Reading as a skill is taught early in primary school, and, as they explain in this program, once we’ve got the basic reading skills under our belt, we are generally not taught how to improve on this skill — we can just “read” from then on. This means that any habits that we pick up at that early age may well be continued into our adult life. Many of these habits can slow our reading speed — subvocalization (silently speaking the words as we read), regression (re-reading words), fixation (eyes stopping on certain words), and daydreaming are the main habits that are addressed in this program.
Rick Hunter, an American speed reading coach, is your guide through the 7 Speed Reading program. Each section has a short video featuring Rick, who explains the theory behind the activities you’re about to do, and takes you through the process. We found him an appealing and friendly host for this program, with a good sense of humour.
There are two main sections in the 7 Speed Reading software; Step-By-Step and Power Access.
Step-By-Step is (as it sounds) a step-by-step program that is intended to be completed as one small exercise per day, over quite a few months. There are many modules, each one has an explanation, and then activities and exercises to complete. For example, Level 1 has 22 steps and exercises in it. Within this section are Speed Reading Essentials, Eye Warmups, Triple Your Reading Speed, Advanced Training, Test Yourself, and Eye & Body Health.
The Power Access section is for if you want to just dive right into specific exercises and activities. It includes Eliminate Subvocalization, Fixation Training, Eye-Muscle Fitness, Optic Nerve Maximization, Information Processing, Tests, and Games. The Games section has three games which are designed to help you learn to scan text better (Fixation Fixer).
Before you start it’s important to do a "baseline" reading speed test, and comprehension test. These tests are taken from books that are preloaded into 7 Speed Reading, and which you select. (If you ever wish to do these tests without the video introduction playing every time, go to Power Access > Tests.)
The ongoing reading tests are done on a wide range of non-fiction books; comprehension tests are done on a wide range of fiction books — you can choose Alice in Wonderland or The Scarlet Letter, for example. You can also use your own sample texts from Wikipedia and other Wiki sites. So you can complete the software’s exercises with reading material that really interests you, if those that come with the program don’t take your fancy.
The Track Progress part of 7 Speed Reading does just that — tracks your progress over the weeks and months, and takes note of your reading speed, comprehension, effective reading level, as well as your activity use and training time. The software can handle multiple users, each one having a private log-in, and tracking each person’s progress separately.
There is another kind of “speed reading” called “scanning”. 7 Speed Reading includes a fun activity that also helps in this kind of speed reading, a game called Scan Accelerator, which presents a passage of text amongst which you must find and click on a given word. This activity is useful if you need to skim large bodies of text for particular words or names.
Some Room for Improvement
We had some trouble when starting up 7 Speed Reading for the first time — a general “Log In” screen comes up initially, but you actually need to set up as a New User first of all (second tab in the window). The program wouldn’t allow our regular email, saying it was “not valid”, and we could only set up a new account by using a Gmail email account.
The mouse wheel didn’t work to scroll text for all of the text screens, which made scrolling down the screens of text in the speed tests a bit cumbersome — we had to use the scroll bars, rather than the wheel on the computer mouse. This isn’t usually a big problem, but when you’re doing a speed test, you want to do things as fast as possible!
One suggestion is that it might help users if the software included a text version of the video instructions. You can read faster than you can listen — especially after using this speed reading software! — and we would like the option of reading the lesson sometimes rather than watching it.
7 Speed Reading is user-friendly. The software has a logical flow, and uses an intuitive and uncluttered graphical user interface and familiar “point and click” technology.
Once you become familiar with the jargon of speed reading, instructions are easy to understand. You can easily adjust many of the 7 Speed Reading’s settings, including the speed at which text displays. The software supports reading levels from Grade 3 to Grade 12, College/Adult, and Advanced.
The software comes with some context-sensitive help text. We would have perhaps liked an introductory read-me or help file that introduces the software; but the software is intuitive enough to use from the get-go.
Commercial speed reading software usually costs between US $20 and $250. 7 Speed Reading sells for a one-time payment of US $67, which is a good middle-of-the-range price.
It comes with a 12-month, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. If, for any reason, you do not think the software meets your needs, then the eReflect will give you a full refund within a whole 12-months of your purchasing the software.
7 Speed Reading comes as an instant download. You can also have the software delivered for a small additional fee.
The software works with Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. A Mac version is currently being developed, and should be available within the next year or so.