Pagina principale How to Read Faster and Recall More: Learn the Art of Speed Reading with Maximum Recall

How to Read Faster and Recall More: Learn the Art of Speed Reading with Maximum Recall

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Anno:
2007
Edizione:
3rd
Editore:
How to Content
Lingua:
english
Pagine:
129
ISBN 10:
1848030487
ISBN 13:
9781848030480
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How to
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How to
read fastewr
Learn the
art of

and recall
more

Speed

reading with

maximum

recall
Gordon Wainwright

howtobooks

Published by How To Content,
a division of How To Books Ltd,
Spring Hill House, Spring Hill Road,
Begbroke, Oxford 0X5 1RX. United Kingdom.
Tel: (01865) 375794. Fax: (01865) 379162.
email: info@howtobooks.co.uk
http://www.howtobooks.co.uk
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or stored in an information retrieval system (other than for
purposes of review) without the express permission of the publisher in writing.
The right of Gordon Wainwright to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
© Copyright 2007 Gordon Wainwright
First published in paperback 2001
Reprinted 2001
Second edition 2005
Third edition 2007
First published in electronic form 2007
ISBN: 978 1 84803 048 0
Produced for How To Books by Deer Park Productions, Tavistock
Typeset by Kestrel Data, Exeter
Cover design by Baseline Arts Ltd, Oxford
NOTE: The material contained in this book is set out in good faith for general guidance and no liability can be accepted for
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Contents
1 The Starting Point
Reading speed and post-reading recall
The structure of the programme
The first stage
Exercise: One of Our Tankers is Missing
Exercise: If You're Going Back to San Francisco
Assessment of results
The next step
Further practice
Chapter summary

1
1
2
2
3
6
8
8
9
10

2

Aims and Objectives
Setting your targets
Other aims and objectives
A lifelong process
Exercise: The Great Cash Register Mystery
Assessment of results
Further practice
Chapter summary

11
11
11
12
13
15
15
15

3

Basic Methods for Improvement
Stage three
Setting time limits
Being motivated and confident
Do you need your eyesight checking?
Exercise: The Right Person
Assessment of results

17
17
17
18
19
19
22

v

vi / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE ...

Further practice
Chapter summary

22
22

4 The Mechanics of Reading
How your eyes move when you are reading
Characteristics of the mature reader: mechanical differences
Psychological differences
Educational differences
Learning techniques to address these problems
Exercise: It Never Rains but it Pours
Assessment of results
Further practice
Chapter summary

23
23
24
26
27
27
29
32
32
32

5

34
34
34
35
36
37
39
41
43
43
44

Comprehension and Critical Reading
Reading speed and comprehension
Effective Reading Rate
Reading comprehension
Factors affecting comprehension
Improving comprehension
Using questions to read critically
Exercise: The Missing Painting
Assessment of results
Further practice
Chapter summary

6 Techniques of Retention
Retention is not the problem
Improving retention: qualities of information
Improving retention: helpful techniques
Exercise: One Not So Careful Lady Owner
Assessment of results
Further practice
Chapter summary

45
45
45
47
48
51
52
52

C O N T E N T S / vii

7

Techniques for Recall
Triggers
Questions
Mnemonics
Exercise: One Gives Nothing So Freely as Advice
Assessment of results
Further practice
Chapter summary

53
53
53
53
57
59
59
60

8

Flexible Reading Strategies
Flexibility - the key to reading efficiently
Questions to promote flexibility
Reading gears
Using the gears
Strategies
Other techniques
Exercise: A Grey Day in Grayborough
Assessment of results
Further practice
Chapter summary

61
61
61
62
63
63
65
66
69
69
70

9

Skimming Strategies
Skimming techniques
Using skimming
Using skimming with other techniques
Exercise: The Nature of Economic Development
Exercise: Research and Economic Development
Learning the lessons
Assessment of results
Further practice
Chapter summary

71
71
72
73
74
78
83
84
85
85

10 Problems in Reading
Problems with particular kinds of materials
Other problem areas

86
86
93

viii / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

Working through your reading pile
Further practice
Chapter summary

95
95
95

11 The Finish Line
Exercise: Braking News
Exercise: Happy Pills
Assessment of results

97
97
99
101

12 Continuation and Follow-up
Continuing to improve
Only the beginning
Abstracts and digests
Delegation
Selective reading
Repeating the programme
Book summary

102
102
103
103
104
104
104
104

13 Record Keeping
Reading speed conversion table
Progress graphs

109
109
110

Answers to Questions

111

Further Reading

115

Index

119

1
The Starting Point
Before you begin the process of improving your reading skills, you need to know
where you are starting from. Reading performance is traditionally measured purely
in terms of comprehension, but most people want to be able to deal with their daily
reading faster and yet recall it effectively when required. Neither of these is
assessed in school comprehension tests, yet good recall is essential for better
comprehension. A prerequisite for achieving this is to find out what your reading
speeds and recall levels are before you begin trying some new techniques. This
chapter is therefore devoted to assessing the starting point for this programme of
training.

READING SPEED AND POST-READING RECALL
Before you begin working through this book and before you succumb to the
temptation to look ahead and see what is coming, you should measure your
present reading speed and post-reading recall. It is important to measure the
latter because, if recall is not good immediately after reading something, it is not
likely to improve later. You will find two exercises in the following pages that will
enable you to do this, together with instructions on precisely how to complete
them.
You should tackle these exercises as soon as possible because if you are tempted to
look ahead at the rest of this book, this may influence the way in which you
approach them and prevent you from finding out how good your reading skills
were before you picked this book up.
Your reading performance will be tested and recorded by working through two
exercises, taking an average of your results and then marking these on the progress
graphs on page 110. As you read these exercises, you should try to read them as
1

2 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND R E C A L L MORE

quickly as you feel you can and still take the information in. You want, after all, to
see how quickly you can read before you try new techniques.
When you come to answering the questions of the recall tests, you should avoid
guessing answers if you do not know them. If you guess the answers, you may be
right and this will make you think your recall is better than it really is.
For the same reason, you should not try to 'spot' questions, that is, try as you read
to memorise isolated bits of information on the off chance that they may be
required. They may, of course, but if they are then all you have proved is that you
are a good 'spotter'. You have not proved to yourself that you have taken in what
you have read. You will be the only person who knows how well or how badly you
are doing, so why try to delude yourself? You will be much better off in the long
run if you are as honest with yourself as it is possible to be. That way you will know
accurately whether or not you have improved and by how much.

THE STRUCTURE OF THE PROGRAMME
This programme consists of five stages:
1. Review of present performance - finding out where your starting point is.
2. Objective setting - deciding what you wish to achieve by working through the
programme.
3. Methods - exploring the various methods for bringing about improvement and
finding which ones work best for you.
4. Evaluation of improved performance - finding out how much you have
improved by the end of the programme.
5. Ongoing - learning what you will need to do to maintain your improvements
and to continue your development as a more efficient reader.

THE FIRST STAGE
The procedure for the first stage of the process is as follows:
You read each passage once only as quickly as you can take it in and time the

THE S T A R T I N G P O I N T / 3

reading (for this you will need a stopwatch, watch with a timer or a watch with
a second hand).
You answer the recall test, remembering not to guess if you do not know the
answer nor to try to work the answer out.
You convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table
on pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on
pages 111-113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.
Make sure you have your timing device ready and a pen or pencil for recording
your answers.
If you are using a stopwatch or watch with a timer, follow your handbook's
instructions for timing an event. If you are using a watch with a second hand, make
a note of the time in minutes and seconds when you start. This is easier if you wait
until the second hand is pointing to 12. Make a note of the time when you finish
and then subtract the starting time from the finishing time.

EXERCISE
Start timing and begin reading NOW.

One of Our Tankers is Missing
'You can't be serious,' Henry Clough told his assistant James Wright.
'It's true,' James affirmed.
'But a tanker. You can't lose a tanker. Not one with all the latest nautical
technology at its disposal,' Henry protested.
'You wouldn't think so,' agreed James, 'but it's gone. Last reported in the
Atlantic at 2330 last night. Since then, nothing. No reports. No Mayday. Nothing.
We've contacted all vessels known to be in the area at the time and none of them
has any record of seeing it or having it on radar after 2330.'
Henry looked thoughtful for a few moments.
'No storms, I suppose,' he ventured.

4 / HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

'No, the weather was pretty good. A large swell and strongish winds, but nothing
that would worry the Lady Lavinia. She was as you know one of our most
advanced vessels. Only been in service for two years. Only been in port and
checked over last month. It's a complete mystery.'
'We'd better tell the boss,' concluded Henry.
They took the lift to the top floor and walked along the luxurious corridor to the
managing director's suite. Fortunately, he was free and they were ushered in
straight away. They told their story to an increasingly incredulous Sebastian
Shorofski.
There was a long silence when they had finished. Eventually, the big man spoke.
Treat this as suspicious and instigate a full search and rescue. It could just be
that she has for some reason suffered a total and catastrophic loss of all systems
and is drifting helplessly out there somewhere.'
Henry and James went back to Henry's office and began the lengthy procedure
of initiating and co-ordinating the search.
At Mr Shorofski's request, the media were not informed. He decided it was best
not to alarm families and friends of the crew unnecessarily. After all, the tanker
could reappear just as mysteriously as it had disappeared.
The search continued for several days without success, but on the Friday of
that week an RAF Nimrod thought it sighted what looked like a very large oil
slick off the coast of Ireland. If the oil came ashore it would be a bigger
environmental disaster than the Exxon Valdiz off the coast of Alaska some years
previously.
'We really ought to issue some sort of statement,' said Henry Clough anxiously.
'No,' said Shorofski firmly. 'Not until the loss of the ship is confirmed. It may not

be our oil.'
'But the authorities will need time to organise mopping up operations,' protested
Clough. 'If it emerges later that we knew about this slick, even if it isn't ours, and
didn't tell anyone, we'll be crucified in the media. We could even face criminal
charges.'
Shorofski was adamant. 'The RAF spotted it - or thought they did - let them tell
people. There's no reason at this stage for us to get involved. For goodness'

