# Speed Reading Techniques to Pass the McKinsey PST

This program is developed based on a research by Princeton University as a general guide to increase reading speed of any kind. Of many speed reading programs we have tested, this is the most structured and effective, even in the consulting and Problem Solving Test context. The result is just amazingly positive. You can expect to at least double your reading speed after just a few hours of intense practice.

We adopt this program and tailor it to further suit your purpose of training for the McKinsey PST.

Refer to the video for an overview of our rigorous study plan. This document is an important piece of the speed part of that overall study plan.

Read more: Consulting Math Prep Guide

## Why is it possible to vastly increase reading speed?

The simple reason is that your brain can comprehend at much faster speed, something at least 2 to 3 times your normal reading speed. The only bottle neck holding your back is just your eyes.

## Three loopholes limiting the performance of your eyes

### Problem A: Your eyes read by making a series of “photo shoots”, instead of a smooth continuous “video”

Each of those “photo snapshot” has the size of about 2 – 3 cm, so get over a typical text line, you would need about 5 – 10 shots depending on text size and reading distance. This tendency is not efficient and slows you down a lot. To demonstrate this, close one eye, put a finger on it, and try to read a normal text. You can literally feel the “shot” motion your eye makes, just like a camera.

### Problem B: You subconsciously engages in back-skipping and regression

Your eyes don’t progress in one direction moving forward all the time. Once in a while it goes back and “double check” on whether you misread anything. This whole process happens at automatically without you noticing it. It’s on the subconscious level. This costs you about 20 – 30% of the reading time. And generally this tendency is unnecessary.

### Problem C: Each “snapshot” your eyes make is not in “landscape” setting, but rather in a square one.

Your eyes have great horizontal peripheral vision span, almost up to 180-degree (to test this, looking straight forward, then put both your hands on about the same horizontal surface with your eyes, and slowly moving them horizontally away from your view … you can still see your hands when it is almost behind you). Ironically, you only use 2 – 3 cm of that vision span while you read.

Reading fast is important to pass the screening tests in consulting, but it’s not enough. More importantly, you have to be extremely proficient at mental math.

Luckily, there’s a way to train math – a method tried and proven through my time at McKinsey, which I used to beat my own manager at mental calculations! You need no “innate talent” for math, just read this article below!

## Now comes the training content

You will (1) learn technique, (2) learn to apply techniques with speed through conditioning, (3) then learn to test yourself with reading for comprehension.

These are separate, and your adaptation to the sequencing depends on keeping them separate. Do not worry about comprehension. Or in other words, don’t worry about your brain. For sure it is capable of comprehending everything your eyes throw at it. At beginning steps of the training program, just pressure your eyes into the habit which allow it to read fast. In that process, you will lose the attention to the content of the text itself. That’s why it may seem like you lost comprehension with speed reading. But be certain that comprehension will come back easily, once your eyes developed the habit.

The adaptive sequence is: technique > technique with speed > comprehensive reading.

As a general rule, you will need to practice technique at a way higher speed of your ultimate target reading speed. For example, if you currently read at 300 wpm (words per minute) and your target reading speed is 900 wpm, you will need to practice technique at 1,800 words-per-minute, or 6 pages per minute (10 seconds per page).

### We will cover two main techniques:

Technique 1: Trackers and Pacers (to address problems A and B)

Technique 2: Perceptual Expansion (to address problem C)

### Step 1: Determining your current Speed

You would want to know your progress after this training. So please, determine your current reading speed, try this 100-word McKinsey-style paragraph, take out a watch, and time yourselves (in exact seconds). Please do not read faster than normal. Make sure you read with comprehension.

Set …

Go …

Paragraph 1

A smart home will be akin to a human central nervous system. A central platform, or “brain,” will be at the core of such smart home. Individual homebots of different computing power will radiate out from this platform and perform a wide variety of tasks, including supervising other bots. Homebots can be as diverse as their roles: big, small, invisible (such as the software that runs systems or products), shared, and personal. Some homebots will be companions or assistants, others wealth planners and accountants. We will have homebots as coaches, window washers, and household managers, etc., all throughout our home.

Now to make the measurement more accurate, try another paragraph, everything else stays the same. Note down your time (in seconds).

Turn to the next when you are ready.

Paragraph 2

That level of home improvement presents significant opportunities, threats, and changes for appliances and devices that have been part of our home life for generations. The new home will be built on a foundation of platforms and ecosystems, whose producers will need to establish new levels of trust with their customers. Competition will take place not just for the consumers who inhabit the smart home, but for the interactions between consumers and homebots that increasingly will shape buying behavior. It’s not too early for a wide range of players to start laying the groundwork for success in this futuristic home…

Now to be really sure, try another one on the next page. Note down your time (in seconds) this time.

We are ready when you are…

Paragraph 3

Platforms will provide the foundation to integrate different devices while providing a consistent interface for the consumer. Frontrunners include Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung; start-ups at various points in the development cycle will be part of the mix, as well. The winners will deliver omnipresence through ubiquitous connectivity and go-anywhere hardware, as well as integration, with bots collaborating among each other and linking to third parties’ products and services. If the recent past is any indication, it’s likely that multiple platform standards will evolve. That will present complexities both for consumers and businesses but will foster new, niche opportunities, as well.

Ok, three takes. This gotta be a fair measurement. Now please calculate the number of the three trials. Then take 6,000 divided by that number (in seconds), you have your wpm. How was your performance?

