Sunday, March 9, 2014

12. Acceleread Intermediate Course Lesson 5, 6, 7, 8

I nearly finished the Intermediate Course over a month ago, but life became busy and I didn't complete it.  My plan now is to redo the Intermediate Course from the beginning in order to refresh my skills, and then finish out the 10 lessons with a new speed test.

During this past month's hiatus from training, I find that the skills have definitely stayed with me in practical application. My eyes flick through paragraphs rather effortlessly.  Detail-oriented material is consumed quickly.  And I can skim very rapidly.

Now when I read an article or the like, I start at a slow speed for the first few words to get my mind in gear, and then almost automatically my eyes speed up and I devour the whole paragraph or entire article right away! Very interesting that this has become automatic, and stayed that way.

Below are the brief notes I took the first time around.  I'll be back with the conclusion at Lesson 10.

Lesson 5 concentrates on eye muscle strength. I didn't feel completely comfortable yet after I had finished, so I repeated it the next day as suggested in the instructions.

Lesson 6 states that the expectation is to be able to keep up visually, and to be able to comprehend more.  My impression is that all these training programs seek to push the reader to the limits of physical ability, and let comprehension catch up in its own time through exposure to the fast-paced delivery.  It seems like a good plan!

Lesson 7 re-introduces variable speeds, as occurred in the Beginner Course, but at a faster level.

Lesson 8 integrates skills from various lessons.  At this point, comprehension should be catching up, and it is. The pace should still be challenging; if the reader finds he is recognising many words, he should repeat the lesson.  Columns highlighter is now just two columns, 812 wpm.  Very hard to flick back and forth!  But a little easier than with three.  It's hard to focus on the middle one when there are three.

Lesson 9 recommends that the reader should be able to keep up with the guide, recollect words, and comprehend more.  The reader should be able to recognise larger groups of words at once.  I find that columns is a little too fast.  I feel the need to repeat from a few lessons back, or the whole Intermediate Course to reinforce.

I'll be back with review of Lesson 10 once I redo the Intermediate course!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

11. Acceleread Intermediate Course Lesson 2, 3, & 4


While the previous lesson focused on eliminating subvocalization, this one concentrates on discouraging regression.  The introduction notes that the reader will probably not be able to keep up with the story.  That sure was right!  Very fast.  The exercises included Word Flash three times, Columns Highlighter, and Diamond Highlighter.  The final Word Flash went at a rate of 915 WPM by the end!  Super fast.  Still, nearly possible to keep up!  It's a well designed program, meant to take the reader beyond his current limits, like any good training regimen.


This lesson continues to focus on reducing subvocalization and regression to ensure a strong foundation.  The introduction warns that the exercises will be yet faster than Lesson 2, and advises to view the words at images and silence the inner voice.  The goal is to read for speed to adapt the eye muscles to the task.

The initial Word Flash went from the 850s into the 900 WPM range, but was not too bad.  I read Jefferon's letters at that speed now.  But Columns Highlighter, although starting only at 650 and ending in the 700s, was too fast!  And yet, I'm reading The Three Musketeers at 800 WPM or more no problem with the same Columns Highlighter tool, with five columns and five-word chunk sizes. The issue I am having with this and last lesson's Columns Highlighter exercise is that the work chunks are rather small.  Thus, even at a lower WPM rate, the my eyes have to flick so fast that I don't have time (or sufficient training, I should say) to see the middle columns' words at all.  This no doubt is to cause the reader to adapt; and rather than keep the same format for higher speeds, I predict that the word chunks will increase in size, and thus increase WPM rate; but the hard work of the major eye movement training will be over.  Quite ingenious, it seems.  I resolve then to practice this style of word chunk size and rate, with three columns, and familiar text, in order to adapt.


For Lesson 4, the goal is to learn rapid refocus and to decrease fixation intervals.  As the introduction mentions, it was quite hard to keep up in comprehension; I did my best just to practice for speed, as advised.  The exercises were much the same as what has come before, just faster.

