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Speed reading, anyone ?

The need for speed

         In recent years, the volume of reading materials pouring off the international presses is simply staggering. Not only are we confronted with information in the printed form but we also have to deal with it in the digital form. At the same time, the necessity to read for study and work just keep on rising. The conclusion - something needs to be done to meet this rising flood.

A case of life & death
         Speed reading is one of the techniques put forward as a possible answer to the publication explosion. Though it is applied under less-than-fatal situations, its roots are anything but. Speed reading grew from information developed by the US Air Force. Air Force tacticians had noticed that while in flight, some pilots were unable to differentiate planes seen at a distance. During combat, this could spell the difference between life and death. Hence, they developed a machine called a tachistoscope to help remedy this diability.

        The tachistoscope is simply a device that flashes images for varying instants of time onto a large screen. They started by flashing large pictures of friendly and enemy planes at very slow exposures and then gradually shortened the exposure while decreasing the size of the image seen. Surprisingly, they found that with training, the average person was able to distinguish almost speck-like pictures of different planes when the images had been flashed on the screen for only one five-hundreth of a second.

More than meets the eye
        From this experiment, it was evident that the human eye has far greater perceptual ability than previously suspected. They later decided to apply this discovery to reading. Using the same device and process, they first flashed one large word for as long as five seconds on a screen, gradually reducing the size of the word and shortening the duration of the flash. This they were able to do until they were flashing four words simultaneously on a screen for one five-hundredth of a second, and were still able to obtain recognition. Speed reading was thus born and to this day, many courses teaching it still retain elements of tachistoscopic training.

Underperformers, the lot of us
        With regular tachistocopic training, almost all readers can increase their reading speed from an average of two hundred words per minute to an average of four hundred words per minute. However, when they halted the training, the majority of these fast-readers dissapointingly regressed back to their previous levels a few weeks later. In fact, the normal range of reading ability is from approximately two hundred to four hundred words per minute. Most people operate at the lowest level of this range. The elevated reading ability observed during the speed reading course had actually little to do with the tachistocopic training, but was more a result of motivation being eked out over a period of weeks and of readers' reaching the top of their normal range. The tachistocopic training had not redrawn our natural limits as human beings. In reality, we were the ones who had been underperforming all along.

Speeding kills ... comprehension
        It goes without saying that reading fast is pointless unless you understand and retain what you read. Research has actually shown that reading far above your level of comfort hinders comprehension and retention. On the other hand, reading far below your normal speed is similarly detrimental as well. For at such slow speeds, one tends to dwell on the individual words and misses the overall meaning alltogether. Therefore, speed reading should not focus merely on going fast, but instead on building up the normal operating speed that a reader is comfortable at. That way, factual comprehension and retention are not compromised for the sake of speed.


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Glossary of Terms :
(1) Tuition - Tutelage, the act of tutoring or teaching a student (pupil); Fees paid for instruction (especially for higher education). In Malaysia, tuition is more popularly used to denote tutoring rather than fee. Common Malaysian misspellings: Tiution, Tution. *(BM): Tuisyen, Tiusyen, Tusyen, Tuisen, Tiusen, Tuisyan, Tiusyan, Tusyan. | (2) Home Tuition - Tutoring that takes place at students' or tutors' home as opposed to at tuition centers; Also: Home Tutoring, Private Tuition, Private Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Di Rumah, Tuisyen Swasta. | (3) Personal Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to one student. Also: Personal Tutoring, Individual Tuition, Individual Tutoring, One-to-one Tuition, 1-to-1 Tutoring, One-to-one Tutoring, 1-to-1 Tuition. *(BM): Tuisyen Peribadi, Tuisyen Persendirian, Tuisyen Perseorangan, Tuisyen Individu. | (4) Group Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to several (small number, but more than one) students. Also: Small Group Tuition, Small Class Tuition, Group Tutoring, Small Group Tutoring, Small Class Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Berkumpulan, Tuisyen Kumpulan Kecil, Tuisyen Kelas Kecil. | (5) Tutors - Tuition Teachers, persons who conduct tuition. In Malaysia, teacher is more popularly used to denote a school teacher whereas tutor usually means a non-school teacher. Also: Tiutors, Tuitors. *(BM): Guru Sekolah, Cikgu Sekolah, Pengajar Tuisyen, Guru Tuisyen, Cikgu Tuisyen. | (6) Home Tutors - Tutors who provide home tuition as opposed to those who teach at tuition centres. Also: Private Tutors, Personal Tutors, Individual Tutors, One-to-one Tutors, 1-to-1 Tutors, Group Tutors, Small Group Tutors, Private Teachers, Personal Teachers, Individual Teachers, One-to-one Teachers, 1-to-1 Teachers, Group Teachers, Small Group Teachers, Private Tuition Teachers, Personal Tuition Teachers, Individual Tuition Teachers, One-to-one Tuition Teachers, 1-to-1 Tuition Teachers, Group Tuition Teachers, Small Group Tuition Teachers. *(BM): Pengajar Di Rumah, Pengajar Swasta, Pengajar Peribadi, Pengajar Persendirian, Pengajar Perseorangan, Guru Di Rumah, Guru Swasta, Guru Peribadi, Guru Persendirian, Guru Perseorangan, Cikgu Di Rumah, Cikgu Swasta, Cikgu Peribadi, Cikgu Persendirian, Cikgu Perseorangan. | (7) Tuition Centers - Private institutions that conduct tuition on classroom-like settings. Also: Tuition Centres, Tutorial Centers, Tutorial Centres, Tuition Classes, Tutorial Classes, Tutoring Classes. *(BM): Pusat Tuisyen, Pusat Bimbingan, Pusat Tutorial, Kelas Tuisyen. | (8) Home Tuition Jobs - Home tuition vacancies; Posts to be filled by home tutors. Also: Private Tuition Jobs, Home Tutoring Jobs, Private Tutoring Jobs, Home Tuition Assignments, Private Tuition Assignments, Home Tutoring Assignments, Private Tutoring Assignments, Private Tuition Vacancies, Home Tutoring Vacancies, Private Tutoring Vacancies. *(BM): Jawatan Kosong Tuisyen, Pekerjaan Tuisyen, Kerja Tuisyen, Tugasan Tuisyen. | (9) Home Tutees - Home tuition students; Pupils receiving home tuition from home tutors. *(BM): Pelajar Tuisyen, Murid Tuisyen, Penuntut Tuisyen. | *(BM) denotes terms in Bahasa Melayu or Malay Language.