How Much Is Too Much Reading for Medical Students? Assigned Reading and Reading Rates at One Medical School

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To determine how medical students' reading rates affect their ability to complete assigned reading.


The authors calculated the total amount of reading assigned during 71 weeks in 12 modules of the preclinical basic science curriculum at Mercer University School of Medicine for the 2009–2010 academic year. In September 2010, they surveyed the 351 enrolled students, asking them to estimate their reading rates, number of hours spent reading each day, and the amount of the assigned reading they had completed. The authors used the data collected to estimate time required to complete the reading assignments over a range of reading rates and compared these rates with previously published reading rates.


Faculty assigned 29,239 pages of reading across the modules. The 104 respondents (30% response rate) reported they could read an average of 6 hours per day. The authors calculated that 17% of the students read no faster than 150 words per minute (WPM), whereas another 66% did not exceed 100 WPM. If students reserved the last week of each module for review prior to an examination, they would need to read 496 pages per week, which would require 28 to 41 hours per week at these rates, to complete the assigned reading only once.


Medical students require significant time to complete assigned reading just once at the reading rates required to comprehend the cognitively challenging material. Before assigning reading, faculty should consider the amount that could reasonably be accomplished by their students.

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