I recently started a course on "Speed Reading", which aim is to read faster whilst holding the level of comprehension constant (so not to its detriment, but not aimed at improving comprehension either).

Now, for the case of reading, I imagine we can define a rate at which information is been given to the brain. So, the faster you read (holding comprehension constant), the higher such rate is. Clearly, the aim of such training programs like "speed reading" is to move that rate up.

Is there an upper limit to such rate, perhaps because of biological reasons? Does it depends on the person? Can we say, for example, that it is biologically impossible to comprehend a text reading faster than 1,000 words per minute? Is there any evidence of such limit? This information would be useful to understand the scope of improvement possible on this issue.


1 Answer 1


I have tried speed reading myself in the past. From the research papers I have read back then, it seemed like there is no basis or evidence to the claim that with practice, reading speed can increase to more than 600-700 words per minute without any loss of comprehension (Some of the most bizarre claims include 25,000 words per minute. I would have been more impressed if the person claiming it wasn't selling online courses about speed reading for large sums of money).

I can't find the studies I found back then, but a meta-analysis by Keith Rayner†, Elizabeth R. Schotter, Michael E. J. Masson, Mary C. Potter, Rebecca Treiman (2016) seems to show that reading pace is highly determined by language skills and an extensive vocabulary. They show that generally there is a trade off between pace and comprehension, and some of the claims for a very high reading pace were based on prior knowledge of the texts. However, mild improvements can be achieved with practice. This article looks extremely fascinating and I wish I had the time to read all of it.

Edit: Only now do I realize how ironic my last remark was.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the edit ;-) $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 21:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.