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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 13 July 2004
I read this book in conjunction with 'use your head' by the same author. Both books are excellent and are particularly useful if read together. As a result of reading this book my reading speed has more than doubled and I am more confident about my study skills.
The author writes in a positive, no-nonsense manner which instils confidence within the reader. Although the information/self-tests are geared towards improving speed and the information on improving levels of comprehension is comparatively sparse, the book is a 'must-have' for those who wish to improve one of the most important life-skills.
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on 5 May 2006
When I started the course, I was reading (and comprehending about 80%) at 240wpm. After just a week, I was reading at 700-800 wpm with about 60% comprehension. But many months later, and sticking to the techniques, I've managed to reach 1100wpm and getting closer to 90% retention.

The point is, you will invariably lose comprehension when you first learn speed reading, and you will feel like you're "skimming". But your eyes pick up a lot of peripheral data and this is absorbed in your brain, whether you realise it or not.

Speed reading is like a diet... you have to keep at it, and you have to stick to the requirements through thick and thin.

Highly recommended!
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on 26 July 2003
I have to confess that I did not complete this book and the course it laid out to improve my speed reading skills. However, I can claim that by following the advice in the first few instructional chapters I did manage to increase my reading speed by 50% using very basic techniques that require little training. However, I found that the huge leaps the book made in the subsequent chapters were daunting and perhaps only attainable by those with a real conviction to improve their reading speed (my conquest, on the other hand, was based more on curiousity than self-improvement).

What follows is a brief description of the organisation and layout of the book. If you are after a final conclusion please skip to the end : )

It starts off with a bit of background on speed reading and affirms that anybody can easily master 1000 words per minute. In various chapters it introduces various bits on psychology and the science behind speed reading that are interesting on their own and are presumeably there to make you believe that increased speeds are simply a product of knowing how to access, understand and use these parts of your brain/mind.

There is also a brief section on famous speed readers that the author obviously intends to inspire you with: Tony makes out that we can all have a photographic memories like Magliabechi, an assumption I find difficult to quantify.

As far as the actual advice goes, instructions are laid out clearly and following each section and a brief practice, there is a test designed to analyse your reading speed, the progress of which you can track on a graph in the back of the book. However, the greatest misconception regarding high reading speeds is that any increase in speed is associated with a drop in the level of comprehension. For this reason, each speed test is accompanied by a multiple choice test to gauge your understanding of the text. Whilst this is the simplest way of assessing comprehension in the form of a book that can be easily followed in another graph in the back, I don't believe this to be a scientifically valid way to measure knowledge since the options help stir memories and hence it is a lot easier to remember specific facts.

In reality, even after following the advice in the book, I still find myself having to read a line several times to remember a key fact or more frequently, pausing to write it down (since for me, this usually involves remembering several dates of different statutes or specific chains of events). In other words I am tempted to disagree that at higher reading speeds comprehension is increased (since mine remained consistently above 90% over the different reading tests in both preliminary tests and those following the advice given in the book).

Another complaint I have to make is that in the later stages of the book (the parts that put me off) you are asked to practise the new, more difficult skills in a book you will set aside specifically for practising your skills. However, the author makes no mention of the type of book you should read: fiction/non-fiction, size of book/text, should you have previously read it or not? There are all number of points in the book saying why each of the above may have a profound effect on reading speed so to skip this crucial advice seems a major mistake and partly why I stopped (that, and my own inability to rarely complete anything I start for myself).

Skipping past the more advanced reading skills and on to the end of the book, there are a number of more useful chapters with instructions on how to appreciate literature and poetry whilst reading at quicker speeds, how to read newspapers and magazines quicker and other sundry skills sich as reviewing, skimming and scanning which again require a lot of practice to master and whose definitions are not particularly clear themselves!

