Words per Minute: A Better Tool than You Think

When you hear "Words per Minute" you might think of a boring test where you are forced to read a lackluster page or two with someone watching you and the clock. Instead, you should be thinking personal empowerment and accurate progress tracking. Knowing your words per min in the way that I am going to describe is one of the powerful tools of language learning. There are 2 essential points when you try to test your words per min.

First, you must use the same book, but different passages for about 6 months. This is because the difficulty of the reading material must stay constant for the a significant period of time or you will not be able to track your progress. Second, you need to find the right difficulty for your reading level. This means that for your words per min test you should not be reading something that is too hard or too easy. If you do it will make it nearly impossible to track your progress. You can know that you are using a good book if your words per min is about 40. If your words per min is 20 then the book is too hard and if your words per min is 60 then the book is too easy. If you try a words per min test and you find that your score is not between 30 and 50 then find a book that better suits your level.

Here is how to do a words per min test.

As mentioned before you may need to experiment before you find a book that is at your proper difficulty level. You should do the words per min test at least once per month. Once you find a book where you can score roughly 40 words per min for your first month then you use that same book for about 6 months. Always choose different pages to read from when you are doing your test. Read for exactly 2 min. Then count exactly how many words you read correctly. Ideally you have someone else to do this with you. That way the other person can track the time and make a tally of the words that you stumbled over. A tally is when you make a little mark on a piece of paper every time the student misses a word. Subtract the number of missed words from the total number of words and divide by two, because you read for two minutes. Now you have your words per min.

Write down your words per min each month and watch your progress.

After the 6 months is over see if you need to move to a harder book or stay with the same book. Why should you track your words per min?

Say you work with one tutor or program and your words per min is increasing rapidly. Then you work with another tutor or program and your words per min increase more slowly. You can see what tutors or programs are the best by tracking your words per min. Keep in mind that your words per min usually increase more rapidly at the beginner/ intermediate stage. The speed at which you increase may slow down as you get more advanced.

Also be sure to calculate how much you improved after the 6 months. For example, if you started at 35 words per min and then after 6 months you achieved 41 words per min, then you improved by 17%. 41 divided by 35 is 1.17 so forget about the one and turn 0.17 into 17%. Good luck!

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