How to Calculate Shorthand WPM

Shorthand is most commonly associated with journalists or secretaries, but can be a useful skill in many other walks of life. Whether sitting in a lecture hall or a business meeting, the ability to take accurate verbatim notes can be invaluable. Whether you learn shorthand at a formal class or teach yourself at home, you need to measure your progress. Most people speak at between 120 and 150 words per minute (wpm). so this is a good level to aim for.

Obtain a suitable piece of speech with which to test yourself. CD and audio files of test passages for shorthand students are commercially available, but many free examples can be found on the Internet. (See Resources.) You can also record a few minutes of a television or radio broadcast.

Start the stopwatch, play the recording and begin writing out the words in shorthand. Continue for two minutes without stopping.

Transcribe your shorthand notes and compare the result to the original text to check for mistakes.

Add up the total number of words you took down correctly during the two-minute test period and divide by two. The result is your shorthand wpm.


Repeat the test with a variety of speaking sources to get an overall picture of your speed. A dictation featuring many technical terms will slow down your overall performance. Similarly, a talk filled with mostly short, simple words may give a false picture of your wpm.

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