### Step 2: Learn and apply the Technique #1 – Trackers & Pacers

The end goal of this Technique #1 (Trackers & Pacers) is to fix Problem A and B. The tracker and pacer you use will help you transition from a somewhat unorganized series of “photo shoots” to a nice and smooth video-like motion.

So, try that paragraph #1 again, but this time with a much faster speed. Try to finish the paragraph under 6 seconds. That makes one line less than 1 second. The ideal speed for this drill is 0.5 second per line.

Again like I said above, we are trying to push your eyes even above your desired reading speed. This is to really make sure that your eyes get proper push out of its comfort zone.

Ok? 6 seconds for this… Go!

Paragraph 1

A smart home will be akin to a human central nervous system. A central platform, or “brain,” will be at the core of such smart home. Individual homebots of different computing power will radiate out from this platform and perform a wide variety of tasks, including supervising other bots. Homebots can be as diverse as their roles: big, small, invisible (such as the software that runs systems or products), shared, and personal. Some homebots will be companions or assistants, others wealth planners and accountants. We will have homebots as coaches, window washers, and household managers, etc., all throughout our home.

Now to make the measurement more accurate, try another paragraph, everything else stays the same. Note down your time (in seconds).

Turn to the next when you are ready.

Paragraph 2

That level of home improvement presents significant opportunities, threats, and changes for appliances and devices that have been part of our home life for generations. The new home will be built on a foundation of platforms and ecosystems, whose producers will need to establish new levels of trust with their customers. Competition will take place not just for the consumers who inhabit the smart home, but for the interactions between consumers and homebots that increasingly will shape buying behavior. It’s not too early for a wide range of players to start laying the groundwork for success in this futuristic home…

Now to be really sure, try another one on the next page. Note down your time (in seconds) this time.

We are ready when you are…

Paragraph 3

Platforms will provide the foundation to integrate different devices while providing a consistent interface for the consumer. Frontrunners include Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung; start-ups at various points in the development cycle will be part of the mix, as well. The winners will deliver omnipresence through ubiquitous connectivity and go-anywhere hardware, as well as integration, with bots collaborating among each other and linking to third parties’ products and services. If the recent past is any indication, it’s likely that multiple platform standards will evolve. That will present complexities both for consumers and businesses but will foster new, niche opportunities, as well.

Ok, three takes. This gotta be a fair measurement. Now please calculate the number of the three trials. Then take 6,000 divided by that number (in seconds), you have your wpm. How was your performance?

### Step 3: Learn and apply the Technique #2 – Perceptual Expansion

If you focus on this word, you can still perceive and register the sides of it. Most readers use up to one-half of their peripheral field on margins by moving from the first word to last, spending 25-50 percent of their time “reading” margins with no content.

To illustrate, let us take the hypothetical one line:

“The McKinsey PST is a brutal test. But through rigorous training, I can ace it!.”

If you were able to begin your reading at “PST” and finish the line at “I,” you would eliminate 5 words. This is already one-third of the line.

“The McKinsey PST is a brutal test. But through rigorous training, I can ace it!.”

Step 3.1: Emerging the technique … low speed …

Still using the pen to track and pace at a consistent moderate speed (one line per second). But begin one word in from the first word of each line, and end one word in from the last word. Again, do not worry about comprehension.

Try applying it with Paragraph #2 here:

That level of home improvement presents significant opportunities, threats, and changes for appliances and devices that have been part of our home life for generations. The new home will be built on a foundation of platforms and ecosystems, whose producers will need to establish new levels of trust with their customers. Competition will take place not just for the consumers who inhabit the smart home, but for the interactions between consumers and home bots that
increasingly will shape buying behavior. It’s not too early for a wide range of players to start laying the groundwork for success in this futuristic home…

Step 3.2: Extend the technique … low speed …

Still using the pen to track & pace at a consistent moderate speed (one line per second). But begin and end about two words. Try applying it again with the Paragraph #2 here:

That level of home improvement presents significant opportunities, threats, and changes for appliances and devices that have been part of our home life for generations. The new home will be built on a foundation of platforms and ecosystems, whose producers will need to establish new levels of trust with their customers. Competition will take place not just for the consumers who inhabit the
smart home, but for the interactions between consumers and home bots that increasingly will shape buying behavior. It’s not too early for a wide range of players to start laying the groundwork for success in

Step 3.3: Speed Speed Speed …

Doing the same thing as Step 3.2 and 3.3, but this time, begin and end about three words in and keeping each line just about half seconds.To put the comprehend part out of the way, we will do it with Paragraph #2 again.

That level of home improvement presents significant opportunities, threats, and changes for appliances and devices that have been part of our home life for generations. The new home will be built on a foundation of platforms and ecosystems, whose producers will need to establish new levels of trust with their customers. Competition will take place not just for the consumers who inhabit the
smart home, but for the interactions between consumers and homebots that increasingly will shape buying behavior. It’s not too early for a wide range of players to start laying the groundwork for success in this futuristic home…

### Step 4: Putting altogether and practice with comprehension

For Step 2 and 3 above, you hear me keep saying don’t worry about comprehension to develop the habit of your eyes. Now (hopefully) you have somewhat developed those eyes tendency, it’s time to pour in the practice. But this time, with comprehension.

Turn into McKinsey Insights, take any article. Read and time yourselves with each paragraph. Calculate your wpm. At still this beginning stage of your study, that number will fluctuate a little bit. But don’t worry, the general trend is going up, vastly!

This content is part of the Prospective Candidate Starter Pack, a collection of free materials for consulting prep beginners – from resumes, tests to the case interviews.