6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams


Before going deep into speed reading techniques, let’s first find out how increased speed reading helps you in competitive exams.

Most competitive bank or recruitment exams like SBI PO, RBI Grade B, or IBPS PO are based on the following pattern.

You need to solve 200 questions in 120 minutes or 100 questions in 60 minutes, giving you an average of 35 seconds to solve one question. I.e., it is a race against time. If you even manage to read through all the questions, the chances of your selection increase by ten folds.

There are many questions in English as well as a quantitative section of bank exams where questions are up to 200 words long. Reading the entire question alone takes more than 30 seconds, so students end up taking 1 minute+ to solve it. So an increased reading speed gives you more time to solve a question and, ultimately, more questions in the stipulated time.

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6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams

How to find out your reading speed?

  • Since you have to appear for a computer-based exam, it makes sense to check your reading speed on a computer or laptop (don’t use a mobile).
  • Take any article on the internet and copy it word for word. You will know the number of words in that article.
  • Take a stopwatch (a stopwatch on your phone would do).
  • Start reading the article and press the "start" button.
  • After you finish the article, press the stop button.
  • Now you know the number of words you read and the time it took to read those words.
  • Convert your minute score to seconds.
  • Then divide the number of seconds into the number of words. This is your WPS, or words per second.
  • Multiply this WPS by 60. This figure is your WPM, or words per minute (carry to one decimal place).
  • Here is an example:
    • Suppose you read 2178 words in 9 minutes 30 seconds.
    • Converting minute scores to seconds
    • There are 60 seconds in a minute x 9 minutes of reading = 540 seconds.
    • 540 seconds + 30 seconds = 570 seconds. This is your reading time.
    • 2178 words divided by 570 seconds = 2178/570 = 3.8
    • WPS x 60 seconds = 228 WPM
    • Your reading speed is 228 WPM.
Now that you know your reading speed, let's do a basic comparison of the reading speeds of various types of readers and set a benchmark.

According to a scientific study conducted by Staples, an adult can read at an average reading speed of 300 words per minute.

Reading speeds of various kinds of readers:

  • A school-going child in the 3rd class has a reading speed of 150 wpm (words per minute).
  • An 8th-grade student has a reading speed of 225 wpm.
  • A college student has a reading speed of 300–325 wpm.
  • Speed readers (1000 wpm)
  • World speed reading champion = 4,700 wpm
You might be wondering why the gap between a college student’s reading speed of 300–325 and a speed reader’s 1000 wpm. This gap of 1000 wpm is what "you," the banking exam candidate, need to fill in. If you want to clear any recruitment exam, your speed should be more than 450 and less than 1000 wpm. Why less than 1000? We will get to that in the next few lines.

A reading speed of 450+ words per minute gives you the ability to go through questions in less time and increases the time you get to solve the problem and subsequently read more questions.

When reading speed increases, comprehension decreases:

Here, you should remember that as your reading speed increases, your ability to comprehend decreases. This means that, with increasing speed, your mind starts losing focus on what you are reading and your understanding of the text decreases.

Imagine you are able to read this article, which is around 1000 words, in one minute, but after reading it, you are unable to understand as well as remember the tips written in this article. Would that do any good? No way! Wouldn’t it be better if you could read the article in 2-3 minutes and understand each and every bit of it while you were reading it and remember it after you were done reading it? This is the reason your reading speed should be at an optimum level, which is 450–1000 wpm.

This will help you read faster as well as comprehend everything you have read. Remember, you are not increasing your reading speed to set a world record, you are doing it to decrease the time taken to increase your chances of getting selected in bank recruitment exams. Don’t ever fall into the trap of reading more words at the cost of understanding less.

6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams:

Now that you have a fair idea of the optimum reading speed and your current reading speed, let's dig deeper into how you can increase your current reading speed to this optimum reading speed and clear the banking/recruitment exam with flying colours.

Tip 1: Get rid of the distractions

6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams

Your exam will be conducted in an environment free from distractions. So it makes sense to sit in a quiet room with minimal disturbances for this exercise. This would help you concentrate on the material at hand and, in effect, improve retention.

Tip 2: Stop subvocalizing

6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams

All of us were trained in our schools to read aloud. After we had mastered this skill, we were ordered to say those words inside our heads and read quietly. This reading of the word in our head is known as subvocalizing. It takes time, more time than what is required to comprehend the words. It is almost impossible to go much beyond 200 or 300 words while subvocalizing. So you need to train yourself to read without saying the words in your head.

If you were to read at a rate of 500–1000 words per minute, you would simply see the word and your brain would automatically construct what was written. You will understand the text which you have read in a second, even though it may have taken at least five seconds to say the words in your head.

Tip 3: Practice reading

6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams

This may sound absurd. I mean, reading is what we have been doing since our childhood. However, practising reading doesn’t mean reading. Practice reading means reading faster than you can actually read. At first, you won’t comprehend much of what you are reading because your brain is so used to going at a slower rate and subvocalizing. The point here is to simply see the text faster than you can read so that you can break the habit of sounding out the words as you comprehend them.

You can start doing this by reading a book that you haven’t read before to ensure that your brain is practising instead of relying on memory. Read the maximum number of words in a minute.

Once you get used to practising reading at a high rate that you can’t comprehend, you should slowly be able to comprehend it at a slightly slower rate, but still faster than if you subvocalized.

Tip 4: Skim while you read

6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams

Skimming means going through something very quickly without paying much attention to individual details. This helps you get the gist of the theme of comprehension. Beware that skimming isn’t the same as superficial reading. You should be able to get a fair idea of what the writing is about. After you are done with skimming the paragraph, you can go read the questions and you will find that you can very easily find out from which section of the paragraph the question is asked and answer the complete set of questions in half the time that is generally needed to answer questions of that sort.

Tip 5: Use a pointer

6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams

Your eyes don’t stay fixed on one spot while reading. In fact, your eyes move around considerably while going from left to right while reading a passage.

Use your mouse pointer to mark where you are on the page at all times. It should follow along with the word you are currently reading, slowly scrolling across each line and then back down one. By moving the pointer faster than you can actually read, your eyes get used to viewing text faster than your brain can process what is printed. This will break your subvocalization attachment and can easily let you double your reading rate with sufficient practice. Practice it with your fingers while reading a book or a newspaper too.

Tip 6: Like what you read

6 Speed Reading Tips and Techniques for Competitive Exams

If you are reading a familiar topic, it would be easier to read, and so it would take less time to complete the passage or question. It should be remembered that when faced with unfamiliar topics, you should never try to read faster than you can comprehend, as this will result in having to reread the same passage again and wasting your precious time.


So, friends, this is the end of our reading speed tips and techniques for competitive exams. We hope you have read and understood them and that they will help you pass your upcoming exams.

Make sure to comment on your current reading speed in the comments section below.

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