Speed Reading by Tony Buzan

Speed reading by Tony Buzan - toolshero

This article explains speed reading, developed by Tony Buzan, in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful personal development tool.

What is speed reading?

Reading (text) books takes quite some time. This is why it may not be such a bad idea to improve your reading skills in such a way that your reading speed is doubled or even quadrupled. According to the British psychologist Tony Buzan this is possible. He developed a method to increase reading speed and he became the inventor of speed reading. He is also known for his mind mapping technique. It may seem an insurmountable task, but it is possible to read a book in half the time it normally takes to read while at the same the matter read is recorded even better. An average person reads at a speed of about 250 words per minute. Thoughts are quicker: about 1,000 words per minute. This means that the brains are not used in the best possible way as a result of which people are easily distracted. This in turn, makes it more difficult to understand or process the information that people have read. Speed reading reduces the chance of people being distracted and therefore they understand the texts they read much better. This insight forms the basis of being able to (learn how) to read more quickly.

Furthermore, it is important to practise speed reading to a large extent as a result of which the reading speed increases automatically and people retain what they read much better. It is possible to achieve a reading speed of 3,580 words per minute just by practising! According to Tony Buzan: “Reading is to the mind as aerobics training is to the body”.

Mind mapping

The combination of speed reading and mind mapping has proved to be valuable tools. But what exactly is mind mapping? It is a technique that uses key words and images so that our brains can retain information more easily. Instead of making a lot of notes, only one or two sheets with mind maps will suffice.

Reading with the brains

At school we are taught to read out loud at first. Then we are taught to say the words in our heads. This way of reading has the same pace as reading out loud. However, our thinking speed is much faster than our talking speed. This is why we have to realize that we do not read with our eyes but with our brains. Our eyes just collect information and our brains make us understand this.

Mastering and developing speed reading

It is important to consider the following three points when trying to master speed reading:

No distractions

A quiet environment reduces distracting external stimuli. Stay focused on the text.

Eye-hand coordination

Speed reading requires good eye-hand coordination. The eyes are like unguided missiles. This why they have to be guided by a director. Only the area in the field of vision is clear, the rest is blurry. Therefore, eyes have to move continuously to the places people want to see clearly. A sentence will therefore only have to be read once in order to be understood.


Practice makes perfect; this also goes for speed reading. Tools may be helpful. By reading the text with the index or a pen, people are ‘forced’ to read the indicated part and they are not distracted by the rest of the text. In addition, a metronome may help to execute the movement of the director from left to right at a steady pace.


Posture is also important when speed reading. Thoughts control actions of the body and vice versa. An alert body posture creates alert thoughts. Therefore, sit up straight with an active posture, and keep your feet flat on the floor. This will help you concentrate for a longer period of time.

Building up speed reading

Speed reading will have to be built up but it is advisable to immediately start reading a piece of text at a higher pace than usual. The ‘inner voice’ will be silenced and the brains will have an opportunity to understand what the text says. Then, the normal reading pace can be used again. The more people practise, the longer the speed reading period becomes. The results depend on the frequency and length of the practice. By practising regularly, the results will improve dramatically.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is Speed Reading applicable in today’s modern economy? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for reading and understanding texts?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Buzan, T. (2006). The speed reading book. Pearson Education.
  2. Buzan, T. & Keene, R. (1994). Buzan’s Book of Genius: And how to unleash your own. Vintage.
  3. Buzan, T. (1986). Use your memory. BBC Publications.

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  1. Great post! I always wondered some people reading so fast in my college,i joined the community and slowly learned about the courses they are using, definitely some techniques worked and i was able to multiply my reading speed,some techniques worked very well like skimming,Pointer technique and avoiding sub vocalization,although its a matter of practice its a skill certainly need to be learnt and i am very happy now as i enjoy book reading always.

  2. >It is possible to achieve a reading speed of 3,580 words per minute. No way… that’s 60 words per second. I’d have to see it to believe it. I mean, Crime and Punishment has a little over 200k words… so you could read that entire book in an hour? Again, I’d need to see it to believe it.

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