T Nation

Super Studying


I used to know a guy who could study extremely quickly and effectively. To say he was fast would be an understatement. At the time, he was running a part-time business, working full-time, and pursuing his MBA. He used to come in and tell us that at the end of the week (in other words, usually, within 5 days), he would have an exam on a 500-600 page book that he had not started reading yet.

This was not a fiction book, or an easy read by any means. This was dense, academic material (you can imagine what MBA material would be like). The following week, he came back, and told us he got 97% on that exam. He did this repeatedly for 2 years.

It has never occurred to me to ask him how he did this, until I found my own time quickly diminishing, and thought that it would be a useful skill to have. When I asked him, he said that he was not able to point it out. It's a skill he developed very quickly out of necessity, without doing anything deliberate.

My question is can anyone else on these boards do the same thing? And if you can, can you share how you do it?

This is a guy I've known for years, and look up to, so I don't doubt that he can actually do this. I just wanted to gain some insight into whether this is something unique to him, or if it is something that can be learned.


Uh reading insanely fast is a gift, like having insane memory. Sorry to break it to you but some people can just be naturally smarter and get away with this kind of stuff. You obviously can't, this is by no means something you can learn to do effectively like your friend probably can.

Oh woops just read it bit more carefully you said he did it in 5 days, well thats really not that bad 500 pages in 5 days isn't impossible. And a course in buisness wouldn't be impossible to ace exam on small book.

Though some geniuses have the ability to do what your friend did in one night, thats what I was saying in first paragraph.

I can do this with English books, read spark notes and do fine on test. Never tried with anything else really since usually read the chapters.

Basically its probably not a 'good idea' so best to avoid.


Don't feel bad, my girlfriend can go through a 600 page book non-stop in a day; but poor thing, she's a complete idiot.

I hope she doesn't decide to start reading T-Nation forums.


I can only comment on one component of studying fast, speed reading. I developed that skill as a child and although I have slowed down in old age, there are some tricks.

When you are taught to read, you look at the individual letters, string them together and make a word. As you gain more practice, you are probably able to look at a word as a whole and decipher it. Now imagine looking at a whole line of text and doing the same. After a while you could be able to get that right at first glance 85-95% of the time. The remaining 5-15% you just go back and check.

And here is the clincher! After a while, you may find that it is actually easier to read a block of text in 2 dimensions than to read linearly.

In high school I could do 2000 words/min and still be able to quote. Today, I would be happy with half.



This is interesting topic. I was thinking about how people read. FOr example, I can be reading a book, and not remember what I had just read, even though I read every word and understand what it means.

Like, you can read really fast, but not even remember a single thing about what you just read even though you DID read it.

I was doing this last night, I was reading a book, and actively trying to remember what it was that I had just read, then I would have to go over it and read it again. This is extremely frustrating.

Maybe I'm just an idiot, but I have to read much slower than I would like in order to retain what I read. Does this make any sense?


Hmm interesting. I can usually read a 500 page fiction book in about 4 hours if I really am into it, otherwise, it will take me days.

What I think i do is mainly skim the book, but I get the whole big picture, the plot, main characters and such. All really really minor details(color of the jacket, useless facts) are generally forgotten unless I see them in the book again and I usually can understand.

Reading a college textbook is usually quite slow for me.


No, of course 500 pages in 5 days isn't impossible, but keep in mind how busy he was - full time job, part time business, and part time student. On top of that, these aren't 500 pages read for leisure, but 500 pages that really had to be understood and retained.

English books are different, since you just have to get the "big picture" or the themes. While factual information may be important it certainly isn't emphasize the way it is in a business course.


Interesting. So how did you train yourself to be able to look at an entire block of text and be able to get the contents? I'd love to be able to read at even 100 wpm.


Cannot say. I was about 5 at the time. I can only describe it as a visual imprint of a whole block of text. It is not as if there were individual words, but rather a complicated pattern that makes sense, somehow.


Check out Evelyn Wood or another speed reading course. It's kind of a trip, and it sounds like what TQB is describing. The few times I've had success with this, it's like you're just WATCHING the events being described take place. You aren't reading the sentences in their formal structure, but are just gazing down the page and translating it immediately into a visual response.

The goal is to move you away from reading every word/sentence and dialoging it in your mind. When you do this, you read at the same speed you speak. They give you techniques to turn this off, and to expand your vision's focal point, so that you are seeing more words at once, while not focusing on a particular one. The next thing is to train your mind to read the page VISUALLY, without going through the laborious process of seeing/saying/interpreting.

I've practiced it a bit, and 'experienced' its potential, but haven't kept at it. I can see it helping you to fly through fiction / creative writing, but may not work well on dense, technical data.


SinisterMinister and other speed readers--the question on my mind is can you turn "off" the speed reading if you want? I like really immersing myself in the book, and I like getting the details, but this kind of thing would be handy for academic articles.

So once you start doing this block style reading, can you actually voluntarily revert to regular reading for a while, or is it not really controllable in the on/off sense?


It doesn't really make any difference and you shouldn't confuse this with skimming. It is not difficult to turn off as such. You just start reading the lines, but if you get it right, you should be able to retain as much as through "classical" reading.

There are a few exceptions, chemical and mathemathical formulae and the names of chemical substances are perhaps the most glaring ones. It also takes time to be able to do it in a language not your own.


If its text book stuff you go to the back of the chapter and read the highlights 2 or 3 times so they are imprinted in your mind, then you go back through the regular chapter and just read the first sentence of each paragraph to see if it has any relevance to the bullet points. If it sounds like something you should know a little bit more about you read the whole paragraph, if not you maybe read a little more and skip the rest of the paragraph.

Its really about knowing which information is the kind of information you will need to know and what is filler.


In college I took a speed reading course which was very helpful. The trick they taught us was to look at a grouping of three words, focusing your eye on the middle word. Don't try and read those three words in your head though. Go through a page of writing like this and see how much you remember. It takes practice, but it works.

I still suck at speed reading anything on paper, however on a computer I can hit the scroll down button and read everything you guys post without stopping. No clue why my eyes move so much faster on a computer than paper.

Haha I love it when someone is trying to follow what I am doing on my computer behind me they always yell at me saying "slow down! you are missing everything!" lol more like keep up slow asses.

As far as studying I knew a guy who played rugby at Clemson, dude was smart as hell. He was a mechanical engineer and never cracked a book! oh I should mention he had a 4.0 Btw I called BS on him and the day before his finals he showed me his book... it was still in the origonal shrink wrap!


While I'm not a speed reader, I am good at school and testing. For me its a reduction process: take the info in the chapters or from lecture and strip it down to the bare bones. Memorize and study the key points, then be able to flesh those out on the exam.

It's like what Lonnie said: you have to have a filter. Know what's important and forget the BS (the BS is what makes textbooks thousands of pages long).