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spacer all reviews > > > reading software

Ultimate Speed Reader

Davidson

Ages 14 and up

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
4.5
Appeal
4.0
Ease of Use
4.9

Ultimate Speed Reader Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

Whether for school, business, or simply for pleasure, reading is a skill that is best accomplished with speed and precision. Countless adults bemoan their lack of reading efficiency, and wonder what they could achieve if only they could read and comprehend more effectively.

Ultimate Speed Reader strives to help users achieve their reading goals. It does this through a series of activities that train the reader to track more effectively, improve concentration and perception, and use peripheral vision to read more words at once.

Educational Value
According to Ultimate Speed Reader, slower readers are often inefficient readers. They read every word, becoming so preoccupied with this endeavor that the overall idea being shared in a passage is missed. The reader soon becomes bored and begins to lose focus, often finding that s/he canít remember what was just read with such painstaking precision.

The Speed Reader method encourages the user to increase reading speed in a variety of ways. A typical training session lasts about 30 minutes, and begins with 'Reading Warm-Ups,' which are essentially limbering drills for the eyes and brain. Moving on, the user strengthens 'Eye Movement' skills by following along with highlighted text that tracks at targeted speeds, as does the 'Newspaper Reading' section which features columnar text. 'Paced Reading' includes longer reading passages at a preset pace, and 'Timed Reading' offers timed sessions so the user can monitor his or her progress. Having worked through these arduous reading tasks the user is rewarded with the 'Eye Max Game', in which s/he matches a central figure to its twin among four peripheral figures. The figures flash at ever increasing speeds, moving farther from center with each challenge level.

Ultimate Speed Reader can also be used with outside reading materials (i.e., books and magazines). Users fill in requested information including the number of words per line, and the number of lines per page. The program will then signal page turns to help the reader keep his or her projected pace, and calculate reading speed at the end of a session.

Appeal
This program is clearly aimed at older users. The text used for practice sessions is far too sophisticated for kids younger than middle school, and even our testers in their early teens found it difficult to attend to many of the passages. Older users, however, were extremely enthusiastic. Although initially intimidating, the program soon became a fun pastime, and comments ranged from: "I wanted to print the articles so I could share them with my family and friends," to "I learned fascinating trivia while improving my speed and comprehension," and "It was surprisingly fun!"

Reviewers also enjoyed the games and drills, although many reported experiencing eye fatigue after less than half an hour of practice. When asked if they believed that the program delivered what it promised -- increased reading speed with improved comprehension-- most replied in the affirmative. Skeptics felt that, although their scores improved with program use, it could just be a matter of learning how to take the tests, i.e., knowing what type of questions would be asked and how closely the passage needed to be read. Even those who doubted their increasingly higher scores gave the program high ratings. As one tester said: "I improved my concentration level . . . pushing myself to read more quickly made me learn to block out distractions." Teen users felt that the program gave them an edge for future standardized test taking. "It gave me plenty of practice reading passages and answering comprehension-type questions," was a representative comment.

Ease of Use / Install
Ultimate Speed Reader installs easily on Windows 95. With a main screen from which the user can quickly access any of the programís features, custom navigation is a snap.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
This program is recommended for anyone motivated to improve his or her reading speed and overall comprehension. Although it may not dramatically increase every userís skills, it can certainly help struggling readers refine their focus and attention.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other reading software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 95 or Windows 3.1, 33 MHz 486 or faster CPU (66 MHz preferred), 8 MB RAM, SVGA 640x480 256-color display, Double-speed or faster CD-ROM, Windows-compatible sound card.

Mac: System 7.1 or higher, 68040 or Power Mac, 8 MB RAM, 13" monitor with 256-color system, Double-speed or faster CD-ROM

Reviewed on:

  • PowerMac 6400/200 with 32MB and 8XCD
  • Pentium166 with 24MB and 12XCD
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