THE S T A R T I N G P O I N T / 5

sake, we don't even know yet for definite that there is an oil slick. You panic too
quickly, Henry.'
Henry Clough looked glumly out of the window. He knew from past experience
that there was no arguing with Sebastian Shorofski once he had made up his
mind. Nevertheless, he hardly slept that night and was not at all looking forward
to going into work the next day, but he had to have another try with Shorofski.
(556 words)

Stop timing and make a note of the time and answer the following questions
without looking back at the passage.
Questions
1. What was the name of Henry dough's assistant?
2. At what time was the last report received from the tanker?
3. What was the name of the tanker.
4. For how long had the tanker been in service?
5. What was Sebastian Shorofski's position in the company?
6. What was his initial reaction to being told of the tanker's disappearance?
7. Off the coast of which country was the suspected oil slick sighted?
8. What was the weather like when the tanker disappeared?
9. When had the tanker last been in port?
10. On which day of the week did the RAF Nimrod think it had spotted an oil
slick?
Convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table on
pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on pages
111–113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.
You should, then, have finished up with a speed in words per minute and a
recall score out of ten (converted into a percentage by placing 0 after your score,
e.g. 7 out of 10=70%, there is a reason for doing this which will be explained in
Chapter 5). Make sure you have recorded this on vertical line 1 or in the column to
the left of line 1 on the comprehension graph, depending on whether you wish to
build up a graph or a bar chart. Either method will produce a picture which
develops as you proceed and will later enable you to see where you are, where you

6 / HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

have come from and where you might be likely to finish up. It thus provides you
with both instant and cumulative feedback on your performance.

EXERCISE
Begin timing the second exercise and begin reading NOW.
If You're Going Back to San Francisco
We've all heard the publicist's claim, This is Everybody's Favourite City.' Well,
it's certainly mine. I first went there about ten years ago, just before companies
began seriously to look at the expense of sending their executives first class on
long-haul journeys. I had been to America before, of course, but that was to
Florida. This was very different. It was about twenty degrees cooler and the
humidity in comparison was negligible.
What pleased me most, I think, apart from the skyline, was that it was a city you
could walk about in and actually feel that in half an hour or so you were getting
somewhere. We went to all the usual tourist spots - the Coit Tower, Lombard
Street ('the crookedest street in the world' with its succession of hairpin bends),
the Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf.
The Wharf was a delight, not for the crowds, but for the fact that Earthquake
McGoon's was still open at the time and Turk Murphy's Jazz Band were playing. I
even bought one of his cassettes and had him autograph it. I still play it when
nostalgia overtakes me.
We had a car while we were there as we intended to visit companies in the
surrounding area and on one free afternoon we drove across the Golden Gate
Bridge, my favourite piece of architecture not least because it was opened in the
year I was born. We drove up Highway One into Muir Woods and stopped at the
Pelican Inn near Muir Beach. This is a passable imitation, certainly for America,
of a sixteenth-century English inn. We had sausage and mash and a pint of Bass.
By US standards, it was expensive, but when you've been away from home for a
while you get homesick. After drinking their lager-like beers, it was a genuine
refreshment to quaff proper beer. It was so good we had another.
The next time I went to San Francisco, I was left on my own for a few days as my
colleage had to return early. This time I drove south down Highway One. I

THE S T A R T I N G P O I N T / 7

followed the coast as far as Santa Cruz and then headed inland. I was looking for
a small town we had held a meeting in on the first visit, Los Altos, not far from
Palo Alto. I found it without much difficulty and strolled around its pleasantly
warm streets, even though this was October, and found an incredibly good
bookshop. It has always puzzled me that bookshops in America often have a far
wider choice of books than even some of the better bookshops in British towns
and cities. I found a quiet bar and had a beer. The atmosphere of US small towns
can be so relaxing and it is surprising how much the pace of life slows down
even when only a few miles away from a conurbation.
The last time I was in San Francisco was with my wife and we found it a
disappointment. We were flying round the world to celebrate our silver wedding
anniversary. This time they city was cold and damp and my wife yearned for the
Hawaii and the Bali we had recently departed. It was to get even worse in New
York and I think she was secretly pleased to get back home.
On the Wharf, Earthquake McGoon's was gone. I could not even find a sign
anywhere of its existence. When we went to Alioto's for a fish dinner, the lady
who served us came from a small town no more than ten miles away from where
we live. It felt as if we weren't really abroad. It was like some years earlier on my
first visit to Japan. We had finished business for the day in Kobe and were taken
by one of the British officials to a bar for a drink before going out for dinner.
There was only one other person in the bar at the time, a Geordie engineer.
Again, I almost felt cheated. It was as if, so far away from home, no one else
from your own country had the right to intrude.
I'd like to go back to San Francisco, but then again I'm not so sure. They do say
that, in life, you should never go back. Things are never the same. They certainly
weren't on the Wharf.
(725 words)

Stop timing and make a note of the time and answer the following questions
without looking back at the passage.
Questions
1. How does the publicist's claim describe San Francisco?
2. Which state had the writer visited before his first visit to San Francisco?

8 / HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

3. What was the name of the jazz band that was playing at Earthquake
McGoon's?
4. What was the name of the replica of a sixteenth-century English inn?
5. What was the brand of beer the writer drank there?
6. On which highway did the writer drive on both visits?
7. How far south did he drive on his second visit?
8. What was the name of the small town he visited on the second trip?
9. What did he find in this town that was incredibly good?
10. Who was the only other occupant of the bar in Kobe, Japan?
Convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table on
pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on pages
111-113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.
Now average the two results for both speed and recall and make a note of them.

ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS

Typically, at this stage, reading speed averaged over the two exercises is somewhere between 150 words per minute (w.p.m.) and 250 w.p.m. An average recall
score is about 50-70%. This may not seem very high, but I can assure you that in
my experience these are average figures at this point.
There is no evidence of any correlation between reading speed and intelligence,
age, education, occupation or anything else. Many highly intelligent people, for
example, are very slow readers, especially if they have had large amounts of study
reading to deal with. Nor is there much evidence of a correlation between recall
and any of these factors. So, don't worry if your results are on the low side. This
simply means there is more to be gained from the programme.

THE NEXT STEP

Now that you have some idea of where you are starting from, it is time to begin to
work through the programme. What you will be doing is based on the simple fact
that there are people who are quite naturally faster and more efficient readers than

THE S T A R T I N G P O I N T / 9

others. Research over the years has identified many of the techniques they use.
You will be given the opportunity to try them out and see which ones work best for
you. The programme aims to achieve improvement in reading skills by:
developing appropriate attitudes towards reading
undertaking a programme of work designed to raise maximum speeds in
reading
developing systematic approaches to handling written materials.
You are now ready to move on to stage two of the programme which you should
attempt whenever you feel ready. You may prefer to have a rest at this point and
resume tomorrow. You will find stage two in Chapter 2 and you are now free to
browse through the rest of this book should you wish. You should not look too
closely at any of the exercises, though, as they will then not provide you with the
right kind of test at the appropriate time.

FURTHER PRACTICE
You will find it helps a great deal if you carry out the following tasks before
proceeding:
Measure your reading speed on a variety of the kinds of materials you normally
have to deal with. Do not try to do it too precisely as an estimate of the number
of words read will suffice. You should still be able to calculate reading speed
with reasonable accuracy. Two simple methods of estimating the number of
words read are:
- Count the number of words in 10 lines and divide by 10 to obtain an
average per line. Multiply this by the number of lines on a typical page. Then
multiply this by the number of pages read.
- Measure off 1" (one inch) of text (a centimetre is not enough). Count the
number of words. Multiply this by the length of the piece in column or page
inches.
Test recall by noting down briefly what you remember from each piece.

10 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

Make a list of the different kinds of materials you have to deal with together
with an assessment of how important it is to retain information read for each
one.
Read at least one item purely for the pleasure of reading it (a chapter of a
novel, an article of special interest or a chapter of a book on a subject of
particular interest to you personally). You may, of course, read more than the
specified amount if you wish. The more widely you read from now on, the
better. It will not be a question of, 'Never mind the quality, feel the width',
though. Variety is more important than mere quantity.

Chapter Summary
In this chapter you have learned:
how to measure your reading speed
how to test your recall of information
the structure of the programme
your starting point for the programme
how to complete the first of the five stages of the programme.

2

Aims and Objectives
SETTING YOUR TARGETS
Now that you have completed the first stage of the programme and you know your
starting point, you need to decide where you want to go. How big an increase in
reading speed do you want? How much improvement in recall do you want or
need? Based on more than thirty years' experience in training people to read faster
and better, I would suggest you set yourself the following targets:
100% increase in reading speed
a recall level of at least 70%.
The increase in reading speed may seem high, but I have seen many people achieve
it and some have gone even further. Set your targets low and your final results will
be low. Set them too high and you may well be disappointed. 100% is reasonable
because most people have never had any training in increasing reading speeds. It is
not something that school or college teachers normally concern themselves with.
There is therefore a gap between what has been achieved and what could be
achieved. Here, you are about to bridge that gap.
Now, mark those two targets on the progress graphs on page 110. In this way you
will be reminded of your basic objectives every time you record results on the
graphs. This will help you to move towards them.