I have noticed that I apply the techniques that I've been training with very automatically now to most reading.  If I'm reading to relax, I tend not to put the full weight of concentration behind it, and default to slow reading.  But speeding up over more inconsequential material is now much easier.  Very vital skills!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

10. Acceleread Intermediate Course Lesson 1

Immediately after my successful completion of the Beginner Course in Acceleread, I move on to the Intermediate Course.  The intro to Lesson 1 reminds me of the Lesson 1 to the Beginner Course: emphasis on technique not comprehension, etc.  Here were the exercises:

Word Flash: Ranging from 631-730 WPM with 2-word chunks, it felt very quick!  Hard to keep up, but not impossible.  I sometimes read a Thomas Jefferson letter at starting at 1000 WPM and still follow all right.

Columns Highlighter: That felt insanely fast!  It started at 578 WPM and ended around 640 WPM, but because there were just three columns of only a word or two each, my eyes really had to blitz to keep up.  Whoo!

Word Flash again at 681-754 WPM.  I can keep up with the story!

Columns Highlighter once more: 627 652

A really odd thing with this lesson's Columns Highlighter is that, because of the speed and my level of concentration, my eyes flick back and forth, and I don't see the motion of the columns scrolling up hardly at all.  Just the back and forth darker text highlighting from left to right almost like the red lights on KITT from Knight Rider.

Word Flash one more time, 631-760 WPM.  This is getting fun!

I look forward to Lesson 2. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

9. Acceleread Lesson 8, 9, & 10

Acceleread Lesson 8 is 7 min long, and consists of Hopscotch, Columns Highlighter, Hopscotch again, Sight Stretcher, and Word Flash exercises.  Nothing too new here besides increasing speed and increasing word chunk size generally.  The Columns Highligher this time had only two columns, at a speed less than 600 WPM (well below my regular practice speed); but the word chunks were of a size that made quick comprehension challenging.  I suppose that is the point — for although I had expected later exercises to have more columns (which is how I practiced speed reading with The Time Machine and continue to do so with The Three Musketeers), to my surprise is was the opposite, which I suppose makes sense for the sake of training.  In this sense, the Columns Highlighter and Hopscotch are beginning to merge in style and speed.  Very interesting!

Acceleread Lesson 9 is also 7 min long, integrating previous lessons' objectives, and exhorts the reader to process larger groups of words at once.  It's exercises are Hopscotch, Columns Highlighter, Hopscotch again, Sight Stretcher, and Word Flash.  It is an extension of what was exercised in the last lesson, so there is nothing new to report.

Impatient to wait for the final day, I've decided to take on Lesson 10 right away.  I can always repeat it if I feel it was too soon to dive into it.  My curiosity to too strong to wait and see.

Lesson 10 is a full 10 min.  First was Word Flash at about 560-590 WPM.  Then came  520-520 WPM Columns Highlighter.  Hopscotch was a full 2 minutes at about 230 WPM; I find I can keep up with the story without too much effort now.  Another Columns Highlighter at 550-600 WPM, and finally a rather brisk Word Flash starting at 560 WPM and ending at 620 WPM.

The program ends with a final reading speed test.  As I have been taking periodic reading tests anyway, I was not surprised to see my reading speed increase from the initial test speed of 345 WPM to 462 WPM, a total improvement of +43%.  My fastest score a few days ago was 481 WPM.

Conclusion: Acceleread works. Appearances suggested that Acceleread would be an extremely effective tool and course, and it really is!  I couldn't be happier.  If there is just one silver bullet to speed reading, this is it.  Most importantly, I can see the improvement in my day-to-day reading, and that's where it really counts.

As soon as I finished the Beginner Course, I was prompted to take yet another speed test to determine my next level of progression.  Getting a 452 WPM score there, the app judged me to be a "strong reader, capable of absorbing multiple words at once."  It says that subvocalization and inconsistent concentration may be problem still.  I now have the option to retake the Beginner Course with the new 452 WPM baseline score as the foundation; or I can move on to the Intermediate or Advanced Course.

The Intermediate Course is for readers who have a "strong foundation" in the basics provided by the Beginner Course. Since I feel that I fit this description, and am eager to see what else the app has in store, I'll begin the Intermediate Course tomorrow.

