Today’s typing tests are seriously flawed.
Now, before you go grab your pitchfork, let me explain why. Your typing speed, at its most basic form, is how fast you type on a daily basis when you’re typing things like e-mails, reports, instant message conversations, that sort of thing (assuming you don’t use any of that horrible shorthand like “l8r”). So why should you be graded on words you never type? I don’t care what my WPM score is when I’m typing Moby Dick, because I never actually type the text of Moby Dick, so it’s not a fair or accurate representation of my WPM score.
Now, there are two basic forms of typing tests, from what I’ve seen. You either write an excerpt from a paragraph of text, or you type out a series of “common” words, one after another. Both of these test types are flawed. The random-word approach is flawed for two reasons, first, because as I said, the words may not be what you type on a daily basis. It’s great that sufficiently is a “common English word”, but if it’s not in my daily vocabulary I’m not going to type it very often, so I shouldn’t be graded on trying to type it. This random-word system is also flawed because when you type, your hands “flow” through a sentence as it’s typed, anticipating the next word and moving accordingly (and often, fluidly). By typing random words in rapid succession, your brain “trips up” because the words don’t form anything coherent, so you end up stumbling through the test, second-guessing what you’re typing and fumbling with the “flow” between words.
The “Copy-a-Paragraph” tests are definitely a step up from the random-word approach, but they’re still flawed. Unless your job consists of nothing but data entry, chances are that 99% of what you type comes from your brain, specifically, your conscious thought stream (or whatever you’d like to call it). When you transcribe/rewrite something that’s already on the screen, your brain is forced to read (and often comprehend) what it sees, and then at the same time that it’s reading, it’s also trying to tell your fingers and hands where to move and how to type the words that you’re seeing on the screen. So, in essence, it’s actually doing two things at once, which isn’t exactly ideal for a “test”. The good thing about these tests, at least, is that you’re typing coherent sentences, so your fingers don’t get tripped up as much. And, of course, the quality of the text to be transcribed plays a major factor in the test, as well. For example, someone who can type technical information very fast isn’t going to be very good at retyping a classic work of fiction.
So, what’s the solution? To put it simply, it’s a freeform typing test. All you get is a box to type in whatever you like. Just start typing, and after 1 minute, the text area is locked out, and your WPM is displayed. Simple.
Feel free to type whatever you want. Think of it like a “brain dump”. Anything that comes to mind, just form it into a complete sentence and type it out as fast as you can. Talk about your favorite food, your horrible day at work, your ugly neighbors, anything will do. The more common the words are to you, the quicker you’ll type, and the more accurate the test will be. If you make a mistake, backspace and fix it as fast as you can.
Some people may not be able to type for a solid minute with only their imagination to go on, which is fine. If you’re more comfortable typing an excerpt from an e-mail you wrote, or a paper you wrote, or a book, feel free to do that instead, because you aren’t scored on what the contents are, you’re only graded on how fast you can type it in.