It’s no secret that large portion of a law student’s life is spent reading dense material that is often difficult to comprehend. Obviously you’re not going to be able to breeze through Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion at the same speed as the latest US Weekly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t increase your reading speed while still extracting the relevant material from each case. Gaining speed while sacrificing comprehension is not an option for law students. Whether you’re a new 1L or well into your law school career, there is always room for improvement. Below are a few tips to help you get up to speed.
1. Read with Purpose. Before you begin to read a case, utilize your syllabus or the casebook’s table of contents to determine why that particular case was assigned. This will allow you to focus on the key points of the case and extract the relevant court reasoning without getting distracted by other legal issues discussed in the opinion. For example, if you are reading for your Torts I class and the case you’re about to begin is listed on the syllabus under the subheading of “causation” within the larger issue of “negligence” then you can direct your attention to the details of the case relating to causation without getting tripped up in the court’s discussion of “duty,” “breach,” or “damages.”
2. Read when you are Fresh/Alert. Know yourself and how you study best. If you are more alert in the morning, utilize your time before or between classes to do your reading. Many students find that they can dramatically increase their reading speed simply by reading at the time that works best for them.
3. Avoid Excessive Highlighting. Many times, highlighting acts as a substitute for careful reading. It is a passive activity that does not require you, the reader, to do anything to better comprehend the material. If you highlight lines of text, the general understanding is that you are going to go back and reread that material to learn it at a later date. Now you’re reading the material at least twice (and possibly more) which will take you even longer.
4. Do Not Read Aloud. Your brain is an amazing organ that can take in and comprehend material at a much greater speed than you can vocalize. Since most people can speak at a rate of 140 words/minute, if you read your assignments aloud to yourself, you are severely decreasing your reading speed.
5. Practice! Speed reading does not happen overnight. Consider utilizing a software program that tracks your reading speed and comprehension progress. The Academic Success Department has purchased reading speed software licenses with the EyeQ program. This software allows you to complete reading speed exercises at your own convenience. To see the best improvement, the lessons only take about 5-7 minutes and are completed every 2-3 days. The license is good for one year from the date of registration and costs $20 for students. If you are interested in the EyeQ program, or have any other questions, please schedule an appointment to see Diane Mulligan in the Academic Success Department.