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Reading Speed And Evaluation by Sara Vaca

Hi AEA365 readers!

I am Sara Vaca, independent consultant and frequent Saturday contributor to this blog, and I am coming today with a short-experiment-post, aiming to collect data (about evaluators’ reading speed) and come back to you with the results.

It all started some days ago when I was finally reading Kylie Hutchinson’s book A Short Primer on Innovative Evaluation Reporting, which I had been meaning to do for a long time.

The book is full of good ideas, wisdom and humor, and her starting point is how reports need to evolve because evaluation users do not have the time to read them. People usually read 500 words per minute (equivalent to one page in 12 font size), so a 50-pages report would take 50 minutes to read.

?”(…) the average person reads at a rate of 300 words per minute. Higher-educated individuals, such as business executives, read at a speed of 475 words per minute, and college professors read at 675”.

Hutchinson, Kylie S.. A Short Primer on Innovative Evaluation Reporting (p. 14).

And she adds a link to a test to measure your reading speed.

Lessons Learned: So I was very curious and took the test (twice) to realize that I am so slow reading!! It is true that English is not my mother tongue, but I scored 200-250 words per minute and with a low level of comprehension! This was really disappointing, but it made me understand why I am often frustrated for how long anything takes me, and the amount of papers I start and never finish reading; and on the other hand, made me realize why I am so visual.

Rad Resource: So I thought of this experiment – I would love to know what is the reading average of my fellow evaluators.

So I invite you to click in this link, where you can find the link to the test + a quick survey to share your score. It should take around 4 minutes in total.

Cool Trick: After a couple of weeks, I will come back with another post sharing the results of the survey, and some of the implications that our reading speed may have for our evaluation practice.

Thanks in advance!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

6 thoughts on “Reading Speed And Evaluation by Sara Vaca”

  1. Hi Sara!

    As part of my graduate program I came here and chose your post to read and respond to. I took the test and found out that I am a slower reader than I thought at a rate of 266 words per minute with about a 50% comprehension rate; yikes!!! Maybe it is too late or I am tired, or maybe I just don’t pay enough attention while I read. At any rate this was an interesting exercise and makes me evaluate how much I am paying attention to what I am reading. As both an educator and graduate student myself it is so important that I take the time to ensure that I am understanding all that I am reading. I also look forward to coming back and finding out the results of your survey and your thoughts on the implications for evaluators and dare I say students and educators as well! Thanks for your interesting post.


  2. Hi Sara,

    I’ve come across your posts before, and as a newcomer to evaluation, I appreciate your approachable and understandable tone around evaluation concepts!

    While I have not read A Short Primer on Innovative Evaluation Reporting, I do agree with Kylie Hutchinson’s findings that the average stakeholder does not have the time to devote to reading and fully comprehending evaluation results. What do you think the future of evaluation reports holds after reading Kylie’s work? I imagine more streamlined language, emphasis on brevity, and more graphs and visuals to display data, but I would love to hear your thoughts around this.

    I think recognition that the average stakeholder may not be reading at 500 words per minute is integral to the shift in evaluation reports. I also took the reading test and scored at 363 words per minute, with a high level of comprehension. I was sure to complete the survey and look forward to coming back to see the results and exploring further implications that reading speed may have on evaluation practice.

    Thank you for your post!

    Kelsey McPhail.

  3. I took the test three times. I concluded that the complexity of the material is less important than my purpose in determining retention. For example, I read information for my own learning differently than reading student papers where I am more interested in determining whether what the person is saying makes sense than in remembering the content for my later use.

  4. Sara–this is the most fun blog I have read–the test was fun and it was interesting to get the results. Definitely a practice effect! Thank you Thank you –do more like this one! Ann

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