Is it possible to read 10,000 wpm?

Is it possible to read 10,000wpm? Not sure… Depends on what we define as reading…

There is a reaction speed limit of eye and brain which can be measured, defining the shortest saccade we can handle. Then there is a visual span, defining width and height of this saccade, and there is some sort of speed of working memory, measuring which is still a challenge. Taking all of these factors into account, we can (in theory) read as fast as we can page. So why is the fastest reader considered to be Anne Jones with 4,700 words per minute with 67% comprehension? Well, the answer is comprehension. It takes some time to make sense in what we read, and 50% comprehension is the low threshold for understanding.

Some people here and here claim anyone can read 10,000 wpm with ~30% comprehension or 25,000 wpm with ~10% comprehension. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of information Anne Jones can process, however, this is no longer considered to be reading.
Disclosure: I can read ~10,000 wpm at 10% retention at least on some texts. So this is probably a reasonable claim.

Just how useful is this skill? It is useful for spying on people when they page through documents, but I do not think this trick would be worth your time. It is definitely good for what we call prereading, e.g.

  1. Filter interesting data from irrelevant during research.
  2. Build up specific markers, understand text structure and generate curiosity.
  3. Find information within large volumes of text.

Now, once we find the information of interest several things happen:

  1. The information is often dense, to get good comprehension the reading speed drops to 1,000 wpm.
  2. After reading, we stop to think about what we read and how to use it. This takes almost as much as reading.
  3. For long-term retention we generate dual coding, associations, retrieval(anchor) markers etc. This almost doubles the time we think.

If we do not slow down or stop, we will hardly remember anything we read a week after, and then what is the point of reading?

Curiously, people who do not know good memorization methods will remember ~10% of what they read a month after reading. So if you read the text at 10,000 wpm and apply great memory tricks, you will be in a very similar position after a month. There is a good chance you will need to reread the whole article, but at least you will know where to look.

Here are the guidelines of how I got 10,000 wmp at 10% retention:

  1. Get 1200wpm at 90% retention.
  2. Increase the eye span to cover ~5 lines and ~12 words.
  3. Reformat text so it matches your eye span.
  4. Now read vertically through the middle of the text saccading every 5 lines.
  5. At the end of the page while going to the next page link what you just read as a list.
  6. Each 5 pages review the list in your head.

Later you can use this list for dual coding as an animation, a list with pegs or a reduced version of a mindmap. You can also use it to generate the initial text mindmap when reading.

This kind of skimming is highly addictive. Do read at least 15% of the text, otherwise you will need to reread everything several times.

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