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The truth about average reading speed

Before you can learn to speed read, you must determine your average reading speed. Your average reading speed is the number of words you can read per minute, or wpm (words per minute). The speed of a five year old is in the 150 wpm range. The average speed of an adult does not exceed 250 words per minute. The reason for this is that, along the way, we pick up a lot of bad habits that slow down our reading speed, like subvocalizing and skipping backwards. With speed reading exercises, you can break these bad habits and increase your average speed by up to 1,000 words per minute or more.

To find out what your average speed is, you’ll need to find out what your words per minute rate is. Take a simple text and count the number of words in the first three lines. Let’s say there are 33 words in those lines. Divide this number by three to get the average number of words per line. Count the number of lines on the page (let’s say there are 40 lines) and multiply this number by the average number of words per line. In this example, there are 440 words per page. Do the same for the next four pages. Get your timer out and hit start as soon as you start reading. Once you’ve read all four pages, multiply the number of pages you read by your word per page. For example, 440 words per page multiplied by 4 pages is 1760 words read. Divide this by the time it took you to read it. Let’s say it took you five minutes. 1760 divided by 5 is 352, your average reading speed.

There are a number of things you can do to increase your average reading speed. Do you feel like you have to vocalize words while reading? This is called subvocalization, a bad habit that slows down a person’s average reading speed because we speak slower than we can read. Try to be aware of what you are doing when reading and stop when you start to subvocalize. Another bad habit that keeps the average adult reading speed down is skipping backwards. This is when you re-read words or sentences that you might have missed. As you read, try to make sure you understand the word or block of words you read before moving on to the next.

If you want to increase your average speed, a good target would be 500 – 800 bpm. Once your average reading speed is in the 500 wpm range, you’ll notice that you can read large amounts of words in less time. Of course, make sure you can understand everything you read! Remember, speed reading is useless if you don’t understand what you are reading.

You can easily increase your average reading speed by reading every day or by enrolling in a speed reading course. Try working on it on your own before signing up for a class.