Speed Read like Rain Man – 75% Increased Reading Speed in 20 Minutes

One of my goals in 2010 is to read a lot more. I bought so many books in 2009 and I bet I only read about 20% of them.

If you have seen my last post, you’ll know that I recently read the expanded and updated version of “The 4-Hour Work Week.” by Tim Ferriss. One interesting section was a little exercise in Chapter 5 called “How to Read 200% Faster in 10 Minutes.” A quick Google search led me to a similar post on Tim’s blog only this time it was called “Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes

I’m not going to talk about the exercises here because you can read it in much more detail over on Tim’s blog but I want to share with you my results and findings.

In the article, Tim provided a quick synopsis on how we read using a sequence of saccadic movements. Interesting. I never knew this and Tim provided us with a way to understand how it works: “To demonstrate this, close one eye, place a fingertip on top of that eyelid, and then slowly scan a straight horizontal line with your other eye-you will feel distinct and separate movements and periods of fixation.

To make a long story short, in less than a week and a half, I’ve become a much faster reader. Here are my results from following Tim’s exercises.

Day 1

  • Initial Reading Speed: 305 words-per-minute (wpm) Average reading speed in the US is around 200-300 wpm and I’m guessing it’s somewhat similar in Canada. We’re maybe a bit faster here:-)
  • After Test Reading Speed: 505 wpm – Amazing! A 65% Increase in reading speed the first time I did the exercises. I will admit that my comprehension of what I was  reading was terrible at this speed.

My results were not exactly 200 or 300% higher as Tim suggested but they weren’t bad either.

Day 2 – The very next day I decided to complete the exercises again. Using the same formula, I began the test by assessing my initial reading speed.

  • Initial Reading Speed: 370 wpm. While I hadn’t retained a speed of 505 wpm, I did come out of the gate faster and my comprehension was back at my normal level.
  • After Test Reading Speed: 540 wpm. 35 wpm more than my best speed yesterday.

Day 3 – Here’s where things started to get interesting.

  • Initial Reading Speed: 468 wpm! Today I came out guns blazing! I tested in at 468 wpm and comprehension was there! I managed to soak up everything with no back skipping.
  • After Test Reading Speed: 612 wpm. Insane. And you know what? My comprehension level was way up – of course this is based on my own self-assessed comprehension level of what I could remember and recall about what I just read.

Just to be sure I wasn’t going berserk, I went home and went on a reading frenzy. Over the next 5 days, I read a ton of books, flying through them at a speed I’d never been able to even come close to before. Maybe that’s the reason I very rarely finished a book – I was reading too slow.

Over the next 5 days I read:

The Catcher In The Rye
The Four-Hour Work Week (again)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
Bad Monkeys

I also limited myself to the following rules:

  1. An hour to an hour and a half of fiction reading per night before bed
  2. The non-fiction could be read whenever. I usually spent an hour or so reading after dinner while sipping a glass of red wine.

Day 4 – Five days later it was time to test myself again.

  • Initial Reading Speed: 416 wpm. Interesting results. In the time away from training and completing the exercises, I had slowed down but I had also read 5 books at a speed and comprehension level faster than I’d ever read in my life.
  • After Test Reading Speed: 624 wpm

The last test I did was three days ago. Since that time I’ve read a few other books and will continue to do so. My conclusion is that with daily training and practice anyone could easily double or perhaps triple their reading speed. I made a comment on Tim’s blog that I was having trouble finding any consistency in my results which you can see through my results. But I think it’s important to recognize that I’m getting faster, and with more practice and repetition I might find that consistent level.

Tim did mention that if your goal is to read at 900 wpm then you actually have to train at 1800 wpm, which is the equivalent of 10 seconds per page or 6 pages per minute. Could you imagine? 6 pages per minute!

If you decide to try the exercises, let me know your results and findings.


January 19th, 2009 update

I decided to re-test today as I felt I was slowing down with some books over the weekend but the tests said I was wrong.

  • Initial Reading Speed: Came in at 424 wpm with solid comprehension
  • After Test Testing Speed: 624 wpm – Funny exact same number I put up last time I did the test. I wonder if this is a max for me?

Related Posts

  • Awesome to hear about your progress and endeavor. If you're interested in doing more exercises I developed a six-week course that's free to read and download on GoogleBooks called “Learn To Speed Read”. Hope you like.


  • Hey Kris

    Cool. I'll check it out.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • John-Boy

    Nowwwww you got me wondering!

    I tried “Photo-Reading” some time back and asked for my money back.

    This could be worth a go.
    I'll check Tim's post,try it a bit and let you know how I get on.

    Well, of course Canadians read faster!
    You BETTER!
    If not, the wolves, wolverines and other beasties would catch you and eat your goodies 😛
    Or it is just colder by youze guyz and you need to move around more to prevent freezing?

  • Thanks for the comment John-Boy.
    I look forward to hearing your results.


  • January 19th, 2009 update

    I decided to retest today as I felt I was slowing down with some books over the weekend but the tests said I was wrong.

    * Initial Reading Speed: Came in at 424 wpm with solid comprehension
    * After Test Testing Speed: 624 wpm – Funny exact same number I put up last time I did the test. I wonder if this is a max for me?