OTHER AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
You may, of course, have other aims and objectives which you wish to achieve.
You may, for instance, wish to improve other aspects of your comprehension in
addition to recall. You may want to increase your flexibility in dealing with
11

12 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

different kinds of materials. You may wish to become a more critical reader,
where critical means not just looking for faults but trying to identify points of merit
as well in order to reach a balanced judgement about a piece of writing. You may
even set yourself the aim of broadening your reading interests and selecting both
your work-related and leisure reading from a wider range of sources.
Whatever additional aims and objectives you have, you will find it useful to write
them down in the space below:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Use a separate sheet of paper if you have more than six. Try to make a distinction,
if you can, between aims and objectives. An aim will tell you the direction in which
you wish to proceed; an objective will tell you how far you want to go in that
direction. Objectives are more useful because they are more precise and quantifiable and they should be expressed as results to be achieved. It is therefore easier to
check later how far you have succeeded.

A LIFELONG PROCESS
That completes stage two of the programme. In the next chapter, we shall begin to
explore stage three and see what techniques may help you to reach your targets.
This comprises the bulk of what follows in the book. Towards the end, we shall see
how much improvement you have made and the book will end with techniques for
continuing and following up on your progress in the future. Reading improvement,
like education itself, can be a life-long process.

A I M S AND O B J E C T I V E S / 13

EXERCISE
Before you turn to the next chapter, complete the next exercise. As you read, try to
read faster than you have so far. You can, in fact, increase your reading speed by
20-30% simply by trying without using any new techniques. You might as well have
the benefit of this before we look at other techniques. So, get into the habit of
competing with yourself. Try to achieve a 'new personal best' on each exercise.
Whilst there is little point in competing with other people, because they will most
likely have started at a different speed and may not progress at the same rate as
you, there is every point in a little healthy self-competition and self-pacing to move
gradually closer to your objectives.
Begin timing and start reading NOW.

The Great Cash Register Mystery
Hobson's was not a busy shop, but trade had always been steady. Turnover
was enough to keep Mr and Mrs Hobson in reasonable comfort and provide
employment for three parttime assistants. The Hobsons had bought the
little general dealer's when Mr Hobson had taken early retirement from the
accountancy firm where he had worked for nearly thirty years.
The assistants were all pleasant girls, popular with the locals who dropped in
mainly to buy things they had forgotten to get at the supermarket or had just run
out of and couldn't be bothered to get the car out to go to the out-of-town
shopping mall. Jane was the oldest, 19, married with a young baby who was
looked after by her mother when she was working at the shop. Susan was 17,
rather on the plump side, unmarried and usually without a boy friend. Gina was
16, fresh from school, slim, very attractive and with more boy friends than you
could shake a stick at.
Life at the shop was uneventful to say the least until the day Mrs Hobson, when
totalling the day's receipts, found a discrepancy. It was not a large amount,
£1.20, but sufficiently irritating to the meticulous Mrs Hobson for her to mention
it to Mr Hobson. He checked her arithmetic and the till receipts and came to the
same conclusion. They were £1.20 short.
Many people, of course, would be more than happy if they were only that much
short on the day, but Mr Hobson's accountancy background did not permit him

14 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

to take such a cavalier attitude. They would have to make sure that it did not
happen again.
But it did happen again. The next week on the same day, Thursday, they were
£1.20 down again. They checked and re-checked, but the deficit stubbornly
refused to go away.
On the first occasion they had said nothing to the three girls, but this time they
did ask if anyone had felt they might inadvertently have given someone too
much change. The girls were quite sure they had not. The mystery remained.
The following week they were £1.20 down on Tuesday as well as Thursday. The
week after they were £1.20 down again on Tuesday and Thursday. Something
would have to be done.
Mr Hobson had a friend who was a television engineer and when the problem
was explained to him he fixed a closed circuit television camera to observe the
till. When they viewed the recordings, they could see nothing to explain the
deficit.
The solution to the mystery came quite unexpectedly. Susan was ringing in a
customer's purchases when the drawer of the till stuck. No matter what she did,
she could not get it to close. When Mr Hobson dismantled the till, he found the
missing coins behind the drawer. It appeared that the spring clip on the till had
somehow tightened and when it was shut it had propelled a coin forward and
over the back of the drawer.
But why it had happened with such regularity and why always the same amount,
no one was able to explain.
(521 words)

Stop timing and answer the following questions without looking back at the
passage.
Questions
1. What was Mr Hobson's profession before he retired?
2. What was the name of the plump girl?
3. What kind of shop did the Hobsons run?
4. How much was the till short on each occasion?

A I M S AND O B J E C T I V E S / 15

5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

How was life at the shop described?
What was the occupation of Mr Hobson's friend?
How was the till observed?
Where was the missing money found?
What had caused the money to go missing?
Who discovered the missing money?

Convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table on
pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on pages
111-113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.

ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS
You should have found that this exercise was a little faster than the previous ones.
If it was, all is well. If it was not, ask yourself if you were really trying. Could you
have put a little more effort into it? You may, of course, be worried that greater
speed will mean poorer recall. It may - at first. After all, you are being asked to do
things in different ways from those you are used to. Once you do get used to them,
many problems will solve themselves. If not, there should be techniques you will
learn later in the programme that will be a help. Nothing you will be asked to do
will cause permanent brain damage. You will always have the option at any point
to go back to reading as you did before you started. Techniques that do not work
the first time you try them may well do so at the third or fourth attempt. You
simply need to get used to doing things differently. Persevere.

FURTHER PRACTICE
Continue the practice suggested at the end of Chapter 1.

Chapter Summary
In this chapter you have learned:
how to set objectives

16 / HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

how to mark them on the progress graphs
that it is desirable to have additional aims and objectives
the difference between an aim and an objective
the need for self-competition and self-pacing
the need to try to read faster
that it is important to persevere with the programme.

3

Basic Methods for Improvement
STAGE THREE
We now begin the third stage of the programme, which comprises the bulk of what
follows in this book. You will be asked to try out a range of techniques and see
which ones work best for you.
So far you already have in place techniques for timing, testing and recording what
you do, which will provide you with continuous and cumulative feedback on
what you do.
You have set objectives for achievement, the mere fact of doing which will tend to
draw you towards them. That is why we set objectives for many activities in life
and at work.
We have put in place the ideas of self-competition and self-pacing. Try to improve,
but do so at your own pace. Do not try too hard, otherwise you may find that you
are trying so hard that it actually gets in the way of making progress. Developing
mental skills is not like developing physical skills where the advice 'no pain, no
gain' is often given. Research shows that if you try too hard with a mental skill like
reading you perform less well than if you learn to relax a little.

SETTING TIME LIMITS
We might now usefully introduce the idea of setting time limits for reading. When
you have a chapter of a book or an article to read, use your developing awareness
of your speeds for various materials to set deadlines for when you wish to have the
reading completed. Writers find deadlines very useful and the same can be said for
readers. As Dr Johnson once said, 'If a man knows that he is to be hanged in a

17

18 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

fortnight, it concentrates the mind wonderfully.' You will not be hanged if you do
not read faster, but the deadline will help you in your quest for progress.
Don't worry if you do not meet your deadlines at this stage. They are simply
devices for encouraging you to look forwards in your reading rather than back. We
shall return to this point in the exercise at the end of this chapter.
It might be worth pointing out here that all the techniques that we have encountered so far, as well as the others later in this chapter, are helpful in improving any
skill, not just reading. The overall structure of the programme will also help to
improve any skill. You always need to know your starting point, to set objectives,
to have techniques for improvement available, to assess your progress after a
reasonable period and have strategies for continuing the programme for as long as
you want.

BEING MOTIVATED AND CONFIDENT
There are several other factors that can assist your progress. It helps, for instance,
if you are motivated and actively want to improve. I have not mentioned it before
because it seems reasonable to assume that if you are working through this
programme you are already fairly highly motivated. Lack of motivation will not
prevent you from making some improvement if you do all that is required of you in
this book. An open mind, though, would be better than a negative attitude. Most
progress will nevertheless be made if you have a positive mental attitude or PMA,
as it is sometimes called.
It will also help if you approach the work with a certain amount of confidence. I
am not asking you to say, 'Yes! I can do it!' All I am asking is that you think it
might at least be possible. Three things may help to provide some confidence. As
you progress, this may well give you the confidence to believe that you can go
further. If you look at results others have achieved, this may persuade you to
believe that, if others can do it, so can you. Nobody comes to the programme with
two heads or three eyeballs. All are ordinary people in ordinary occupations where
they need to get through paperwork quicker and more effectively.

B A S I C M E T H O D S FOR I M P R O V E M E N T / 19

Thirdly, there is the training gap we in effect encountered earlier, the fact that
most people are taught how to read in primary school and then receive no further
actual training in techniques of rapid reading and recall.

DO YOU NEED YOUR EYESIGHT CHECKING?
One final point might be worth making. When did you last have an eye test? If you
have not had one in the last three years, it might be worth having your eyesight
checked. Research shows that, when tested, 30% of people attending courses in
reading improvement needed spectacles, at least for reading. Of those who were
already wearing glasses, a further 30% needed new ones. If all this achieves is a
slightly better and sharper contrast between the print and the paper it will make
reading easier and therefore very likely faster. You have to remember that once
you're over seventeen, it's all downhill.

