What are your present reading and

retention/comprehension rates?

To find out, just take the following reading test. When you are done recording your reading time and answers to the comprehension questions following the
selection, your reading rate will automatically be calculated for you. Click the Start button and start reading. The button starts the timer.
Don't speed but read normally to find your present reading level. Read the following passage, and then
click "Stop" at the bottom to see your results

Reading for Today's Knowledge Explosion

The knowledge explosion being what it is, doubling or tripling your reading rate is but a beginning. You must learn to make quantum-like jumps to cover twenty to thirty times more print without increasing your rate-to read faster, in short, without reading faster. To understand that paradox, you must tap the full potential of three special techniques: surveying, skimming and scanning. They will put you, not where the action is, but where the essence is.


Surveying is a special shortcut, designed to provide the best possible overview in the shortest possible reading time. With it, you can make a gigantic leap in coverage, for you can survey twenty to thirty articles in the time normally taken to read one. This special technique is derived from certain common characteristics of written communication.

For example, with most articles or reports, the title usually provides the best concise indication of content. The first paragraph goes on to furnish the most complete orientation and foreshadowing of what is coming. From that point on, major subdivisions are likely to be marked with headings, other important parts emphasized by italics, heavy type, graphs, or tables. More often than not, the final paragraph summarizes or suggests pertinent implication or applications.

Translate those characteristics into action and you know exactly how to survey an article. You read the title, first and last paragraphs, and all the headings, italicized words, graphs, and tables in between. In a sense, a survey is like reader-made abstract, a distilling of the essence of the meaning into a neat capsule form.

Surveying also works with books. Here you read the title, table of contents, preface, or foreword. Then you survey each chapter as you would a magazine article--title, first paragraph, heading, italicized words, graphs, tables and last paragraph.


The second super-speed technique to add to your repertoire is skimming, a careful reading of selected parts. It, too, is solidly grounded on certain basic characteristics of written expression.

Skimming is built around common characteristics of paragraph structure. For example, the bulk of our reading, an estimated 55 to 85%, is of expository paragraphs, where the main idea is usually expressed in a topic sentence. In 60% to 90% of such paragraphs, the topic sentence comes first, with the next more likely spot last. When the topic sentence leads off, the last sentence usually reiterates or summarizes the topic idea. In addition, certain key words through the paragraph supply further detail and support the idea being developed. In short, as in this paragraph, reading one fourth of the words still gives you the substance. skimming capitalizes on awareness of structure.

You superimpose skimming on the survey technique, with its reading of the title, first and last paragraphs, subheads, italicized words, graphs, and table. All other paragraphs are skimmed. This means reading the first sentence in each one, shifting into high gear to pick key words, then reading the last sentence. The proceeding paragraph illustrates the technique, italics indicating the words to be read in skimming. Notice how the essentials stood out.

Skimming is often three or four times faster than reading, depending upon your style and average paragraph length. Furthermore, a skilled skimmer often gets more comprehension than an average reader. Develop more skimming skills by consciously skimming at least one article every day.

To stop here, however, is to miss the important role of skimming as a reading accelerator. As you work to improve, you may actually practice fast reading 15 minutes daily, but you probably read slowly several hours a day. How can you expect progress when you practice slow reading more than fast? It might look equally impossible for a 200-pound father to teeter-totter with his 20-pound son. But the solution is simple. He merely sits closer to the fulcrum and strikes a perfect balance. In the same way, skimming can be used to counteract and balance the slowing pull of normal reading.

For example, instead of reading an important 3,000-word article at 200 wpm, a fifteen-minute task, skim it at 1,500 wpm, then read it once at 250-wpm. This skimming-reading combination not only takes less time but usually means better comprehension and a distinct boost towards higher reading speeds.


Scanning, the third super-speed technique, also serves two functions. It lets you spot certain desired information as well as accelerate rate.

Scanning is a technique for finding a specific bit of information within a large body of printed matter--the proverbial needle in the haystack. This is the highest gear of all. Here you start with such specific questions as Who won? When? Where?

In university reading classes, students scan initially, without special training or practice, at about 1,300 wpm. One intensive scanning session is enough to shoot the average up to about 14,000 wpm, without loss of accuracy, some few even passing the 25,000 mark.

Visualize the detail. Everyone has noticed how, in looking at a page of print, his own name jumps into sight. This psychological fact suggests one way to insure greater accuracy. If scanning for a date, for example, visualize exactly how it will look. Put a strong mind-set to work. For another example, compare the figures below. How many are identical?

The word "figures" was intended to establish the wrong mind-set, one to hinder you from seeing the word in the illustration. Now let that new mind-set make the word (tie) pop out.

Use all available clues. If scanning for a proper name, focus on the capital letter. Synonyms, hyphens, italics, or quotation marks are other possible clues.

Use structural tips. If you are scanning for the word "rubles," a paragraph about Russia should be a useful tip. If you want news about stock performance, let the phrase "Dow Jones average" pull you up short at the desired spot.

Use systematic scanning pattern. Zigzag down the column or middle of a page, the best way to cover a page of printed matter. Notice that if you look directly at the first and last words in the line of print, you leave untapped the full perceptual span at your command. Looking as far in as the second or third word from each end should still let you see the words that come before and after. With a very narrow column, just run your eye straight down the middle.

Scanning is particularly useful after reading an article when you want to fix pertinent details in mind. Increased skill will come by doing two or three scanning problems a day, in reading newspapers or magazines.

Augment your reading improvement plan by three super-speed techniques for extending coverage and accelerating progress. When fully developed and exploited, this hybrid combination of approaches should provide the potential for handling the knowledge explosion with enviable facility.

With exponential change the very essence of life today, a company can be prospering one day and facing ruin the next. This means that the individual who concentrates on the present is actually jeopardizing his future. Balancing today's demands with tomorrow's needs is a key problem that reading can help solve with particular effectiveness.

James I. Brown

Reading results

You read at  words per minute.

Write down or remember your reading speed. Now answer some questions
about the previous text to perform your comprehension test.