Friday, January 24, 2014

8. Acceleread Lesson 6 & 7


Lesson 6 of Acceleread (iOS app; see previous posts for more) is also 7 minutes long.  The instructions say that the reader should now be keeping up the WPM speed of the guide in terms of comprehension.  I have been able all along, so that's good.

Diamond Highlighter: I'm getting better, able to read far words in periphery, but not quite able to follow the story.  Perhaps I should practice on my own with familiar text?

Hopscotch: This time, words appear in the middle of the line as well as leaping from the perpheries; they quickly disappear so fast focus is what needs to be trained.

Sight Stretcher: It's just numbers.  I wish it used words as well, but the other tools do effectively the same thing anyway so I suppose it would be unnecessary.

Hopscotch: The second time around the chunks are much bigger, so quick central focus, as trained in other tools, is an applied skill now.

Word flash: Now we have wide chunks of 7 words or more at times!  It's hard to focus on all the words with peripheral vision alone. I tried just to follow the story without concentrating on technique — this was no problem.  My eye movements were very minimal! and mostly centralized.  The speed was such that I didn't have time to scan word by word anyway.

I am continuing to duplicate my efforts on the iPhone version lesson by lesson and day by day after having completed the iPad version — the app is not sync'd in the cloud, so it's as if they could be two individuals' separate progressions.  I appreciate the duplication, and see daily improvement.  Whether one has an iPhone or iPad, on a singular device one may repeat a lesson as many times as desired.  I'm just trying out both options for the heck of it, for the sake of curiosity and faster improvement.

During the final iPhone Word Flash for Lesson 6, I decided to cover one eye for about 30 seconds, and then the other eye for another 30 seconds, and in the remaining 30 seconds of the exercise used both.  My peripheral vision range seemed increased!  As with training eye muscles for visual acuity (something I do to maintain 20/20 vision despite all the nearsight-inducing reading I do), monocular training for speed reading for a period seems to result in much improved binocular vision.


Lesson 7 is 9 min long, and the opening summary indicates that this lesson will train the reader to incorporate the more advanced technique of slowing down when necessary — reading at variable speeds.

Word Flash: The text started at about 600 WPM and slowed to 400 WPM when it came to some quotations in dialect; then back up to 600, and back down to 400 for a more complicated scene.

Sight Stretcher: We have now reached the eighth circle; and instead of contracting to the 1-circle each cycle, it would stop at 3 and 5 before expanding again on a couple of the final cycles.

Diamond Highlighter:  In the same pattern as Word Flash, it appeared to start slower at about 350 WPM for harder passages and speed up at the end to 550 WPM for an easier passage.

Columns Highlighter: Plenty of variation here as well, seemingly in the same pattern as the above: 370, 470, 410, 512 WPM were what I glanced down to observe.

Word Flash: The final Word Flash did the same as the above, varrying between 576, 449, 589, 602.  All the text exercises have always started at a slightly slower WPM rate and increased through the exercise.  This is the first time that slowing has also occurred.

I look forward to Lesson 8!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

7. Acceleread Lesson 5 & The Three Musketeers

Lesson 5 of Acceleread is only 7 minutes, and includes a mix of the five exercise tools described previously.  The speed is increasing bit by bit every day and within each exercise.  Hopscotch is included two times, the first time with the little graphic icons, the second time with words from a book.  The words leap back and forth just like the graphic icons.  At just 230 WPM, it's very hard to keep up!  The purpose is to cause the eyes to focus rapidly on words and entrain the brain to comprehend their meaning within the fraction of a second available before jumping across the screen to the next word.  I admit I did not follow the story very well; just seeing the words so quickly was a challenge.  A good challenge, I am sure!

While my greatest weakness still seems to be increasing the range of my perihperal vision, today's Diamond Highlighter exercise was easier today than yesterday; I could nearly read both the farthest words in the widest chunks -- reading them plus all the middle will be the challenge!

Word Flash isn't going faster than 502 WPM, which I could easily keep up with comprehension-wise -- if I allowed myself to run my eye across the 5-6-word lines.  But I try to do as the exercise instructs: gaze softly at the center and focus the far words in peripheral vision exclusively.  Comprehension suffers for technique for now.