EXERCISE
Now try the following exercise and as you read have a time limit in mind for when
you would like to finish. Do not keep looking at your watch or timer to see
whether or not you are going to make it. This will only slow you down. Just see
how close you can get to a realistic deadline which will give you a little improvement on your best speed and recall score so far. Do not be disappointed if you do
not achieve it at the first attempt. As with all the techniques in this book, you will
become more used to them and more successful in using them with practice.
Start timing and begin reading NOW.
The Right Person
CFX pic had a problem. Morale was low. Staff turnover was high. Nobody knew
what was wrong. But everybody knew that something was wrong and that
something would have to be done about it. The question, however, was what?
One suggestion was to bring in a firm of consultants to study the problem and
make recommendations. The managing director was not in favour of that idea,

207 HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

fearing that they might conclude that he was at fault. He preferred first of all to
see if they could find a solution in-house. He summoned his Head of Personnel.
'What is the problem, John?' he asked.
'Well, sir, that's fairly easy. People are just not happy here. They do not get on
with each other. It seems that every time we appoint somebody we seem to
have a knack of selecting square pegs.'
The managing director sighed and said, 'Well, we have to do something. We
can't go on like this otherwise the board are going to notice and start asking
awkward questions. Last quarter's figures are already going to raise some
eyebrows on faces I'd prefer to keep happy. Get your people to start from square
one and see if they can find out where we're going wrong.'
The personnel director called his senior team members together and put the
situation to them.
'We have got to come up with a solution,' he concluded.
They all sat silent for a full minute and then the newest recruit shuffled in his
chair. They all turned to look at him expectantly. He reddened and looked
uncomfortable.
'Well,' he began, 'You've all been here for some time. I only started two months
ago.'
'So?' asked the deputy director of personnel.
'Well,' stumbled the newcomer, looking at her with a mixture of embarrassment
and apprehension, 'I think there's something not quite right with our selection
procedures.'
There was a general gasp of astonishment.
'We use a combination of interviews, the latest assessment tests and practical
tests/ scorned the deputy director.
'I know, but we use the same procedure for every job. I think some people are
getting through because they are good actors, because they are already familiar
with the test or because the practical tests we use are not always appropriate to
the job they are applying for.'
'What do you mean?' demanded the deputy director.

B A S I C M E T H O D S FOR I M P R O V E M E N T / 21

Take my own case. I've always been good at interviews. I've practised in front of
a video camera, with feedback from friends, and our interviews are typically only
about thirty minutes long, regardless of the level of the job. I was more than
familiar with the tests and had practised on them extensively. My practical test
was to repair a broken typewriter. That's not really a relevant skill to my job as
assistant training officer and, besides, my father used to run a second-hand
office equipment business and I used to help him out in school holidays and
university vacations.'
'So what do you think we should do?' asked the director.
At that moment the bell rang for the usual Thursday morning fire practice drill.
(521 words)

Stop timing and make a note of the time and answer the following questions
without looking back at the passage.
Questions
1. What was the name of the company?
2. What was the first suggested solution to the problem?
3. Why did the managing director not favour this idea?
4. Whom did he summon to discuss the problem?
5. What were going to raise some eyebrows?
6. Who spoke first when the personnel director put the problem to his senior
team members?
7. How long had this person worked for the company?
8. What event ended the meeting?
9. Name two of the techniques the company was currently using in staff selection.
10. What was the newcomer's practical test when interviewed for his job?
Convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table on
pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on pages
111-113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.

22 / HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS
Did you find the time limit helpful? If not, do some of the further practice in using
time limits set out in the Further Practice section below.
If it did not work, don't despair. Remember our watchword: persevere. Always try
things a few times before you give up on them.

FURTHER PRACTICE
Set time limits for a variety of pieces of writing. A good source of practice material
for this programme lies in your 'Ought to Read' pile on your desk. I'm sure you
have one. Most people do - items that should be read but rarely if ever are. Now
you can kill two birds with one stone: fulfil the requirement for further practice
and reduce the size of the pile.

Chapter

Summary

In this chapter you have learned:
the need to continue using techniques already in place
the value of time limits or deadlines for reading tasks
the role of motivation in training skills
the need to develop confidence in using the techniques
the desirability of having regular eye tests.

4

The Mechanics of Reading
It will help at this point to learn a little about the nature of the reading process and
be aware of what is actually happening as you are reading. We shall also look at
the fourteen main differences between inefficient and efficient readers and see
how we can improve our skills in each of these areas.

HOW YOUR EYES MOVE WHEN YOU ARE READING
Most people believe that when they are reading their eyes move smoothly along a
line of print, but this is not the case. If you stand at a window overlooking a busy
road and watch a car pass you from left to right, your eyes appear to move
smoothly because they are focused on the car. In fact, they move in a very rapid
series of small jerks, or saccades as they are called.
If you try to watch an imaginary car as it passes, anyone who watches your eyes
will tell you that these saccades are larger and therefore visible. Watch someone's
eyes over the top of a book or newspaper and you will see them clearly, but do pick
someone you know, not strangers in pubs, for obvious reasons.
This is how the eyes move when you are reading. It is in the pauses or fixations
between saccades that the reading is done. Research has shown that there is a
mechanism in the brain which switches vision off 40 milliseconds before the eyes
move and does not switch it completely back on again until 40 milliseconds after
they have stopped moving. The amount you read at each fixation depends upon
your span of perception or eye span.
Using your eye span
What all this means in practical terms is that, in order to increase your reading
speed, you have to learn to space these fixations out more. Most slow readers read

23

24 / HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

every word and yet you only have to look at a word to realise that you see more
than one word at a time. Try it now. Focus on the dot above the i in the last
sentence. Without moving your eyes, you will usually be able to see not just the
word 'it', but also the word to the left and the word to the right. You will also be
able to see the words above and below. You may even be able to see more than
this. Whatever you can see without moving your eyes is your available eye span.
Clearly, reading one word at a time is a wasteful use of resources.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MATURE READER: MECHANICAL DIFFERENCES
Research into reading in the United States has, in fact, identified fourteen
characteristics of 'the mature reader'. We'll begin by looking at mechanical or
physiological differences.
Regressing
The biggest problem that the inefficient or slow reader (the two are usually
synonymous) has is that he or she regresses, that is, goes back to read things again.
Most of us believe that these regressions are necessary because we do not understand the first time what we are being told. The evidence is, however, that this is
normally not the case.
We go back for many other reasons. There is nothing to stop us going back, though
when we are listening to information being given to us we rarely do it. When was
the last time you asked a speaker to repeat the last few minutes of what they were
saying? We regress to check that we have the information we need or should be
getting. We regress out of lack of confidence. We regress out of habit. Yet the
evidence is that, if you put people in a position in which they cannot regress,
the loss of comprehension is on average no more than 3% to 7% and even this is
recovered with a little bit of practice. We shall return later in this chapter to a
simple technique which will enable us to avoid regressions.
Vocalising and inner speech
Many people vocalise or subvocalise as they read. Vocalising is simply a technical
term for reading aloud. Some are unable to read silently. More subvocalise, that is,
they read aloud silently. It is often called inner speech and is most noticeable if you
are reading something written by someone you know well or by a well-known

THE M E C H A N I C S OF R E A D I N G / 25

personality. It is as if you can 'hear' their voice as you read and it used to be
regarded as a fault which had to be cured.
It is now not so seriously regarded for two reasons. No one has yet identified a cure
for it and if you cannot cure a problem you simply have to live with it. More
usefully, the Medical Research Council's Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge
University in England, which has done quite a lot of research into reading over
the years, discovered that it was possible for people to read aloud at up to 475
words per minute and still understand what they were reading. I don't say people
listening could understand, but the readers could understand. Presumably
silent reading would permit even higher speeds because you would no longer be
restricted by how quickly you could move your mouth muscles.
Most authorities put the limit on silent reading speed at about 800 words per
minute (w.p.m.), though it may take some time to achieve this. My own top speed
is about 600 w.p.m. and about 70% recall, but I have seen many people achieve
higher speeds with even better comprehension. The best advice to give if you feel
subvocalisation is a problem is to try to forget about it. It becomes less and less
noticeable once you can achieve speeds in excess of 300 w.p.m.
Fixation time
Speed of perception or fixation time is a difference between slow and fast readers.
There is not much you can do about this because you cannot control what you do
in terms of fractions of seconds. It tends to become faster anyway with higher
speeds, so it is another problem which takes care of itself.
Eye span
The same is true of eye span, which we mentioned earlier. Once you are operating
at speeds above 300 w.p.m. you tend quite naturally to take in information in terms
of groups of words rather than single words. There are, however, three techniques
for you to try in this regard later in this chapter.
Rhythm
The slow reader, for fairly obvious reasons if much regression is taking place, lacks
rhythm in reading. The faster reader has rhythmic, confident eye movements. The
only backward movement is at the end of a line when moving to the beginning of
the next line.

267 HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE . .

Flexible speeds
The slow reader also tends to read slowly all the time, no matter what he or she is
reading. That is simply because he or she has no choice. The faster reader has a
choice and can be flexible, reading easy materials quickly and demanding material
relatively slowly, after skimming first. We shall return to skimming techniques in
Chapter 9.

PSYCHOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES
Tension
Many slow readers experience tension when reading under pressure, for instance,
when time is short. The efficient reader remains relaxed, even when reading
against the clock.
Anticipating
Slow readers often have difficulty in anticipating the nature of subsequent material
and tend to forget what they have read at the top of a page before they get to the
bottom. This is because they are going so slowly that the impression made by
earlier information fades before it can be related to what follows. Faster readers
use anticipatory scanning techniques looking ahead in the material to predict the
nature of material they have not yet read.
Concentration
Slow readers often lack concentration except for short periods. Efficient readers
concentrate well by excluding distractions, reading at times of day when they know
from experience they can concentrate better and reading in environments conducive to good concentration.
Retention
Inefficient readers are frequently unable to retain information for very long
after reading. Faster readers tend to have good retention of information over
longer periods because they use the kinds of techniques we shall be discussing in
Chapter 6.
Purpose
Slow readers are unsure about their purposes in reading which means they have no
clear goals to aim for when they read. Faster readers make sure that they have a

THE M E C H A N I C S OF R E A D I N G / 27

clear knowledge of their purpose and expectations before they begin to read
something.

EDUCATIONAL DIFFERENCES
The last group of differences we might call education or cultural. They are difficult
to improve in a fairly short programme like the one in this book, but they can be
improved in the longer term.
Vocabulary
Vocabulary is a significant factor in reading. The broader your vocabulary, the
better. You can build it up systematically by keeping a notebook for new words
encountered. Write in the dictionary definition and then try to use the words in
sentences of your own construction. If possible, have someone check for you that
you have understood the meaning and are using a word correctly. Most people
have a partner or a friend who will do this for them.
Background knowledge
Another factor is your general background of knowledge and experience. The
broader this is, the more likely you are to be able to tackle materials of greater
difficulty drawn from a wider range of subject areas. Breadth of scope breeds more
breadth as well as greater depth of understanding.
Reading critically
Slow readers are unable to read critically, in the sense of not just looking for faults,
but looking for points of merit as well. Faster readers can do this without loss of
speed by using the type of strategy we shall look at in the next chapter.

LEARNING TECHNIQUES TO ADDRESS THESE PROBLEMS
The practical consequences of these fourteen differences is that, if we can do what
naturally efficient readers do as often as we can, we shall experience improvements
not only in our speed of reading, but in the quality of our recall and comprehension
as well.

28 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE .

Now let us see what we can do specifically by way of new techniques about the first
group of differences discussed above.
No more regression
We know that regressions are a problem because they inevitably slow you down
and contribute greatly to making reading a tedious and time-consuming chore.
From this point on, therefore, there is to be no more regression. To prevent it, take
a sheet of A4 paper and fold it in two. Fold it in two again so that it is
approximately postcard shape and size. You may recall using a piece of paper or
card when you were learning to read in primary school. You kept it underneath the
line you were reading to prevent your eyes skipping from one line to another. Now
you will use it in a different way. Place it above the line you are reading and draw
it down to progressively cover the text you have read. Never move it upwards.
Never let it stand still. Never bring it down about three lines behind where you are
just in case. Try it now. Once you get used to it you should find that not only does
your speed improve, often dramatically, but so does concentration. This is simply
because you have to concentrate more when you are doing something new and still
want to take in the meaning of what you read. You should read without regression
for the rest of this programme, unless you are given different instructions.
Developing a rhythm
Try to develop a rhythm as you practise avoiding regression. Avoiding regression
creates a rhythm in the first place and getting into a rhythm helps to prevent
regressions because we do not like to break a rhythm once established.
Making better use of eye span
Now, how can we make better use of our available eye span? There are, as we said
earlier, three techniques for you to try and see which works best for you.
Instead of looking at every word, try looking at alternate words. If you can do
it, it will clearly instantly double your reading speed.
If that does not work, try to identify groups of words rather than single words.
Even in a simple sentence like The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'
words group together. 'The quick brown fox' is one group, 'jumps over' is
another and 'the lazy dog' is a third. If this works, it can more than double your
reading speed.

THE M E C H A N I C S OF R E A D I N G / 29

4 If neither of these techniques works for you, simply try reading faster, something you should, of course, already be doing. Many people find this is the
simplest and easiest way to get the brain to change the way it is prepared to
accept information. Later, when you are reading faster, you can examine your
technique again. If you are indeed reading faster, you will almost certainly
notice that you are making fewer fixations and are therefore making better use
of your available eye span.
Flashing
One other little technique for you to try - which was used for many years
in programmes like this until people realised that it very rarely worked - is
tachistoscopic practice or flashing as it is more popularly known.
You take your anti-regression device (the folded piece of paper) and select a
column in a newspaper. Give yourself the first line, cover up the second and lower
few lines. Then pull the piece of paper down and return it up to its original position
as quickly as you physically can. Write down what you have seen 'flashed' before
your eyes. Do this for ten or twenty lines. If it happens to work for you, it will help
to widen your use of your eye span. If it does not work, do not worry. It very rarely
does, but it is at least worth trying it out once.

EXERCISE
Now read the following exercise, concentrating particularly on not regressing as
you read and on trying for a new personal best for speed and comprehension.
Start timing and begin reading NOW.

It Never Rains but it Pours
After quite a reasonable summer with quite pleasant periods of warm sunshine
and less than average rainfall, the autumn turned out to be very different. From
the beginning of October it became noticeably colder and a great deal wetter.
The rain continued for days at a time and for the last two weeks of the
month it rained steadily. This was accompanied by very high winds and caused

307 HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE . .

widespread damage to buildings and serious flooding. All parts of the country
were affected, but conditions were particularly bad in the South East.
At International Consolidated Insurance Group, claims began to arrive towards
the end of October and rose sharply in the early part of November. There were
so many that the staff found it impossible to investigate each claim as thoroughly
as they would like. As part of company policy, the view was taken to pay up and
ask questions afterwards. This was seen as contributing to good customer
relations and an appropriate response to a government plea to insurance
companies to do as much as they could to assist, in particular, hard hit
householders whose properties had been damaged.
There were so many claims that there was a natural suspicion that not all of them
were genuine. Towards the end of November, when the weather had improved
and the winds and the floods had subsided, the number of claims received
declined steadily and staff were able to give each one more careful attention.
One in particular caught the attention of Geoffrey Fairhurst. It came from a
Mr Bernard Atherton in Sunderland. By chance, Geoffrey had been born in
Sunderland and had spent much of his early life there before his parents moved
south in search of work when shipbuilding began to decline. He knew the area
well and he knew the part of the city in which Mr Atherton lived especially well
as he had had an early girl friend living in the vicinity.
Mr Atherton had claimed £1250 for damage to his property caused by flooding.
On the face of it, the claim looked reasonable as the east coast had suffered
almost as badly as the South East. Geoffrey, however, was doubtful for a reason
he could not at first define. The claim was made out properly. There was a
receipt from a local builder approved by the company detailing the work that had
had to be done together with the reasons for it. Yet Geoffrey was not happy with
the claim. He pored over it for some time, but still could not identify precisely
what was puzzling him. At length, he put it to one side and turned to other
claims.
He was checking the details of a claim made from Hillcrest Avenue in Hull when
it suddenly came to him. It lay in the juxtaposition of Hillcrest and Hull for he
thought it odd to have a street labelled Hillcrest in a city that was known for its
flatness, a fact demonstrated in the old days by the number of cycles per head of
population. At one time it reputedly had more than Copenhagen.

THE M E C H A N I C S O F R E A D I N G / 3 1

Of course, he told himself, that was it: the hill. He remembered that the part of
Sunderland in which Mr Atherton lived was on a hill. Indeed, Mr Atherton's
address, Geoffrey recalled, was almost at the top of the hill. It did not seem a
likely place for a flood to strike. Consequently, he marked the file as one for the
company's investigators to enquire into.
This was duly done and the report came back that there had in fact been damage
to the property, but it had been caused by the high winds and not flooding. It
further transpired that Mr Atherton was an elderly gentleman whose eyesight
was not as good as it once was. He had, however, submitted a false claim.
It also emerged that, on investigation, a number of claims from that part of the
North East contained similar errors. The builders, meanwhile, had ceased trading
and the owners could not be traced. Local rumour had it that, having cashed
heavily in on the claims made with their support, they had departed for the
sunnier climate of Northern Cyprus until matters at home had cooled down
sufficiently to permit a safe return.
(710 words)

Questions
1. When did the pleasant summer weather change?
2. Which part of the country was worst affected by the floods?
3. What prompted Geoffrey's parents to move south?
4. Why did Geoffrey know the part of the city in which Mr Atherton lived
particularly well?
5. How much had Mr Atherton claimed for damage to his property?
6. What was the name of the street which caused Geoffrey to realise what was
suspicious about Mr Atherton's claim?
7. Hull had once reputedly had more cycles per head of population than which
city?
8. What had caused the damage to Mr Atherton's property?
9. What was the status of the builders now?
10. Where were the builders now?

327 HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

Convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table on
pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on pages
111-113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.

ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS
Many people find that simply by avoiding regressions they get a dramatic increase in reading speed. If you did, that is good. If you didn't, don't worry. Keep
trying.
You may experience some loss of comprehension at first. This is quite normal. It
happens simply because you are reading in a different way from the way you are
used to. As with many of the techniques in this programme, you have to establish a
new position, as it were, and then you have to consolidate it with practice. You
have to become familiar with the new technique. Familiarity, in this context,
breeds comprehension.

FURTHER PRACTICE
Select from the pile of unread items on your desk some that you know you ought
to read but will probably otherwise never get around to reading. Use them
to practise avoiding regressions. Time, test and record your results in the way
described on pages 2-3.

Chapter Summary

In this chapter you have learned:
the nature of the reading process
the 14 major differences between inefficient or slow readers and efficient or
faster readers.
how to avoid regressions when reading

THE M E C H A N I C S OF R E A D I N G / 33

how to use more of your available eye span
how to try tachistoscopic practice or 'flashing'
what to do about subvocalisation.

5

Comprehension and Critical
Reading
READING SPEED AND COMPREHENSION
It is important to remember that reading speed and comprehension are not two
separate elements in the reading process, but two parts of the same thing. Reading
speed clearly refers to the speed of reading comprehension. Comprehension
rather confusingly refers not only to the whole process of reading but also more
specifically to the quality of reading comprehension.
We use the terms 'reading speed' and 'comprehension' for convenience and we
need to remember that each affects the other, though not always as we might
suppose. For example, as you may already have found out, low speeds do not
automatically give better comprehension and higher speeds do not automatically
give poorer comprehension.

