Speed reading test
July 29, 2004 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Test your reading speed. How many words per minute do you read? [via waxy]
posted by riffola (59 comments total)
I read 350 - 400 words per minute in both tests.
posted by riffola at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2004

That's interesting. Of course, in my case and I assume in many others--although I've never asked--it depends on the reading material and what I'm trying to get from it. In this instance I read at what would be considered a leisurely fast pace: I didn't worry to much about finding the voice of the speaker in my head or imagining the intonation of how it would be read aloud--I just read it quickly like I might when going through a textbook for one of my classes. It said I read at about 450-500 words a minute in that scenario.

Of course, if I'm reading a good book the speed will vary incredibly depending on the difficulty of the passage both in terms of syntax and content (are there levels of subtext I'm looking for, etc.), which is something that happens more often in my English classes. If I powered through Ford Maddox Ford or James Joyce or Willam Faulkner I'd probably have to read the novel two or three times even to fully understand a reasonably deep meaning. Those are authors whose works may require multiple readings even if you read it fairly slowly, so of course I wouldn't read at 500 words a minute.

Also, if I enjoy a novel I'll often try to read different passages in the "voice" (as I imagine it) of the character speaking or narrating it, since I find it helps me get into the mindset of the character and pick up on subtle clues the author has left for the reader. Anyone who has read Nabokov's Transparent Things will understand how important a practice this can be.

Interesting little test though. My guess is that I'd probably only read at about 300-350 words a minute when reading a novel, but even that could drop dramatically when I decide to read a particularly dense passage again ;)
posted by The God Complex at 11:53 AM on July 29, 2004

I was starting to wonder if I was going to finish reading the address before the minute was up - 700 to 750 /min. I'm not sure how accurate this is, however, - there's a difference between reading a book and reading off a screen, in speed and comprehension.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2004

Ok, I didn't see the second test at first, so perhaps much of my rambling is pointless since it seems that may have been the point of the tests. The second test I read at about 400-450 words a minute; it may have slowed down slightly if I had more invested in the story, but that was a fairly comfortable pace.
posted by The God Complex at 11:57 AM on July 29, 2004

400-450 words per minute, which is about what I would have guessed. I remember timing myself many years ago using just a book and a stopwatch and coming out in the same range. Interestingly, I had to go back and rescan certain sentences as I did start to skim which is how I tend to surf the web.

Also, although I've seen parts of Kennedy's speech before, I think this is the first time I've really read the whole thing. A truly great speech.
posted by trust_no_one at 11:58 AM on July 29, 2004

I used to read books quickly and then write summaries of them for a job, so my speed should be faster than my 400-450, but it has been some time. Adding to the problem is that I tend to read non-sequentially, and pick and choose from all over the page (not skimming) adding it all together before moving on to the next. I read this sequentially, however.
posted by wackybrit at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2004

Didn't quite work for me, since I finished reading in 38 seconds--going at my "top speed," however. Going by the minute mark, that's 850-900 wpm, which is fairly close to how fast I read when I'm relaxed (c. 100 pages/hr., slower or faster depending on the book). When I last took one of these online tests, I came out at 1210 wpm/100% comprehension.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:08 PM on July 29, 2004

I read between 600 - 650 words per minute on the first test and between 500 - 550 words per minute on the second.

I don't like reading long passages such as this on a screen - i think I'd be faster if I was reading from a printout.
posted by jazon at 12:08 PM on July 29, 2004

It's too bad the typography on the tests is so poor. All bold Arial with really tight leading isn't that easy to read. Scores would probably increase by 50 words/minute if the page was layed out better. But still, an interesting test nonetheless. Good link.
posted by ssmith at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2004

850-900 words per minute. I didn't realize I read that fast.

Someone needs to set up a technical manual reading test. I'm about 50 words per minute on that.
posted by Electric Elf at 12:14 PM on July 29, 2004

I was actually slower on the first, simply because I was imagining the cadence of Kennedy as he spoke his address, having heard at least parts of it many times.
posted by zsazsa at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2004

700-750 on the first, 800-850 on the second. Dang, I knew I read fast, but that's....well, something.
posted by konolia at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2004

400-450 on the first and 350-400 on the second. I'm slowing down in my dotage (either that, or having to read verrrry carefully as a publications editor has permanently brought my pace down from a hard gallop to a brisk trot).
posted by scody at 12:24 PM on July 29, 2004

I'm envious of you guys. I'd love to be in the 400-450 range even...
posted by soplerfo at 12:38 PM on July 29, 2004

750-800 on the first, 850-900 on the second. I think this is hard to correlate to a real-world situation, but it's interesting.
posted by rushmc at 1:05 PM on July 29, 2004

Konolia, do you want a cookie?
posted by argybarg at 1:08 PM on July 29, 2004

This thread reads like a pissing contest. That is all.
posted by zeoslap at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2004

Soplerfo, I'm with you. I ended up with 250-300wpm, but I feel that I was reading too fast to understand it well.
posted by JonahBlack at 1:49 PM on July 29, 2004

I used to read quickly. My junior high English instructor taught us speed-reading for several weeks. I used it to my advantage, whipping through Hardy Boys books in less than an hour.

