There are two main factors affecting your success on the GMAT Reading Comprehension:
1) The rate at which the information you're reading enters your brain.
2) What your brain is able to do with it.
The latter is a composite skill that comes through years of learning and conditioning your brain to act on information. The good news is that the former factor - the speed at which you read -can be seriously improved upon via a few simple technique adjustments. You can learn how to read faster as long as you're willing to put in the practice. Here's how to do it:
Slow readers tend to rely on inefficient reading techniques such as fixation (repetitive reading) and subvocalization (reading softly/in your mind). While repetition in reading can be useful under certain circumstances, it is not well-suited to a standardized testing environment like the LSAT or GMAT. Estimates in the speed-reading industry suggest that 33% of people habitually reread text. Savoring language is great for a languid day of reading, but it's a bad habit for test-taking.
Subvocalization is another common problem that severely restricts reading speed: it takes much longer to actually say a word than it does to simply recognize it and move on. If you are a subvocalizer, it's difficult to force yourself to change your reading method.
If these problems sound familiar (or if you just want to amp up your reading skills), try some of these DIY approaches to improve your reading speed. By practicing these techniques, you can develop a reading method that isn't as time-consuming as your current one. Even modest improvements can have a large cumulative effect on your RC performance:
Simple Speed Reading Exercises
The following exercises employ different approaches, but each has the same underlying goal: to increase your eye span, i.e. to force you to read more words at once than you normally would. The best readers can read entire sentences simultaneously and, more importantly, can process the information contained within them. These exercises all focus on raw speed - but don't read so fast that you're overlooking the all-important comprehension part of RC. Aim to read as quickly as you can while still retaining the information in a passage.
1) The Card Trick
This trick works best with a 4x6 photograph or piece of cardstock: place the photo above the first line of text you are about to read. Then, begin moving the photo down at a steady rate while attempting to read the text before it's covered. This way, you are forced to pay attention on first reading a passage, because you know you won't be able to re-read it, since the line is now covered!
2) The Finger Trick
Place your index finger (or mouse pointer) on the first group of words to be read. Now move your index finger horizontally but not continuously. Instead, hop from point to point in a sentence. This forces you to read words in groups instead of individual words.
3) The Hand Trick
This is similar to the card/photo trick. Put your hand flat against the reading surface, exposing the first line of text to be read above the side of your hand. Move your hand down the page at a regular speed and read the new text while keeping pace with the movement of your palm.
The key to success is practice! For more tips, here are some great resources for improving reading speed:
- Test your starting speed by following this link:
- To really rev up your pace, check out these video lessons: