Speed Reading: How It Can Help You Ace SAT Critical Reading

The critical reading section of the SAT can be especially terrifying if you’re a slow reader. With so many passages to analyze and so many questions to answer, this section can quickly become overwhelming. But, despair not! For all you slow readers out there, there is alas a solution!


No. No, it’s not pizza. Not this time. (That’s getting a bit cheesy, to be honest.) The solution is: SPEED READING! Speed reading is a technique pioneered in the 1950’s, which has recently found a spike in popularity.

Basically, the average American reads around 200-300 words per minute. Most of this time, however, is taken up—not by understanding the text—but by moving from word to word.

Speed reading eliminates efficiencies in reading, and surprisingly, you can learn to speed read while retaining comprehension levels.

So. How do you gain access to this magical skill?! It’s actually not as hard as you’d think. Follow these easy tips, and if you want even more guidance, there are tons of more detailed guides online!

Disclaimer: Though speed reading can really speed up your reading ability, you should make sure you aren’t losing comprehension on the way. There are some critics of speed reading that claim you can’t retain as much information when you’re going over 500 words per minute. Therefore, you should try to restrain from training yourself to read too quickly. This isn’t a race. This tool can be great if you’re running out of time, or if you’re a little too slow of a reader for comfort, but like anything, it should be used with discretion. This technique—like regular reading—still requires your full concentration. Especially on the SAT.


Start to speed read!

1) Measure where you are!

A good place to start is to find out how slow or fast of a reader you are! This way you can more easily measure how much you should improve—and even start setting goals. These websites have great tools to measure how many words per minute you can read as of now.


2) STOP subvocalization.

If you are like most people, you say the words aloud in your head when you are reading. This can seriously hinder your speed. You can actually read a lot faster without the subvocalization, but once it has become a habit, it’s very difficult to shake off.

Try this trick: repeat “A-E-I-O-U”  or simply count in your head as you’re reading. This will force you to stop speaking in your head…another step closer to reading faster!


3) Use your peripheral vision

Normally, we read by focusing on one word, then moving to the other. Then the next. And the next. Here’s the trick, though: you don’t have to just read one word at a time. If you are in a time crunch, peripheral vision is the key to reading faster! When you use your peripheral vision, you can focus more on a few words at once. Surprisingly, you can understand more at once—with high comprehension, if you’re doing it right. A helpful trick is to split up a paper into three vertical sections by drawing two line from the top to the bottom. When you’re reading a line, read the first section of words in one chunk.

You can also use the “Z method.” This method tosses line-by-line reading altogether! Instead you read one line, cross over the subsequent line diagonally, and read the third line normally. This is actually surprisingly effective and can be a huge lifesaver in a time crunch!

There are tons of helpful tools which can help you immensely on your speed reading journey… Check out these websites and apps!







And that’s about it! Speed reading isn’t a cure-all to your qualms with the Critical Reading section, but it can sure help you with time management. Just make sure you’re still focusing! This can also carry on to your everyday life. You’ll be able to read more books at a faster rate than before…so you’ll be one step closer to becoming Hermione Granger!




  • Maddi Lee

    Maddi is currently a high school junior in southern California. She is an avid freelance writer and has been featured in multiple literary publications and anthologies. When she isn't writing, she loves traveling, doodling, and most of all, sleeping. Through her own experience and passion, she hopes to help guide fellow students through the roller coaster that is SAT and college admissions...that is, as long as she survives the journey herself!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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