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Does Reading Speed Matter?

Reading speed matters, but you can not say that reading faster is better. A slow reader can be a good reader. The main point is this: What do you understand from the text you are reading? Whether you read fast or you read slow, the most important thing is that you understand what you read.

Some text are much better understood when you read slowly. You take your time to appreciate the language used. For example when reading or even studying poetry. Every sentence could create a different emotion. When you study literature, speed reading is usually not te best solution for reading it.

There are a lot of articles online discussing why speed reading does not work. For me, there is a wide range of reading speed. It depends on what you are reading and what you goals are. For getting a general idea about a text, you can probably use a higher reading speed. To improve your comprehension you often need two things. You need either a lot of prior knowledge or a lower reading speed. 

How Important Is Reading Speed?

The most important thing, when reading is achieving your goal. Usually this means that you want to understand a certain concept or chapter. You may have to use it for an assignment or paper. Reading as fast as possible isn’t your main goal. 

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You have to use the right technique for reading. This means that sometimes you read slower. For example when you read about new of difficult topics. Always carefully read the introduction and the (chapter) summary. These are important! You can read faster when there is information discussed you already know. This could be examples, case studies, etc. When understand what you read, taking time to read examples often isn’t a good investment in time. 

It always starts by having a clear goal for your study session. This could be understanding a topic or getting a general idea about it. While reading you should be flexible in your approach. Like I wrote before, you may be able to skip, skim, or scan paragraphs in your book. Always be on the lookout for this. It saves you valuable time. It gives you more time to study difficult or new ideas. 

As you can see, reading speed is important. It isn’t better to read faster all the time. Being flexible in your reading is key!

What Reading Speed Can You Expect When Studying?

Different texts need different types of reading. You can not go over a book using your normal reading text only. First of all, this isn’t realistic. There will always be parts that are more difficult that require more intense reading. Second, you will waste a lot of time reading the parts that you already know. And believe me… you know a lot already from the books you are reading!

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Next time you read, choose from these types of reading to go over a text:

  • Skim reading: Get a general idea of a text by quickly going over it. You only look at the heading and things that draw your attention. This takes 4 to 6 seconds per page.
  • Scan reading: Scan through the text seeing every word. The goal is to find a new section you want to start reading or perhaps find the answer to a question. This takes 10 to 15 seconds per page.
  • Normal reading: This is how you usually read. Read for understanding and get a good idea of what is relevant. You also look at details. This takes 1 to 2 minutes per page
  • Deep reading: Use your own reading method. Focus on understanding, and connecting,  Speed isn’t important at all. You want to “get it”. This takes 2 to 5 minutes per page

Note that it could be that you use different types of reading on the same page! You can start to skim reading and continue with normal reading. Some parts of the page may be important to use deep reading for. 

Please take into account that studying isn’t only reading a text! You can usually double to quadruple your reading time to find the time you need to study a page. (Learn to study one hour per day)

Is It Better To Read A Book Fast Or Slow?

When you read for studying, there is one rule important: Quality over Quantity! You don’t read study books to pass time. You want to learn, grow, and increase your knowledge. This means that you should be reading as fast as needed and possible. The goal is to get the information in your book into your head. You have to understand what you study. 

There are problems with reading slowly and with reading fast. They are often quite similar. Comprehension is low when you read too fast or too slow. You get distracted or bored easily when you read too slowly. This way you don’t understand what you read. Your eyes may feel tired when you read too fast for a long time. 

Imagine this: When you take your car into your town center and you try to drive at 100 miles per hour. Does this work? How long will it take you to crash? Now take that same car and drive 15 miles per hour on the highway. This also causes accidents! My point is, to know when to drive fast. Also, know when to read fast (and slow). 

You decide when you read fast by setting the right goal. 


Reading speed matters… a lot! Read too fast and you probably miss many details. Read too slowly and you will not be able to finish your reading on time. Reading faster allows you to cover more pages in less time. Reading slow(er) often increases your understanding. 

As with everything, it is important to know what you should be doing in a certain situation. Reading 100 miles per hour in a city center is not wise. You better do this on a deserted road or visit Die Autobahn in Germany. 

The bottom line is: Focus on comprehension first, then learn how to apply the right reading speed. You can be an effective reader without speed reading. And that’s the bottom line.

And that's the bottom line!

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