Skip to content

Adaptive Speed

Re-reads and pauses help you move at your own pace.

Read unevenly

Don't read at a uniform pace. You should neither dawdle nor rush.

Instead, read at an uneven pace: slow down when you need to, and speed up when you can.

For example, you could...

  • Spend more time on opinionated and strong statements. Spend less time on lists.
  • Slow down at the beginning, to get oriented. Then use your understanding to move confidently through the middle.
  • Speed up when you see what you expected to see. Slow down when you're surprised.

Use feedback loops

Ask yourself questions as you read in order to both check and enhance your understand. Questions like...

  • "How does that idea fit with the thesis?"
  • "Who is the author arguing with?"
  • "Whose opinion is this?" and
  • "Why is this included in the text?"

Remember, the author, no matter how bad of a writer, included every word for some reason.

Trust your confusion

You may be tempted to run away from your confusion, because confusion feels unpleasant. Instead stick with it, make your confusion into a question. Let that question guide how you read.

For example, when you're confused, ask yourself:

  • What am I confused about? (Sometimes just articulating your confusion clears it up.)
  • Is this worth trying to understand? (If not, move on.)
  • Should I read the sentence again or should I look for context elsewhere? (Perhaps looking back at the topic sentence of the paragraph will help. Maybe there's a clarifying example or definition coming up next.)

Pause and re-read often, intentionally, and without judgment

In Reading, you cannot merely look at the words on the page. You must also synthesize meaning. You must assess the claims being made.

But your brain cannot do all of this at the same time. You can't multitask. You can't read and synthesize and assess simultaneously. You need to stop from time to time to reflect and digest.

Don't judge yourself for re-reading or pausing. That judgement isn't helping you; self-judgement is just another distraction. Know that everyone, especially top scorers, need to pause and re-read.

If you don't slow down intentionally, then you will slow down unintentionally. You'll miss the meaning of a paragraph because you're still thinking about the last one. When you ignore your confusion, it will only multiply as you keep reading.

Don't get stuck

Re-reads shouldn't be elaborate or endless.

When you re-read, go back to extract the information you need and move on.

And if 2 re-reads don't help, move on. You can come back when you need to, or never if there's not a question about it.

Don't linger

Pauses don't need to be long. You might only need to pause for a second.

If you feel overwhelmed or bewildered, you need more than a pause, you need a reset.

Learn more: how to reset