EFFECTIVE READING RATE
There is a way in which you can use the two pieces of information about reading
speed and comprehension which you get at the end of each exercise to calculate a
third element which you may find useful. This is what is known as the Effective
Reading Rate (ERR). This is not the rate at which you are reading effectively, but
the rate at which you are effectively reading, if you see the distinction.
The calculation is:
Reading speed (words per minute) x Questions score %
Example: 250 x 70% = 175 = Effective Reading Rate

34

COMPREHENSION

AND C R I T I C A L R E A D I N G / 35

Many people feel that it is a more reliable indicator of real progress than two
separate results. For the ERR to rise, normally one of three things has to happen.
Either the speed goes up and comprehension stays the same, or comprehension
goes up and the speed stays the same, or they both go up.
You can, of course, get freak results where the speed goes up dramatically and
comprehension drops alarmingly and yet the ERR is still higher. You can prevent
this by building in a minimum acceptable comprehension score. I would suggest
60% or 70%, though you can set it where you like in the light of your own results.
If the comprehension falls below the set figure, you do not do the calculation. It
does not count. There is then a built-in incentive to achieve at least the minimum
acceptable comprehension.

READING COMPREHENSION

Reading comprehension is a complex process which comprises the successful or
unsuccessful use of many abilities. When we read, we should be able to recall
information afterwards. What we can recall and how much we can recall depends
on many factors, as we shall see in the next two chapters.
We should be able to select the important points from what we have read and
be able to draw general conclusions. We should look for key words and
phrases. We should be able to differentiate between fact and opinion.
We should be able to make deductions, draw inferences, be aware of
implications and interpret information. That is to say, we should be able to
distinguish between denotative, or surface or literal, meaning and connotative,
or hidden or unstated, meaning. In other words, we should be able to read both
along and between the lines.
We need to relate what we have read to our prior knowledge and experience,
to see it in context. That is why the wide and varied reading we discussed in the
last chapter is so important.
We should evaluate and discuss what we read with others. In this chapter, we
shall encounter a simple but effective technique for evaluating material. We

36 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE .

shall learn how to read critically even at speed, where critically means not just
looking for faults, but looking for points of merit as well.
Much of this activity takes place anyway, of course, quite unconsciously, but
reminding ourselves of what we need to be doing should help us to do it more
effectively. A lot of what you are told in this book may be put down to common
sense, but that does not make it any less valuable.

FACTORS AFFECTING COMPREHENSION
Of all the factors which can affect both the quantity and the quality of our comprehension the main ones would seem to be:
speed of reading
our purposes in reading
the nature of the material
the layout of the material
the environment in which we are reading.
Speed
Speed can have an adverse effect upon comprehension if you go beyond certain
limits. What those limits are will vary a great deal from person to person and from
time to time. If you were to read the next exercise at twice your best speed so far,
you might well expect some loss of comprehension and your expectations might
well be fulfilled. If you try to increase your speeds gradually, this should not
happen, or if it does it will only be temporary until you get used to reading faster.
Purpose
It is, of course, closely connected with our motivation for reading and our interest
in reading the material. Where these are poor or non-existent, clarity of purpose
can often create a degree of motivation and raise the level of interest slightly but
significantly.

C O M P R E H E N S I O N AND C R I T I C A L R E A D I N G / 37

IMPROVING COMPREHENSION
You can improve the quantity and quality of your comprehension in three main
ways.
Firstly, you can improve it by wide varied reading, where variety is more
important than volume.
Secondly, you can improve it by discussion. In discussion, your comprehension
is immediately either reinforced or rejected. If others agree with you and you
have clearly understood what you were reading, this reinforces the impression
the material makes and assists later recall. If others disagree with you and you
have clearly misunderstood what you were reading, this is in a sense even
better. You can add their understanding to replace and augment your own so
that you emerge from the discussion with more than you went in with.
Thirdly, you can improve it by testing. You might not notice improvement in
the course of working through the exercises in this book because they are
graded to offer a gently rising level of difficulty in an attempt to counter the
effects of improving simply through practice. If you follow the Further Practice
recommendations at the end of each chapter, then you should soon see and feel
improvements taking place.
Self-testing: self-recitation
There are two simple techniques you can use for self-testing which, when used in
combination, can be highly effective. They are known by various names. The first
is often called self-recitation or simply recitation. Some readers will know it as 'the
journalist's questions'. Others will recall it from Rudyard Kipling's little rhyme:
I keep six honest serving men.
They taught me all I knew.
Their names are WHAT? and WHY? and WHEN?
And HOW? and WHERE? and WHO?
Ask the question:

You are automatically looking for:

What?

Events, actions, things

A RECALL TREE
What is it?
Reading faster without loss
of comprehension
Skimming effectively
Studying effectively
Reading critically

Why read faster?
Save time
Clear the in-tray
Widen scope of reading
Make better use of
available skills

When to read faster?
When time is short
When purpose and material permit
When concentration is good
(usually mornings)

RAPID
READING

Who can read faster?
Most people, if they have:
Motivation
Confidence
Effort
Persistence
Those who are prepared to
practise, practise, practise

Where to read faster?
Somewhere you know from
experience you can concentrate,
usually a relatively quiet
environment free from
distractions and interruptions
Somewhere allowing conditions
as close as realistically possible
to the above ideal

How to read faster?
Time, test and record all the reading
you do for practice
Set objectives for achievement
Follow the 10 basic rules
Assess performance after a reasonable
time (say, 12 weeks)
Repeat the process, if required, with
higher targets

C O M P R E H E N S I O N AND C R I T I C A L R E A D I N G / 39

Why?

Reasons, conclusions, deductions, inferences,
implications, opinions

When?

Time factors

How?

Method or processes

Where?

Place or location details

Who?

Information about people

Mind mapping
Self-recitation works very well when used together with a technique commonly
known as mind mapping. Some readers may call it a spidergram or spidergraph,
others may call it a recall tree, yet others may know it simply as spray, scattered or
patterned notes. It is basically an alternative to the method most people use for
making notes, which is to create lists of points. Lists are very useful, but they do
suffer from two possible disadvantages:
There is always a tendency with a list to regard the items at the top as more
important than the ones further down. There is a kind of hierarchical feel about
a list.
There is often difficulty in seeing interrelationships between items in the list if
there are very many of them.
Mind mapping, or whatever you want to call it, overcomes problems like these by
the simple device of starting from the middle of a page and working outwards in
various directions rather than starting at the top and working downwards. In this
way, similar items of information automatically group together. It is also often
easier if you use the paper landscape (horizontal) style rather than the more usual
portrait (vertical) style. See page 38.

USING QUESTIONS TO READ CRITICALLY
At this stage in the programme, you may well find that when you are reading the
exercises you are trying to spot questions that might be asked in the tests. Try not
to do this. Read for meaning, that is, to understand what you read. If you

407 HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE . .

understand it, it should not matter what reasonable questions are asked, you
should still be able to answer them. If you can successfully spot questions in
advance, all this tells you is that you are a good spotter. Since no one else need see
your results but you, it is far better to try to be as honest with yourself as it is
possible to be.
If you do want questions to spot and if you also want to enhance your ability to read
critically, you should use three key questions from the self-recitation list: WHAT?,
WHY? and HOW?
The question WHAT? focuses your attention on the content of what you
read and raises the questions like: What does this material tell me? Is the
information accurate or plausible? What is the writer's authority for writing on
this subject and is he or she reliable?
WHY? directs your attention to the writer's intentions and prompts further
questions like: What is the writer trying to achieve? Are his or her aims
legitimate or worthwhile? You should compare the writer's purposes with your
own. If there is no match, should you not be reading something more relevant
instead?
HOW? focuses on treatment. How has the material been put together and can
you detect a clear, logical structure? This raises further questions like: Am I
being convinced by reason or by appeals to emotion? Is there any evidence
here of bias or distortion or concealment? Has the treatment influenced unduly
my acceptance or rejection of what the writer is saying?
A final question rounds things off: HOW WELL? This produces an evaluation
of the material and leads to asking: If the writer fails, how, where and why does
he or she fail? In the light of all these questions, or even of just the three key
ones WHAT? WHY? and HOW?, what is my final evaluation?

C O M P R E H E N S I O N AND C R I T I C A L R E A D I N G / 41

EXERCISE
Now read the following exercise, concentrating particularly again on not regressing
as you read and on trying for a new personal best for speed and comprehension.
Start timing and begin reading NOW.
The Missing Painting
Sam Marwick enjoyed his job as night security officer in the Department of Fine
Arts at the University of Lochbrae. Of the people that he met, which were not too
many since most had gone home by the time he arrived for his shift, he got on
well with most of them. That did not include Professor Simkins, a rather severe
and aloof personality.
It had all started when Sam tidied up some files in an office and put them into
one of the filing cabinets for safety. That was his first week. What he did not
realise, of course, was that some academics were not as security conscious as
the people at the nuclear power station where he had worked previously. What
he had also not realised was that the files belonged to Professor Simkins.
When the Professor came in the following morning, after Sam had left to get
some well-earned sleep, there had been ructions. Everybody who ventured into
the offices was accused of removing the files. No one could find them and it was
only when Sam happened to come in early out of enthusiasm for his new job
that the truth came to light. Sam remembered that interview he had had with the
professor and had kept out of his way ever since.
This worked well until the painting of the Madonna and Child went missing. It
was not a particularly famous or valuable treatment of the theme, but it had
belonged to Professor Simkins before he donated it to the university. When Sam
came in on the evening of the day on which its absence was discovered, he was
met by Professor Simkins, Sarah Hill, his deputy, and Alan Jenkinson, the
departmental secretary. What then ensued would have been described in politer
circles as a full and frank discussion. What actually took place was a fierce and
noisy row. The professor let his feelings about Sam's so-called incompetence
come out in full clarity. Sam vented all the pent-up resentment he felt against the
professor that had built up since the incident of the files. Sarah Hill tried to
reason with them both, but simply achieved the result that they both turned on

42 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

her and told her to shut up. Alan Jenkinson hovered indecisively in the background.
The upshot was that Sam stormed out threatening to go straight to his union,
with the professor shouting for his immediate resignation.
The following day the painting mysteriously reappeared.
Sam confronted the professor and demanded an apology, which he did not get.
He also demanded an enquiry to find out what had really happened to the
painting. He did not get this either. Frustrated and bitter, he approached Sarah
Hill for her support in making a complaint about the professor's attitude and
behaviour, but she did not want to get involved and, clearly embarrassed, said
that she had to support her superior. He got even less help from Alan Jenkinson
because, search as he might, he could find no trace of him. He had, apparently,
as it emerged later, turned tail and gone on a few days' leave (which he had
suddenly remembered he was entitled to) to do some fishing in the highlands of
Scotland.
Sam had no option but to withdraw to consider what his best course of action
might be.
(550 words)

Questions
1. Who had a rather severe and aloof personality?
2. Why had Sam tidied up some files and put them in a filing cabinet?
3. Where had Sam Marwick worked prior to his job at the university?
4. What was the subject of the painting that went missing?
5. What took place on the evening of the day on which the painting went
missing?
6. What happened on the following day?
7. What was Alan Jenkinson's position in the department?
8. Who did Sam approach for support in his dispute with the professor?
9. What was Alan Jenkinson intending to do when he was on leave?
10. What did Sam do when he withdrew from the situation?

