What Is the Average Words Per Minute One Can Read, by Grade Level?

WIN-Initiative/WIN-Initiative/Getty Images

According to Jan Hasbrouck and Gerald Tindal, an average student in the middle of the school year can read 23 words per minute at grade 1, which increases gradually up to 151 words per minute at grade 8. Their study was compiled in 2005, and covered reading speed during fall, winter and spring terms.

The full study shows that the reading speed for an average student in the winter school term is 23 words per minute (WPM) at grade 1, 72 WPM at grade 2, 92 WPM at grade 3, 112 WPM at grade 4, 127 WPM at grade 5, 140 WPM at grade 6, 136 WPM at grade 7, and 151 WPM at grade 8. Grade 7 is the only year to show evidence of stagnation rather than growth in reading ability.

Reading speed continues to increase at a slow pace in high school, but there are fewer studies about the exact rate of change, as educational goals and related research tend to shift from raw reading speed to grammar and comprehension at that point. Forbes reports that the average reading speed for an adult is approximately 300 WPM, while the average speed for a college student is approximately 450 WPM.