Reading Efficiently

by David Barker

How fast do I read now?

Before trying to improve your reading speed, it is important to know how fast you read now. It is therefore recommended that you calculate your reading speed, using the following method. You should repeat this at regular intervals as you learn and use the techniques in this topic.

As mentioned earlier, pure speed is usually irrelevant for most people unless it is accompanied by a reasonable level of comprehension. Therefore, when measuring your reading speed, you should always test your comprehension of what you have just read, or at least reflect on what you have learnt.

Choose an article of between 1000 and 1500 words on a topic with which you are familiar. Time yourself reading the article at a pace that you feel gives you a good level of comprehension. Now see if you can answer the following questions about what you have just read:

  • Who, or what, is the article about?
  • When did the events take place?
  • Where?
  • What else have you learnt?

Now go back and read the article again very thoroughly. Is there any important information in it that you missed or misunderstood? Comprehension levels are important.

Calculate your reading speed by dividing the number of words in the article by the number of seconds that you took to read it and multiply this by 60. This will give you your reading speed in words per minute (wpm). For example, for a 1200 word article, if you took 4 minutes and 15 seconds your reading speed is:

The average reading speed for most people who have not practiced speed reading techniques is between 250 and 300 wpm.