The older I get, however, the slower I read. Now that I'm closer to forty than thirty — shudder — I've found that my reading pace is g-l-a-c-i-a-l, more out of choice than necessity. (Meaning: if I need to read something quickly, I can, but I usually choose not to.)

For example, I read the Kennedy test piece more quickly than the Cather test piece. I quite enjoyed Cather's writing, and found my pace slowing just to savor it.

Besides, what does your reading pace indicate other than how quickly you read? NOTHING! :)
posted by jdroth at 2:03 PM on July 29, 2004

*sigh* It's hard to read ANYTHING fast when your cat decides right then to walk in front of the screen. grrrrrrrrrrrr
posted by JanetLand at 2:17 PM on July 29, 2004

I read Cather more slowly as well, about 650, Kennedy about 850. Caveat: I used to teach speed reading.
posted by mecran01 at 2:23 PM on July 29, 2004

*pulls it out *

450 - 500. They say thay it is above average.
posted by Quartermass at 2:24 PM on July 29, 2004

funny. i read the Cather piece about 150% faster than the Kennedy speech.

i think it depends a *lot* on the type of reading that you are used to. i read lots of fiction.

yes, that Kennedy speech is great. kinda makes you nostalgic for the good old days that never were.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:24 PM on July 29, 2004

I love the Cather piece, and I've read it before, and the Kennedy speech has all the natural breaks in my mind that he put in it originally, and yet I read them both at the same speed.

I, too, had no idea I read so fast.

And of course it's meaningless. 90% of these things are merely parlor games. If you want to learn how to read faster, fine. There are classes. If you really don't care... well, many productive and meaningful lives have been lived by people who didn't give a shit how fast their reading speed was.

YM, as always, MV.
posted by chicobangs at 2:27 PM on July 29, 2004

Next: Test your orgasm speed.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:30 PM on July 29, 2004

Hmmm, 5000-5500 wpm. Pretty good, I guess.
posted by brownpau at 2:35 PM on July 29, 2004

Wow, I read those really slowly (150 to 200 wpm on the first test and 200 to 250 on the second). But what's with it telling me I have "basic" reading skills? As far as I'm concerned, reading has two components: correctly recognizing the words and understanding what they mean in connection. You should have to take a test after reading the passage.

(Incidentally, my girlfriend reads a lot faster than me. It might take me a week to read a good novel, where she'll blow through in 8 hours. But afterwards I'll say, "Wow, wasn't it crazy how so-and-so died?" And she'll be like, "Uh, I totally missed that."

She's still real smart though.)
posted by UncleDave at 3:05 PM on July 29, 2004

I read the second thing much more easily.

I get weird tics when I try to read fast, when I'm in a hurry. My jaw moves slightly with my eyes, and my head tics a little bit. In any case, it's way freaking hard to read bold Arial - it's a bit manipulative to give you something bold Arial. I can only assume they're selling something, but I haven't checked out the rest of the site yet.

Serifed fonts, the kind you'll be reading in books (as opposed to presentations, web sites etc. which tend to be less demanding on the reading front), are uglier, but easier to read.
posted by abcde at 3:12 PM on July 29, 2004

a short list of reason why this test is stupid, aside from the fact that it is stupid.
1. most people don't read a monitor as well or as quickly as a piece of paper
2. ~84 characters/line with a sans serif font? That is almost twice as wide as a column of sans serif text should be.
3. all bold text
4. sans serif. Better for reading on the screen, perhaps, but slower to read in general

taken together this test shows only how many words per minute you can read under these conditions. Not very useful.
posted by Grod at 3:18 PM on July 29, 2004

Man, I could only read 700-750 wpm, but it was only because my giant penis kept getting in the way and I couldn't see the screen.
posted by rks404 at 3:34 PM on July 29, 2004

I've read the Kennedy speech before, which is surely confounding. OTOH I was faster reading the second passage, probably because a lot of it was blandly descriptive and I read that sort of thing like a data dump. I also found the scrolling to be incredibly annoying which is one of the reasons I prefer to read a book using pulpware. I should probably just try to remember what the registry hack is in the ATI video drivers that enables monitor rotation.
posted by snarfodox at 3:39 PM on July 29, 2004

I read the first one so quickly that I saved the file to my hard drive, copied and pasted the text a few times, then re-read the whole lot, and still had time to have sex with my girlfriend, Keira Knightley.
posted by wackybrit at 4:46 PM on July 29, 2004

It'd be interesting to test the recall of people with differing reading speeds.
posted by nthdegx at 4:48 PM on July 29, 2004

"After I took a speed reading course, I read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia."
posted by boaz at 4:54 PM on July 29, 2004

I read both passages at a blistering 120 wpm, and as far as I can tell, they both said the same thing.
posted by seanyboy at 4:56 PM on July 29, 2004

whipping through Hardy Boys books in less than an hour

Please tell me you were NOT still reading the Hardy Boys by junior high!!
posted by rushmc at 5:12 PM on July 29, 2004

500-550 WPM, but I doubt the accuracy of the test.
posted by dogwelder at 5:57 PM on July 29, 2004

