The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading (2008)

Appendix D. Calculating Your Reading Speed

When you’re trying to improve your speed reading skills, you need to know the number of words and the number of words per line to calculate your speed. I’ve provided that information for you on the articles in this book. In this appendix, I explain how you can determine this information on your own, should you want to perform timings on other material outside this book.

First, a few guidelines:

• The best reading material to use for self-timing has a standard column width, meaning it’s the same width all the way down the page. Many novels fit this bill because there are rarely pictures or illustrations included that adjust the column width.

• Magazine articles and textbook chapters can be used, although you might need to make adjustments for lines that are shorter or longer because of photos or illustrations.

• Using articles on the web are great as long as you put them in the printable version. The printable version removes any ads or illustrations and standardizes the line width. It’s also less distracting to read.

Determining the Average Words per Line

You have two options when it comes to finding the average words per line in a piece of writing:

Option 1:

1. Select a full line of print.

2. Add all the letters, punctuation marks, and blank spaces in that line.

3. Divide this number by 5.

Let’s look at an example:

Most evenings, I would rather eat than sleep.

The line total is 45. So 45 ÷ 5 = 9 words per line.

Option 2:

1. Select any consecutive 10 lines of print.

2. Count the number of words per line on each of the 10 lines (8 in line 1, 6 in line 2, 9 in line 3, etc.).

3. Add the number of words. Place a decimal point one place over from the right. If the number is 81 or 8.1, round it down to 8, making it 8 words per line. If the number is 97 or 9.7, round it up to 10 words per line. If the number is 65 or 6.5, you can round up or down. The difference isn’t that substantial, although the words do add up.

Finding the Total Number of Words (Optional)

Now to determine the total words in the article or piece of reading in front of you:

1. When you have an average words per line, count the number of lines in the piece.

2. Multiply the number of lines by the average words per line. This is the total number of words in the piece.

Calculating Your Words per Minute

Now for the information you want to know—how many words per minute you read!

1. Read for 1 minute.

2. Count how many lines you read.

3. Multiply the number of lines read by the number of average words per line to get your words per minute.


Speed Tip

If you have the reading on your computer, paste it into your word processing program and use the word count feature to determine the number of words. The word count feature also calculates the number of lines, but be aware the counter includes blank spaces as well.