Reading speed test

(for info only, please answer to Typophile forum.)

From John Hudson:
As regular Typophile readers are aware, there has been much discussion over the past many months regarding reading, readability, and the testing of reading speed and accuracy. One of the questions that has come up again and again is what constitutes typical reading speed for mature, experienced readers in what might be called natural conditions, i.e. not laboratory conditions. I would like to invite your participation in an informal, self-regulated study. Obviously the fact that it is self-regulated means that the results are of limited scientific value, but I think as an initial step toward finding a good means to test what Hrant called ‘immersive reading’ the process may be a useful one.

In order to participate in this test you will need a) a book, b) a watch, and c) an assistant. The book should be something you are reading anyway, and preferably you should be some ways into it before conducting the test. It should not be a book that you have already read: the text should be new to you. A stopwatch can be used, but not if the click of the stopwatch starting distracts you during reading. The assistant holds the watch and is located someplace where he or she can see you clearly but not where his or her presence will distract you. You should read in the situation in which you most like to read: in your comfy chair, for instance. You should try to conduct the test when you are well rested and your eyes are not fatigued.

This is how to conduct the test:

  1. Start reading. The assistant will watch you and will not do anything for the first while. The assistant will need to judge when you are immersed in the text and, judging by how regularly you turn the pages, that you are reading at a reasonably constant speed.
  2. Selecting his or her moment, as you turn a page, the assistant starts timing you. If not using a stopwatch, the assistant should write down the starting time. The assistant should also keep track of how many times you turn the page during the timed period, so that you can accurately determine where in the text timing started.
  3. The assistant times you for ten minutes. At the end of ten minutes, the assistant calls Stop, at which point you put your finger in the text to mark the part you have reached.
  4. Calculate the number of words you have read during the ten minute test. It is not essential to have an absolute count: calculate the average number of words per line on a single page, and then multiply that by the number of lines per page and the number of pages read. Count only the number of completely read lines on the last page, down to the point where the assistant called Stop.
  5. Post the results here. Results should include: Type of book read (novel, biography, history, etc.). Your sex—if your gender is different from your sex, I don’t want to know about it. Your age range (20-30, 30-40, 40-50, etc.) or actual age. Number of words read during the ten minute test.
Jean François Porchez, 20 December 2004

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