of the text and keep your eyes at the tip of the pen while doing so. Aim to finish underlining each line in one second, and in subsequent trials half of a second. Do not worry that you won’t understand what you are looking at, since the main goal of this exercise is to adapt your muscles to quick horizontal movement.

Avoid subvocalization

Subvocalization is reading with lips moving or listening to yourself reading inside your head. This habit is actually very useful for stimulating comprehension, but it also tends to limit reading speed. This reading habit makes use of several faculties—eyes, ears, and lips—and thus needs more energy and attention from the brain. Experts say that an effective way to stop yourself from subvocalizing is preoccupying your mouth, say by chewing gum or candy.

4.  Ask questions about the text, and answer them too

Speed reading is not the end goal of your reading practice; the ultimate goal is reading better at a faster rate. And while reading speed can be a matter of technique, reading comprehension is also a skill that can be enhanced with practice. Reading texts of varying difficulties can help, as it broadens your knowledge and helps you get familiar with the different structures, themes and motifs of texts.

To know whether you really understood a text, test yourself. Ask questions about a text and see if you can answer them. You can also take your cue from questions in sample LET exams to prepare yourself for possible exam scenarios.

Follow these tips to speed up your reading without sacrificing comprehension. With regular reading practice, you will certainly read faster and better in time for the LET!

To get more detailed tips on reading faster, read this article by Tim Ferris published in the Huffington Post.

Ace the LET! is a MindGym blog segment that features easy and practical steps in preparing, studying, and taking the LET. This segment will also compile tips from your MindGym coaches, and useful materials that you can use to achieve your LET goals, and ultimately, to finish at the top!

About Mo/am Alice

As Education Administrator/Director of MindGym, she tackles the center’s day-to-day affairs and gives its learners the warmth, care, and support that only the “heart” could afford to deliver. As one of the main coaches for MindGym’s Intensive Coaching for LET, she infuses practical lessons not only for LET success but for life as a teacher. She vows to be a lifelong learner. Follow her on Twitter.

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