What is the Average Reading Speed of Americans?

Average reading speed is something that is often very difficult to compute. Studies show that:

  • age
  • educational level
  • familiarity with the subject matter
  • and even the rate of speech

have major impacts on the speed at which we read. Yet other studies have shown that these things do not, matter at all. What is consistent in all these studies is the simple fact: there is a huge variance in reading speed, across all age levels.

What’s The Best Way to Increase Your Reading Speed?

Measuring Reading Speed

As the owner of this site and the developer of the free software applications you find here, I’ve had a unique opportunity to study some of the results. Remember, a few people blatantly cheat. Taking out the extreme results, shows that most people who take my free speed reading test, score somewhere around 410 words per minute.

How do you calculate that? Simple: divide the total number of words by the number of seconds it took you to read the passage, and then multiply that number by sixty.

I decided to run a more detailed study of this test. What I did was I surveyed a number of specific individuals who worked in a variety of different professions, using my free online speed reading test.  I had them take all 5 tests online, and I averaged the results.

Here are the results I recorded:

People WPM
3rd Grade students 150
4th Grade Students 170
8th Grade Students 250
11th Grade Students 350
Average Adults 300
Low Scoring College Students 340
Average College Students 450
High Scoring College Students 800
Mid Level Executives 340
High Level Executives 575
College Professors 680
High School Dropouts 240


As you can see, the average reading speed of individuals varied greatly depending on the profession of the person taking the test. Also notice what an impact the greater practice had on the test-takers. As young children aged, their reading speed improved, and many of those who had been out of school for some time ran into trouble – they were out of practice. People who do a lot of reading on the job were also doing much better than people who did not.

Another interesting take away from this study was the reading performance of college students. I was prompted to look at this when my brother-in-law dropped out of college after one year, and I had an inkling that the reading was too much for him. As it turns out, the dean’s list students seem to read an average of four times as fast as the dropouts. Perhaps that’s not surprising, but it does indicate that part of the average student’s struggles in college might be in keeping up with the workload. If a dropout and an “A” student were to study for the same amount of time, the “A” student would get through four times as much material as the future dropout.

How Can You Improve Your Reading Speed and Comprehension?

What can we take from this? Reading is a skill that needs to be practiced in order for it to be mastered, so:

  • Make reading books a past time. Find a subject or hobby that interests you and get reading. Why not a book on speed reading?
  • Enroll in a speed reading course
  • Purchase speed reading software and regularly use it to improve your reading speed and comprehension.

Parents of College Students

Tuition fees are a major investment in your child’s future – protect that investment by improving your child’s reading ability before they go. They’ll thank you for it later!