Celebrating 4000 Typing Races

Nov, 02 2020
5 Minutes

Today I surpassed 4000 races on Typeracer 🎉

I wanted to celebrate this milestone by sharing some of my stats (Note: WPM = Words Per Minute, a measurement of typing speed):

  • 4,000 races
  • First race: 65 WPM
  • Most recent race: 83 WPM
  • Worst: 47 WPM
  • Best: 126 WPM
  • Average of all races: 84.06 WPM
  • Median race: 84 WPM

Now, that's just the boring summary statistics. Let's dig in a bit further and see what really happened.

All Typing Races Graphed

All races on a graph

4000 typing races looks like a lot of noise. You can definitely see a minimum and a maximum, but overall it's a pretty messy graph.

Let's smooth that data out a little and see what it looks like. Here's a 30 Race moving average:

30 race moving average

Ah much better! There's a trend hidden beneath all of that mess!

The Trend

Here's a good summary of my improvement:

  • Average of first 100 races: 73.9 WPM
  • Average of most recent 100 races: 93.92 WPM
  • Delta: +20.02 WPM

And how long did it take to do those 4000 races?

I don't have exact data on how long each race took (Typeracer doesn't provide that), but anecdotally, races seem to take about: 30-60 seconds, skewed towards 30 seconds. Between each race there's also about 15 seconds of downtime (waiting for opponents, reviewing your own stats, giving yourself a little pep talk, and so on). A good estimate is that it takes less than a minute per race, so let's just call that 50 seconds.

If we use that in our estimation, that means it took 4000 races x 50 seconds/race = 200,000 seconds to do all of these races. That's 3,333 minutes or 55.5 hours.

Let's just call that 60 hours.

With an improvement of about 20 WPM, that means it took me 3 hours to increase my WPM by 1. Mantas Donelavicius recorded his progress as well and found that it took him on average 2 hours and 40 minutes to increase his typing speed by 1 WPM.

I think it's pretty safe to say that over the long run, you'll be able to see pretty consistent improvement over time. I wouldn't be surprised if some people improve much faster (I'm looking at you piano players), and others improved more slowly. But it'll probably be within the bound of 2-4 hours per 1 WPM increase.

The ups and downs

While it's nice to be able to say "on average, you'll improve around 1 WPM every 2-4" hours that's not how it will feel. Every day will feel like a roller coaster.

Let's look at some data again.

Here's a graph of the 30 day moving average (in blue), this time starting from race 1000. I've also plotted the 100 day moving average (in red):

Graph of 30 and 100 day moving average

As you can see, the march to the top is not linear.

The reason I used a 30 race average (again, in blue) is because that's how many races I often do in a day. And as you can see from the data, there were days where I felt that I was actually regressing. That felt terrible. Sometimes, I'd be in a slump for multiple days.

If you look at the red line (100 race average) it's pretty clear that from race 1000 to 2000, it consistently felt like I was about to "break out", only for it not to happen. That was a pretty bad time.

Now, let's layer on some more moving averages: the 250 (yellow) and 1000 (green).

30, 100, 250 and 1000 race moving average

Thinking in weeks

250 races is about how many races I could do in a week (if I was practicing every day) - so this represents "thinking in weeks". The 250 race moving average (yellow line) is a bit more forgiving, but it still has ups and downs.

Thinking in months

1000 races is about how many races I could do in a month (if I was racing every day, which I didn't). This approximates "thinking in months and longer".

It's really with the 1000 race moving average (green line) where you can start seeing the linear improvement that everyone wants to have.

This was interesting for me to see because it shows how much variance there is in a given day or even a week. However, once we shift our perspective to thinking in months, a lot of the noise gets eliminated.

So, what's the lesson here? Progess might look linear from the outside, but you'll experience it as a series of ups and downs - where the crashes are far more memorable than the improvements. They will make you want to quit, and you probably will need to take some extended "vacations" as a result. It's only when you zoom out into the long run, that you'll get the motivation to continue.

This is a lesson you can learn from anything, but I'm just excited I can visualize it.

Other Lessons and Observations

I've learned quite a bit from doing these races. Some of them have to do with typing. Others have nothing to do with it.

  • Juggling - I learned to juggle at some point while doing type racer. Anecdotally, on the days I practiced juggling, I noticed an increase in typing speed. Obviously, this isn't scientific at all, but it was a pretty cool sensation - juggle for 10 minutes, suddenly fingers feel noticeably faster
  • Serendipity - Typeracer sends you passages from all sorts of random sources. I love how I might be typing out something from Fight Club one moment, Dostoevsky the next, and learning about Comedy Secrets a minute later. I've been exposed to a handful of very interesting ideas this way
  • Familiarity - Switching keyboards slows you down a lot. If you're going for speed, switching keyboards constantly will be a huge drag on your performance. Try to use the same keyboard.
  • Strictness - There are other typing websites, but Type Racer is my favorite by far. It's unforgiving when it comes to mistakes and punctuation. I think it makes you better at typing our sentences then the other products out there.
  • Stomaching Lows - When I frst started Type racer, I had the urge to "escape" a bad race by refreshing my browser. This prevents a bad race from being recorded in my stats. I still do this from time to time, but most of the time, I gut it out, even if it will bring down my average. But thinking in long term trends means that a single bad race won't define my skill. I can roll with the ups and downs

There's so much more to say about Typeracer. It's truly given me a quantifiable skill that I can work on, has nice secondary benefits in all of the work that I do, but most importantly, has taught me that skill acquisition is not a linear process. It's one thing to know this in the abstract, it's another to see it in the data.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Happy typing!