Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Effect of a Timed Reading Activity on EFL Learners: Speed, Comprehension, and Perceptions

Anna Chang, in this study, tested the effectiveness of a reading class on reading speed and comprehension. The results of the experiments showed that students doing the timed reading activities increased their reading speed on average by 29 words per minute (wpm) (25%) and comprehension by .63 (4%).

Participants of the study were divided into two groups, an experimental group (n=46) and a control group (n=38). Both groups were enrolled in a required English course for the purpose of preparing a student for the TOEIC (Test of English International Communication). The course ran for 13 weeks with one 2 hour class session per week. The experimental group spent 15 minutes at the end of each class on timed reading exercises and the control group spent the 15 minutes reviewing the previous week’s lesson.

Chang, at the beginning of the course, subjected both groups to a pretest where they were required to read two texts while it was timed. After reading the texts, the participants took a test consisting of 5 multiple choice questions. Chang repeated the process after the 13 week course.

Results of the experiment showed that reading speed increased, on average, in the experimental group by 25% from 118 wpm to 147 wpm compared to only 5% in the control group. Additionally, the number of participants reading above 150 wpm in the experimental group increased from 10% to 39%. 
Figure 1. Reading speed for the experimental and controls groups at Time 1 and 2 (in wpm)

Experimental results for comprehension did not show as much of a difference.
Reading comprehension increased by only a .05 difference between the experimental and control groups. Therefore, this study showed that increasing speed did not decrease comprehension which was found to be true in other studies.

I do not believe comprehension was fully assessed by this study. The pre and post-tests administered were only 5 to 8 questions. Additionally, the questions were multiple choice; therefore, increasing the chance of a correct answer without actually comprehending it. A pre and post with a greater amount of questions would be a better measure for assessing whether a student fully comprehends what they are reading.


Chang, Anna. (2010). The effect of a time reading activity of EFL learners: Speed, comprehension, and perceptions. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(2). 


  1. John,

    What are the implications, if any, of this study on intelligence analysts? What can we take away to try and improve our effectiveness as analysts?

  2. John,

    What was the background of the students taking the test? Was English there second or first language? If second, do you think that would skew the score?

  3. John,

    Do you think that intelligence analysts would benefit from timed reading exercises if the exercises structured the questions differently? If so, what types of question should the exercises employ instead of multiple choice (otherwise known as multiple guess)?