In conclusion, despite my somewhat negative review, there are workable and easy to understand principles that everyone can employ and many more that perhaps the more determined speed reader or self improvement fanatic can pursue (although I cannot give testemony to the quality of the latter) with enough psychological discussion to entertain and forge the belief that you can improve.
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on 3 February 2004
I increased my reading speed by 50% and also my comprehension. Like every good thing, you need to work at it.
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on 23 April 2013
If you have never thought much about the way you read, either at work or for pleasure, then you may find some useful ideas in this book. If you are seriously looking for a scientific "technique" or "method" that will significantly increase your reading speed, then you may be wasting your time. I happen to work in reading research, and some of the pseudoscience in this book made my bowels cringe. For example: Musicians can read notes from several lines simultaneously. Therefore, this must be possible in reading as well. Yes, but in music notes are also played (near-)simultaneously. In text reading, words from the beginnings of two lines may even belong to different sentences or paragraphs! You cannot integrate a word into context unless you know the context. Just look at the text in front of you. Then there is a chapter about "Expanding your visual power". OMG. A lot of research has been dedicated to finding optimal training procedures for healthy and impaired vision. The effects are subtle at best. Readers can make use of "preview benefit" in reading, but only within narrow limits. Again, a lot of serious research has been dedicated to this, and researchers would be happy to shout "Eureka!" and publish a paper with a method that works - apparently Mr Buzan is ahead of the game.
The main advice you get at speed reading courses or books like this can be reduced to "Relax. Think about why you are reading what you are reading. Adjust your reading style accordingly". If you are reading a good book for pleasure, you may want to devour every word. If you are reading an admin document to find a policy number, just skim it for the clue "policy number". If this is the level you are expecting, read the book and try to ignore the pseudoscience. Otherwise, read proper science - or just pay more attention to the way you read yourself.
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on 14 November 2011
Interesting little book. App. 200 pages of easy to read information that may enhance your ability to read faster.

Here are some of the basics covered in the book:

Self tests: used to measure your progress in terms of words per minute (wpm) and your comprehension thereof. Buzan covers 'fixations', i.e. when a reader focuses on each word in turn, thereby making the reading cumbersome. This usually makes the reader 'back-skip' or 'regress', thus breaking up their reading pattern.

Reading pattern - your fixation should turn to clusters of words (what Buzan calls 'visual gulps'), i.e. 4 or 5 at a time. Run your eyes across them at one go, and move quickly onto the next 4 - 5 words. After a while, try reading a sentence or line, whichever is shorter, in one go. Just move your eyes over that line quickly and let your brain take in the key words. Don't stop or move back to an difficult word - do this later with a dictionary only if you have to. Remember, you don't need to remember every word in a journal, book or newspaper article etc.

Problems to reading faster:
Concentration & Comprehension - common problems to slow reading were lack of concentration and finger pointing. Use a guide if you must, i.e. a 'clear' ruler as a guide and run it down the page at a steady rate - this will 'train' your brain to read faster. As for concentration, what are you looking to get out of the article? Do you need to read the whole thing or are you after a specific article? Ensure you are in teh right mood /setting before you take to reading. Poor motivation typically relates to poor understanding and poor reading speed.
Buzan also offers a good section on how to improve vocabulary via the understanding of prefixes, suffixes and base words - this serves to give the reader a greater appreciation of a greater array of words they may not have understood before.

Hold the book at a distance comfortable to the eye but far enough so that your peripherial vision can see the whole page. This is useful for scanning down the page effortlessly. Your brain (not eyes) will subconsciously take in the key informationand hopefully discard the redundant words. Do this for 20 or so pages and you wil see what I mean. It just makes sense and practice makes faster.
Sub-vocalisation - i.e. 'mouthing' the words as you read them can slow you down. This, according to Buzan, was learnt at school and stuck with us. Through practice of scanning the page and reading several words at one time can reduce your dependancy on sub-vocalisation. And so it went.

The result?
My wpm in the opening exercise was around 200, with an 80% comprehension = fairly standard, if not alittle slow. By half way through, my wpm increased to 400 - 500, although comprehension dropped to a pitiful 40%. However, by the end of the book my wpm was approaching 800 - 900, but my comprehension had only increased to 60%. I still see this as a massive result, but I did do most of the exercises and gave them my time and attention. As another poster rightfully said, endure and there is little reason to boost your speed-reading ability to a comfortable 600 - 800 wpm whilst retainig a good proportion of the information.

Recommend to try this out.
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on 21 October 2012
Make sure you make a study plan as the book suggests in the introduction. Otherwise there won't be too much this book can do for you. You need to be determined that you want to learn those techniques, unless you read it out of curiosity..
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on 7 April 2006
This book is full of outlandish and unsubstantiated claims about speed reading. It is padded with bad science, unreferenced information that is simply unbelievable and exhaustive descriptions of the mechanics of reading which seem to be more imagined than founded in any kind of research. Absolute fraudulant rubbish. Impractical and downright nonsensical techniques promising impossible results. It is not possible to read at 1000 wpm (let alone 25000 wpm!) without skimming. I just bought this book expecting something a bit more realistic with atleast some practical advice, a massive disapointment. A classic case of the emperor's new clothes I'm sorry to see some people have been duped, the author ought to be ashamed.
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on 9 October 2013
Unlike myself Tony Buzan is a genius, however his book explains how even I could top up my IQ and learn a thing or two. Easy to follow, tapping in to all learning modalities.
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on 11 April 2013
Useful book for learning to speed read. I haven't had time to measter the art yet as it needs practice!
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