Speed Reading: How to be a fast, efficient reader

Choosing books to read fast

Before you read: Set your timer for 1 minute and read the post below. Once 1 minute is up, stop reading! Count how many words you read. That is your Words per Minute (WPM).

Words per Minute (WPM) is often used as a measurement of words processed in a minute. We often use it to measure how many words we can read or type in a minute. The key, however, is comprehension - it’s easy to read quickly, but harder to read quickly and fully understand the text. Most native English speakers can read about 200-300 words per minute. Chances are, you can read that much in your language, too. [76 words]


Speed reading has its merits. Think of all the emails, articles, and reports you have to read in one day. How many minutes of reading do you do in a day? A Forbes article mentions that an average adult could spend up to 2 hours of his work day merely reading. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but simple math indicates that that’s 10 hours a week, 40 hours a month. The faster you read, the more time you have to get other things done. [162 words] 


As well, in English proficiency exams like the IELTS, a general reading question consists of a 900+ word article and at least 11 comprehension questions, which you are expected to complete in 20 minutes. If you read at 300 wpm, you could read the text at least twice and still complete the questions. But if you read any slower than 100wpm, you’re probably not going to finish on time. [232 words]  

How to improve

So how do we practice speed reading? It’s mostly just a matter of practice and training. But, to get you started, here are a few tips: 

  • Don’t mouth the words you’re reading. Mouthing words means that you’re reading every single word. No one has time for that. 
  • Widen your peripheral view. First, try to read a few words at a time. Then, instead of reading from side-to-side (left to right), the idea is to read diagonally. This way, you’re not focusing on every word individually but on key words. 
  • Keep reading! Don’t stop and don’t go back to re-read what you’ve just read. Most likely, you’ll understand the gist of the text as you keep reading. 

Happy speed reading! [384 words] 


Comprehension Questions

After you read: Comprehension is just as important as speed reading. How many of the questions below can you answer after speed reading? If you don't remember, check back above for the answers.

  1. Summarize the main points of the article. 
  2. How many words per minute can a native speaker read? 
  3. What should you do to improve your reading speed? 

gist—[noun] the general meaning of a speech or text. Pronounced /djist/