Speed-reading programs are older than computer programs, but they're a natural when teamed up as software. Speed Reading III is a simple, free tool that tests your reading speed but not your comprehension. It's designed to help you increase your reading speed and concentration, which can boost comprehension. The basic idea isn't to try to read every word as fast as you can but to focus on a midpoint and see how well you understand the message.
Speed Reading III opens with a plain and simple interface containing a text message that describes the basics of reading speed and how the application helps you gauge and improve your speed. It also offers basic instructions for using the program, including selecting your own text files as source material. The test view has a window on the left and speed controls on the right: radio buttons for selecting Very Slow to Fast as well as a slider for selecting between 200 and 400 words per minute. You can adjust the speed while reading, too. We clicked Start, and the program began displaying short snippets of text in an article, moving from column to column and down the rows. The idea is to increase the speed until you've found a setting that you're comfortable with. As you practice, you can keep increasing the speed as your ability to process the text increases. That's all Speed Reading III does: It doesn't grade or test you on what you just read; it just helps you determine how fast you read and helps you develop better reading skills. We like the ability to use your own text, which helps you understand how fast you read the things you actually read, not a prepared text.
As we noted, Speed Reading III doesn't test your reading comprehension, which is a much different thing from reading speed and depends on the material as well as the reader. Whether or not you understand what you read isn't this tool's job; it just helps you understand how fast you read and how you can read faster.