I could only read 700-750 wpm, but it was only because my giant penis kept getting in the way and I couldn't see the screen


I could read infinity-squared-times-two words a minute, and I have the gift of second sight so I could keep on reading even though my humongous willie was obscuring the screen and most of the rest of my desk, and what little of the screen I'd have been otherwise able to see was blocked by my wife, Morgan Fairchild (who I've slept with), doing things to the previously mentioned willie for which there are no words in English.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:23 PM on July 29, 2004

250-300. Looks like I'm now on Metafilter's proverbial short bus.
posted by Hypharse at 7:05 PM on July 29, 2004

400-450, but the test is of little value without some measure of comprehension. History majors learn how to read thousands of pages a week, but would only be able to adumbrate the key events on a retelling- all subtle details would be lost in the mists of memory.
posted by amauck at 7:09 PM on July 29, 2004

Oh, and 700-750 on a Kennedy speech? Even if one were able to comprehend at that speed, it would come out as nothing but a bland monotone in your head. Presumably we read for more than purely instrumental reasons.
posted by amauck at 7:11 PM on July 29, 2004

I did only 350 words a minute. But I read Stephen King's unabridged "The Stand" From start to finish in a day, so I don't think that's a very good judge. I've always thought I read fast!
posted by aacheson at 7:13 PM on July 29, 2004

the stand...

that's pretty good. fifty pages an hour for twenty-four straight hours with no bathroom breaks, food or sleep.

it involved the flu.

(the "involved russia" line made me spit)
posted by folktrash at 8:03 PM on July 29, 2004

400-450 wpm. I used to think I was a fast reader until I met some of you people. ;)
posted by Lynsey at 8:04 PM on July 29, 2004

Hypharse, you've got company on that short bus. I was 250-300 on the Kennedy speech, and 200-250 on the fiction article on my second try. My first try was significantly faster, and was sufficent to pass a test on the material, but that just wasn't how I really read. Nowadays, the only thing that I read quickly are technical documents.
posted by mosch at 9:32 PM on July 29, 2004

650-700 here.
posted by plep at 10:54 PM on July 29, 2004

Well, duh, of course the MeFi regulars are fast readers. That's the only way to keep up.
posted by litlnemo at 1:17 AM on July 30, 2004

I did that a week or so ago, can't remember though. Around average... 250-300 or something.
posted by ed\26h at 1:34 AM on July 30, 2004

700-750 on the speech, finished the second one.
comprehension was ok, but retention is crap at that speed.
posted by juv3nal at 2:08 AM on July 30, 2004

I got 450-500 on the first, 350-400 on the second and thought I did pretty well, until I saw the scores of some of the others here. Damn,
posted by dg at 4:54 AM on July 30, 2004

MetaFilter: This thread reads like a pissing contest.
posted by bwg at 7:33 AM on July 30, 2004

Yeah, but how fast do you piss? Pass the ounce-a-second mark??
posted by rushmc at 7:53 AM on July 30, 2004

There are some simple exercises you can do, once in a while, that will put you up to about 600 without any loss of comprehension. The biggest problem is that most of us subvocalize in our heads while we read (which I am doing as i type this) which drags your speed down to the 3-400 range. Quit doing that and you'll see big improvements.
posted by mecran01 at 8:53 AM on July 30, 2004

400-450, and I reread several passages a couple of times because, damn, that was a great speech.

What the hell has happened that his vision has been so thoroughly destroyed? Help the third world, indeed. Enslave them, more like.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:58 PM on July 30, 2004

400-450 for both, but i probably would have gone slower if i hadn't been reading for a test.

i don't know why anyone would want to read for pleasure at even that pace, let alone faster. talk about sucking all the joy out of it.
posted by t r a c y at 2:26 PM on July 30, 2004

i change my breathing and hold my mouth open slightly when reading to prevent myself from subvocalizing...it has been known to be extremely irritating to roommates and SO's. I highly recommend the technique. I started doing it when i was a kid...i would read laying on my back with a book on my chest, so i had to breath really smoothly so the book wouldn't bounce around.

I read them, well, fast. Had to redo the JFK slower, since the first time i read the whole thing and then scrolled down to the results, thinking it was a Trick, but i only scrolled down to the 300 range, and i was puzzled, then i caught on and clicked on the last word of the speech.

i read Tom Clancy's 720 something page Red Storm Rising monday evening. It just means i'm a big nerd who has always had his head in the clouds or in a book. Almost didn't graduate from high school because all i did was read books all day instead of doing homework. I am terrible at office jobs because all i want to do is read. It is an addiction. Any fast readers with a career recomendation, let me know, it mainly distracts me as a graphic artist.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2004

i don't know why anyone would want to read for pleasure at even that pace, let alone faster. talk about sucking all the joy out of it.

On the contrary. Reading quickly fills more of the available bandwidth, making it a richer experience.
posted by kindall at 3:27 PM on July 30, 2004

750-800 and 850-900.

And yes, I have been known to pee fairly quickly.

[ /waving dick ]
posted by deborah at 11:23 PM on July 31, 2004

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