  • krismadden

    I wondered the same thing when I was working on increasing my reading speed. There seems to be this barrier between 600-800 wpm, that's similar to breaking the sound barrier and heading into mach 1.

    I would encourage you to keep pushing yourself with your consistent practice because it sounds like you're getting closer to breaking that barrier. If you get in a rut, or feel like you've plateaued, feel free to shoot me an email at my website.


  • Thanks for the response Kris.

    I do plan on continuing to practice. I think I have to practice at a far faster speed to break the barrier. We'll see if I can hit the 700 mark.

    To be honest, I'm not sure I want to read much faster than 600wpm!! At least not for enjoyment… I guess it also depends on the book.

    I was reading Zorba The Greek this week and I had no choice but to read slower simply due to the way it was written.

  • krismadden

    What helped me break the barrier were doing number scanning exercises, which taught me how to see multiple items at the same time. You might want to try some of those to help break through into 7-1000wpm category.

    -Kris Madden

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  • Trevor

    After 2 weeks of practice (a total of about 12hrs) using Evelyn Woods methods, I increased my reading ability 360%.. with good comprehension and memory recall with fiction novels…!! I started at 165 wpm because I found that I was constantly re-reading lines because my mind was always focused on something else while reading. Being able to focus better and then also learning the ‘finger’ method of reading with constant movement and skimming meaningless words like – and, to, the, a – and so forth, I am really amazed at how much I’ve improved. And by the way, that was only after going through 8 chapters in the 36 chapter book put together by Peter Kump, who apparently worked with Evelyn Wood. The book is ‘Break-Through Rapid Reading’. My goal is to break at least 1000 wpm when finished with the book. I really wood like to break 1500 wpm with excellent comprehension and memory recall, because I do enjoy reading and learning. Thanks… Trevor

    • Trevor,

      Thanks for the suggestion. This is awesome. I’ll have to check out Kump & Woods. Great work!


  • I know this blog post is quite old, but if I would really appreciate a response if you still get notified of these comments.
    How exactly did you do the exercises? I did the 20 minute set, with a small rest in between each different exercise to set my timer and such, and experienced a 22% increase, from 342wpm to the low 400s.
    What confused me was that he said to try and read what you could, but later in the same paragraph he said “don’t concern yourself with comprehension!” I was going faster, but I was trying to read what I could. When you did these exercises, did you focus PURELY on the tip of your finger/pen, or did you try and see the words too while you were scanning?

    • Jeff,

      Comprehension is the key. After all, if you’re not comprehending what’s the point. 22% percent increase is great!

      When training, he’s saying dont worry about comprehension. I would focus soley on the words.
      I haven’t done this since the time I wrote the post, but I still read a lot faster.
      Keep me posted.

  • pratik jain

    Dear Noah

    1.could you please explain how you capitalized on your peripheral vision ?   what i would want you to elaborate on is how to move in from both the sides ?
    2.Also , if you could give some productive strategies (which have worked for you) regarding            studies/exam preparation/gulping loads of info in short time span.

    p.s. in may’13 , i’m about to appear in one of India’s toughest professional exam (CA-IPCC) and have to read and absorb some 10000 pages for that.

    Eagerly waiting to learn from you

  • pratik jain

    i tried tim’s exercise regarding peripheral vision , but i seem to have got nowhere. And in that backdrop, your achievement is ground breaking. You have literally conjured up the fire under my belly. Seeing your post, and determination, i too am surely of getting some headway into speed reading with your profound advice.

    thanks again 🙂
    please reply asap

  • Chris

    I tried doing Tim’s exercises but just didn’t feel like it was working for me so I gave up. After reading your post you’ve re-ignited my desire to learn to read faster. I’ll give Tim’s tips another go. Thanks!

    • It works. The skills don’t stick, though, unless you continue to practice.

  • Will

    I just did his exercise. I went from 248 to 550! I will be practicing everyday to try to maintain and increase my results

  • Adnan Moosa

    One of the best speed reading tips I got was to NOT be worried about comprehension and just keep the pace and then the comprehension does eventually catch up. I learned it from taking rev it up reading – also read her book 10 days to faster reading – have you ever had a chance to read it Noah?

    • Have not read it. I will check it out. Lots of advances these days in speed reading with things like Sprtiz – which I’m still on the fence with!

  • Karel Vybral

    nice article, in my case following application help me a lot

    improve peripheral vision, vision span

    improve peripheral vision, quick reaction, short term memory, speed reading

    important is to train regularly.

  • YsoSerious?

    Dear Noah,
    I’m an Italian guy who’s actually trying to improve his speed reading skill, but without success…
    I found Tim’s blog last week and so far i keep practicing myself in his “px project”, but it didn’t work for me.
    The point is: do i have to focus my eyes on the tip of the pen or on the words?!
    Hope you text me back…

  • Huweh Vereu Wonte

    Hi Noah, I started to practice speed reading today with the exercises in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZqXBhGR_W8. During one of the exercises (3 minutes with half a second a line), I read 10 pages. Each page averages about 300 words. That’s almost 1000 words per minute, and good retention/comprehension followed as well. I went back and checked slowly to see. I’m really enjoying this–it’s like a game.