C O M P R E H E N S I O N AND C R I T I C A L R E A D I N G / 43

Convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table on
pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on pages
111-113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.

ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS
As we cover more ground and add to the list of points to bear in mind as you are
reading, you may find that you reach a plateau for a time. If this result was not the
best yet, you may find it helps when you do the Further Practice recommended
below if you concentrate on the single most useful technique you have encountered
so far. What has produced the biggest increase in reading speed? Build upon your
success and work on that one technique in your practice before you attempt the
next chapter.

FURTHER PRACTICE
Select an item from your 'slush' pile - those items on your desk you know you will
otherwise never read - and follow these instructions very carefully.
Cover up the rest of the page below this paragraph before you read on. DO THIS
NOW. Do not uncover the rest of the page until you have finished reading. Now
read the item you have selected from your pile as quickly as you possibly can with
no regard whatsoever for comprehension. Forget about it. Just read as quickly as
you are physically able to move your eyes. Time it in the usual way and begin
reading NOW.
Now, test your comprehension, using self-recitation and mind mapping. Did anything register after all, despite the fact that you were going purely for speed? It
usually does and indicates that you still have potential to exploit. It also illustrates
the fact that it is almost impossible to read something without gaining some
comprehension of it. It is only a matter of practice to improve both the quantity
and quality of that comprehension.

44 / HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

Chapter Summary
In this chapter you have learned:
that reading speed and comprehension are not two separate elements but two
parts of the same process, reading comprehension
how to calculate the Effective Reading Rate and what it means
the nature of comprehension and the factors which affect it
how to improve quantity and quality of comprehension
the need to read for meaning, both denotative and connotative
how to use self-recitation and mind mapping
how to read critically and evaluate what you read.

6

Techniques of Retention
RETENTION IS NOT THE PROBLEM

The problem here is often not retention at all, but recall. We remember a great
deal more than we realise. You must have had the experience of being asked for
some information, the name of a person, say, and not being able to think of it, but
as soon as someone else mentions the name you say, 'Of course, that's it.' This
response indicates that the information was indeed available, but for some reason
it was not accessible.
Our brains are capable of storing vast amounts of information about all manner of
subjects, experiences, feelings and so on. Many older people, for example, can
recall exactly where they were and what they were doing when President Kennedy
was assassinated. Younger ones can remember the events of the hurricane in the
south of England on 16 October 1987. You will have your own memories of
significant events in your own life. My simply making the point may well have
brought images not thought of for some time flooding back into your consciousness.

IMPROVING RETENTION: QUALITIES OF INFORMATION

Even though retention is not really the problem, there are still ways in which it
can be improved. There are certain qualities that information needs to possess if
we are to retain it more effectively. Many of them are based on simple common
sense.
Meaningfulness
It helps to remember something if it possesses a degree of meaningfulness for us. It
needs to have relevance. We do, of course, all remember a lot of useless information, which is handy for pub quizzes or playing Trivial Pursuit, but we remember
45

467 HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE . .

much more that is useful. We should, therefore, first of all be clear about what the
information means to us and how we shall use it.
Organisation
Information is easier to remember if it has a pattern of organisation, a structure.
Often, because writers like to present things in a logical and ordered way, this
pattern is easy to see. If it is not, we should look for a way of organising it
ourselves. Mind mapping can be very useful as an intermediate step between
material presented in a haphazard fashion and a point-by-point plan. Once similar
items are grouped together on the mind map, all we then have to do is look for a
sequence which suits us.
Associations
We should look for easy to remember associations between what we want to
remember and what we readily remember already. These associations can then be
linked together to produce patterns. Many people remember shopping lists like
this. They know the layout of their local supermarket and can split it into areas.
Their requirements can then be arranged to provide associations with those areas.
They then produce a pattern of moving through the store which minimises the
need to return to the same area more than once on a visit. If the supermarket
reorganises its floor space, the process is simply repeated to suit the new pattern.
Visualisations
Visualisataions help us to remember things. If we can see them in our mind's eye
and provide ourselves with a series of pictures it strengthens the impression made
by the information. Even abstract concepts can be visualised. Democracy may
be seen as a ballot being placed in a ballot box. Justice is often seen as a pair of
scales.
Attention
Often we fail to remember because we have not been paying enough attention. We
have not tried to remember. Effective retention does require a certain amount of
concentration, though not so much that it causes us to frown with the effort. All
that does is give you a pain between the eyes. The simplest way to deal with this
point is, when you need to pay attention and concentrate, select a time and a place
where you know from experience it is easier to achieve it. Most people find
mornings better for tasks requiring concentration and conditions of relative quiet.

T E C H N I Q U E S OF R E T E N T I O N / 47

Libraries or interview rooms without external windows are usually the most readily
available locations.
Interest
A high level of interest in the subject matter and a strong motivation for remembering it help. This cannot always be achieved, but where it can we should exploit
it to the full. Even uninteresting topics can be made easier to remember with
motivation. Identify a clear reason for remembering. Chapter 6 will give you more
on this point.
Feedback
Feedback is important. We need to check that we have indeed remembered what
we want to remember. Self-recitation (see pages 37-39) enables us to gain this vital
feedback. Always review it to make sure that there are no important gaps.

IMPROVING RETENTION: HELPFUL TECHNIQUES

In addition to these qualities that information should possess to make it easier to
remember, there is a group of techniques which will offer further assistance.
Repetition
The impression made by information can be reinforced by repetition. Some things
may need to be read more than once. Time saved on less important reading can be
re-invested here to increase efficiency.
Discussion

Discussion helps to reinforce information. Most of us will have had the experience
of going into a meeting having read and thought we understood all the papers only
to find that others have seen things in them that we missed or misunderstood. We
can then add their understanding to our own or modify it as required and emerge
from the meeting with more than we went in with. Even if we have got it right in
the first place, their agreement with us will still strengthen our retention. You
cannot lose with discussion.
Writing things down

Writing things down helps. How often do you look up a new telephone number
only to find you have forgotten the end of it before you can complete the dialling?

48 / HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

Write the number down when found and, even without referring to it again, this
does not happen. It has been reinforced.
Using the information
It helps, of course, if the information we wish to remember is actually used. If you
don't use it, you lose it. Again, with telephone numbers, we are most likely to
remember easily the ones we use. The one many people are most likely to forget is
their own or at least part of it. Is it, for instance, 9342 or 9432? They don't use it
much. Other people do. And do you know your car registration number? What
about your driving licence or passport or National Insurance numbers?
Testing
Of all the advice given here, probably the single most useful technique for most
people is self-recitation. It is surprising how much the simple act of getting into the
habit of testing yourself on what you wish to remember and checking back with the
original to confirm progressively increases the amount of information retained.
Many of us have what we call poor memories simply because we are not prepared
to invest a little time and effort on the activities in this and the next chapter.

EXERCISE
Now read the following exercise, concentrating particularly again on not regressing
as you read and on trying for a new personal best for speed and comprehension.
Start timing and begin reading NOW.
One Not So Careful Lady Owner
Gridlock Insurance Services specialised in motor insurance. Whilse not being in
the top ten insurance groups in the country, it had a fairly substantial list of
clients and had a generally good reputation in the business. As one of the
services it provided to its clients, it maintained a department whose primary
function was to assist people in making claims against other insurers. This
department was not large, consisting of ten young people with varying degrees
of experience and expertise in insurance matters. This was not too critical as
their main function was to expedite matters in the interests of their clients. In the
event of encountering a problem with which they could not deal, they had a very
experienced manager to turn to if they needed help with anything.

T E C H N I Q U E S OF R E T E N T I O N / 49

The department was a busy one and was becoming increasingly so. Up to now it
had not let a client down by being unable to bring about a successful conclusion
to a claim, but the growth of business made it increasingly likely that a mistake
would be made. When it came, it came in the form of Mrs Armitage.
Actually, it came in the form of Mrs Armitage's son, Peter. Mrs Armitage had a
rather old, but reasonably reliable, Ford Escort which was insured by Mr
Armitage for any driver. In fact, the only people who used it were Mrs Armitage
and Peter.
On the evening of Friday 7 May, Peter was using the car as Mr and Mrs Armitage
had gone out with friends and, as they intended during the course of the evening
to have a drink or two, had booked a taxi. Peter was out with his friend Roger
and they had met other friends in the local supermarket car park. A crowd of
young people gathered there most evenings after the store had shut and the
shoppers and staff had gone home.
Later in the evening Peter and Roger decided to go to the local fish and chip
shop for a bag of chips and jumbo sausage. They ate the food in the car, chatting
as they did so. When they had finished, they put the wrappings dutifully in the
bin provided outside the fish shop and prepared to leave.
As Peter was pulling out from his parking place at the side of the road, his car
was hit by another driven by a young man of about Peter's age. The damage to
both cars was surprisingly extensive and most of Peter's offside wing had
virtually disintegrated. The other car involved, also a Ford Escort, was similarly
damaged on the near side and, since it was considerably newer, would cost
much more to repair if, indeed, the insurance company considered it was worth
it.