As I mentioned in the last post, this is an excellent handbook within the app Acceleread that explains in detail the app's function and speed reading in general.  Notable quote: "Speed reading is not sorcery; it's a skill." I am highly encouraged by its language, for it really seems like the silver bullet training tool.

I'm reading it at various speeds between 700 and 800 wpm with five columns and 5-word chunks in Columns Highlighter with complete comprehension.  I still feel like I'm subvocalizing -- I can hear the voice reciting in my head still.  But isn't this much faster than a person can talk?  If my brain has adapted by time-compressing the same subvocalized phrases -- or, to be specific and not to confuse it, internally vocalized phrases -- that is an interesting consequence.

Some notes from the handbook:

3 Components to Effective Reading:
- Speed
- Comprehension
- Recall

Focus on one aspect at a time, and build skill accordingly.  Speed itself is largely a "mechanical" skill physical to the eye.  To improve speed, Acceleread will help the reader reduce subvocalization, shorten fixation time, expand vision span, and reduce regression.

Comprehension is the primary goal of reading, not mere speed.  While initially trading off comprehension for technique in speed, trust that comprehension will come.  Eventually both will be optimitized through sheer practice.

Recall is ultimately the most important of all.  Having a specific intension on what the goal of the reading is can be very helpful to prepare the brain for absorbing and retaining what is sought after.

On bad habits:

Regression is not always bad and sometimes deliberate by the reader, but usually automatic because concentration was initially poor, and getting out of the habit keeps it from controlling the reader.  Complex ideas sometimes require it.

Subvocalization, like regression, is not necessarily bad.  It is intrinsically slow, which is the problem; it shifts processing power in the brain to the auditory system.  But it can be used as a skill deliberately, like regression.  Otherwise it can be trained away to aid rapid reading.

For fixations, reduce time hesitating on a chunk, and increase chunk size to reduce number of fixations per line.

Other topics:

Pushing limits is necessary to move beyond one's comfort zone, just like building physical strength.  In the app Training Center, set the speed at 2 to 3 times your current reading speed. Further commentary continues with how to train with Accelread, the benefits of taking breaks, and flexible reading (different speeds for different matieral). One needs an ideal mindset in order to concentrate.  I can vouch for that.  Attempting to speed read in environments where I am distracted by others is extremely irritating, much more than normal reading, like when forced to slow down in sudden traffic after driving at cruise (driving a manual in rush hour comes to mind).

The transition to reading on paper will be interesting -- evidently one reads on average 25% slower on a screen.  The passage further recommends the use of a hand to help guide the reading in the way that the app does for you.  It also exhorts the reader to become an "active reader," thinking ahead about what you want to get from any particular passage before you read it.  Thus, rather than default to slow mode, the active reader chooses his speed and flexibly adapts to conditions as they change, all the while keeping in mind what he wants to get from the text.


To practice with Acceleread, I am going to take on the adventures of The Three Musketeers by Dumas, which comes with the app.  It's 700 pages printed.  I'll be using Columns Highlighter primarily, starting with 5 columns, 5 words each, 700 WPM.

As mentioned above, I find myself fully "hearing" the sound in my head despite the fact that the WPM rate is well beyond my ability to verbalize.  I still see the images and get the jokes quite well, pausing occasionally only to laugh, or to hesitate on a French name.

Something I've noted in particular with this sort of extended practice is a different sense of time.  If I've read at a 3x faster than old-normal accelerated rate for an hour, it feels more like three hours have gone by.  The full experience in all its necessary recall exists in memory, but it's as if I've lived more time in the enjoyment of the story than was actually available.  You'll have to try it to know what I mean.  This would seem to make sense, as accomplishing an amount of information absorption that was previously only possible in a much longer period gives the illusion of more time having gone by.

This keeps getting more fun every day!

Tous pour un, et un pour tous!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

6. Speed Reading on Facebook

After a good deal of searching, I was disappointed that there don't appear to be any dedicated, active speed reading groups on Facebook.

So, I made one:

I encourage anyone interested in learning how to speed read or willing to share their expertise to join and post there freely.  The more people we connect, the faster the whole world becomes better readers!