The two boys exchanged insurance details and, as no one had suffered personal
injury, the police were not called. They took down the names and addresses of
several witnesses as the fish shop was quite busy at the time and the accident
had occurred right outside. They then each made their way home as the cars,
though badly damaged, were still driveable and neither had far to go.
When he got home and his parents returned Peter naturally received something
of a roasting and a detailed grilling from his father as to the facts of the case. As
they were quite satisfied, eventually, that it had not been Peter's fault, they went

to bed.

50/ HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

The following day, Mrs Armitage contacted Gridlock Insurance Services and
informed them of the details of the accident. They recommended informing the
police in case there should prove to be any later dispute over the facts and asked
her to complete and return the accident report form that had come with the
insurance policy. This she duly did and waited for a reply.
When it came, the reply did not please her. According to the other driver, Peter
had pulled out from the kerb without looking and without indicating. Peter
denied this and set about the process of contacting witnesses. This proved
an increasingly frustrating experience. It seemed that no two recollections of
the accident were identical. A further complication was that the police had
investigated and found a long skid mark at the scene, indicating that the other
driver had, in fact, been speeding. The other driver denied this and claimed that
the skid mark was already there when he came along. At least one witness
statement seemed to confirm this. Peter and Roger, however, maintained that
the other car had not only been speeding, but had been driving without lights.
Unfortunately, there was no independent confirmation of this.
The matter was placed in the hands of the expediting department for their
attention. They were particularly busy at the time and the situation was not
helped by the fact that three people were off work with flu.
Several weeks passed and Mrs Armitage was becoming concerned about not
hearing from Gridlock. She telephoned and the young man who answered
promised to look into the matter and write to her as soon as possible. He was
not a particularly experienced member of staff, the others were all busy and the
head of the department was one of the ones who had flu. He contacted the other
driver's insurance company and eventually negotiated a £250 write-off settlement from them. He wrote to Mrs Armitage accordingly.
Mrs Armitage was not pleased with the offer and wrote back asking him to
approach the other insurance company again as she felt that her car, though old,
was worth more than £250.
When her letter arrived, the young man had himself succumbed to the flu and
was not at work. Those remaining were all too busy with their own caseload to
attend to his. Two weeks later, when he returned to work, he found that the other
insurance company had had a change of heart following a further letter from the
other driver and were not now prepared to make any offer. They regarded it as a

T E C H N I Q U E S OF R E T E N T I O N / 51

knock-for-knock case. He wrote to Mrs Armitage with the bad news. She by now
was so angry that she wrote to the head of department. He had returned to work
by now and asked the young man for a full report on the case.
(1055 words)

Questions
1. How many people were employed in the expediting department?
2. What was its primary function?
3. What make and model was Mrs Armitage's car?
4. Who actually used it?
5. For whom was it insured?
6. On which date did the accident occur?
7. What had Peter and Roger ordered from the fish shop?
8. Which part of Mrs Armitage's car was damaged in the accident?
9. What had the police found at the scene of the accident?
10. How much was Mrs Armitage originally offered in settlement by the other
insurance company?
Convert the reading time into words per minute (using the conversion table on
pages 109-110), check the answers to the recall test against the answers on pages
111-113 and record both results on the progress graphs on page 110.

ASSESSMENT OF RESULTS

If all is going well, you should be making steady progress by now and may well be a
third of the way towards your target. Those who are doing particularly well may
even consider raising the targets. If you are not doing as well as you would like yet,
spend a little time revising the instruction in earlier chapters.
Ask yourself some questions. Are you really trying as hard as you might? Do
you really want to increase your reading speed now that you know some effort
is required? Are you still using your anti-regression device? Have you tried to
reduce the number of fixations you make per line? Have you practised between

527 HOW TO READ FASTER AND RECALL MORE

studying each chapter? Are there any pieces of advice or instruction you have not
yet tried?

FURTHER PRACTICE
Select an item from a 'News in Brief column of a newspaper. Read it and time it in
seconds. Put it on one side for half an hour. Now, using self-recitation and mind
mapping, how much of it can you recall? Repeat the exercise with other items until
you can recall at least 70% of the content or until you tire of it. You may even
increase the interval between reading and testing to see what happens. At what
point do you recall nothing at all? Does practice increase the amount of recall?
Count the number of words read on each item, there won't be many. Using a
calculator, divide the number of words by the time taken in seconds and multiply
by 60 to give words per minute. Check your recall by reference to the original.
Divide the number of facts correctly recalled by the total number in the item and
press the % key on your calculator. Keep a record of your results. Do they tend to
improve with practice?
Chapter Summary
In this chapter you have learned that:
the problem is often not retention but recall
the storage and retention of information can be improved
for better retention, information needs to possess or be given qualities of
meaningfulness, organisation, associations, visualisation, attention, interest, and
feedback
information needs to be reinforced by repetition, discussion, writing things
down, using the information and testing.

7

Techniques for Recall
TRIGGERS
No matter how well information is stored, it will be no use to us if we cannot recall
it readily. We must build triggers for recall into the storage process. Some, of
course, are already in place simply through the way we have retained the information in the first place, but we can go further in this chapter. We shall look at a
number of techniques specifically designed to ensure a greater degree of effective
recall.

QUESTIONS
We have already encountered the use of questions in the storage process, but it is
perhaps worth repeating here that questions in the form of self-recitation can be
very useful in recalling information. The more you do it, the better you get.

MNEMONICS

There is a similar facility available to us in the techniques of mnemonics. Mnemonics is the name given both to the study of memory and to the techniques which
enable us to use it more efffectively. There are eight main techniques and I shall
explain them all in this chapter. They will not necessarily help you to read faster,
but they should certainly help you to read more efficiently.
1. Alliteration or the repetition of a sound. For example, I remember being
taught at school that the winter climate of the Mediterranean consists of
'warm wet winters with westerly winds'. You may be able to think of other
examples.

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5 4 7 HOW TO R E A D F A S T E R AND R E C A L L M O R E . . .

2. Acronyms or words formed from the initial letters of the words we wish
to remember. Examples would be SHAPE - Supreme Headquarters Allied
Powers Europe - or HOMES - the five great lakes in America: Huron, Ontario,
Michigan, Erie, Superior.
3. Acrostics or the forming of a phrase or saying from the initial letters of the
words you wish to remember. For example, 'Richard of York gave battle in
vain' to remember the colours of the rainbow or spectrum - red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, indigo and violet. Another one is 'Every good boy deserves favour'
for the notes on the lines of a musical scale - E, G, B, D, F - with the FACE of
the boy for the spaces between the lines.
4. Rhymes can be used to fix things in the mind. We have already encountered one
in Rudyard Kipling's 'Six Honest Serving Men' rhyme for self-recitation on
page 37.
Those, if you like, are the four easy ones. The remaining four require some
practice to make them fully useful.
5. 'Loci' is the name of a technique known to have been in use as a memory aid
since at least 500 BC. (Loci is Latin for 'places'.) Roman orators used it to
remember their speeches. They would picture their villa or a public building
they knew very well and would set a path to tour the building. In each room
they would make an association between the point they wished to make and
something in the room. Then, as they were speaking, they would recall the tour
and therefore recall the points in the right order. It worked then and it works
now. Try it for yourself.
6. The 'link' technique has been in use since at least the eighteenth century. It
consists again of making associations and linking them together, but it can
enable you to remember many more items. I once used it to remember the fifty
states of America. There was no reason why I wanted to remember them, it was
just an exercise. I took them in alphabetical order so the first one was Alabama.
My association was the song 'I'm Alabammy bound' with a picture of a small
train like the one in the Walt Disney film Dumbo on its way to Alabama on this
occasion. The second one was Alaska so I had a picture of the dessert baked

TECHNIQUES

FOR R E C A L L / 55

Alaska. The next task was to begin linking them together, so I had this picture
of a trainload of baked Alaska on its way to Alabama and carried on from
there.
I tried this one Saturday night as I was waiting for my wife to get ready for
going out. So I had a couple of minutes to spare. That's the sexist remark out of
the way. We went out, Sunday came and went and on the Monday afternoon I
was in a meeting. It was a college academic board meeting and the only thing
you know with certainty about meetings of teachers and lecturers is that they
will always finish at four o'clock. They were all rambling on about something,
probably car parking or catering, I can't remember, so I thought I would see
how many of the fifty states I could still remember.
I still had 46 out of 50. I lost North and South Dakota. Well, if you lose one,
you lose the other, don't you? It's like North and South Carolina. I also lost two
of the states which begin with M - Minnesota and Montana. Alphabetical
grouping was my back-up technique and there are eight states beginning with
M, namely, working roughly from east to west, another visualisation back-up
that sprang instantly to mind, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana. So the technique did not work
perfectly, but it worked a lot better than guesswork.
That is one problem with memorising techniques. They don't always work
perfectly at first. But they do improve with practice. And they get faster. As we
have said before in this book, once you know what to do, the rest is down to
practice. Practice, practice, practice.
7. The peg system is a little simpler, but it is more limited. It is also based on the
idea of making associations and linking them together, but this time in a set
format. It begins by having certain rhyming associations with numbers:
1 = bun
2 = shoe
3 = tree
4 = door
5 = hive
6 = sticks

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7 = heaven
8 = gate
9 = wine
10 = hen
You then make associations between the rhymes and the items you wi