Are you asking yourself, “What strength reading glasses do I need?” It happens to everyone — fine text becomes blurry, and you find yourself holding menus farther and farther away to be able to see.

You, like millions of others, might be developing presbyopia and need reading glasses. If you’re hesitant about whether or not you should start wearing readers, here are a few other reading glasses indicators that might convince you.

We’ve made it easy to figure out your reading magnification, also referred to as your reading power, if you’re new to reading glasses and aren’t sure where to start.

Why Is Testing Vision Important?

You’ve probably heard terms like “20/20” vision, reading glasses diopter, nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia, and more when talking about vision. These terms describe common changes that can occur with vision over time, in early development, and as you use your eyes more and more. 

While it can be intimidating to hear these terms, they’re completely normal conditions that can occur. Plus, they’re easy to keep up with if you have the right tools like eye exam charts that can help you figure out where your vision is at and whether you need glasses. This guide breaks down how you can use eye exam charts to test your vision.

As we get older, it’s common to experience changes in our vision. These changes are due to a condition known as presbyopia, or age-related farsightedness. You may notice difficulty focusing on words and small details up close, needing to squint, or needing to hold menus and reading material at arm’s length in order to see. 

This condition is a refractive error and takes place due to the hardening of the lens muscles in the eye. Luckily, farsightedness can be temporarily remedied with a pair of reading glasses.

Reading glasses enlarge the text, making it easier for your eyes to focus without needing to hold reading material far away. Why test your vision with an eye chart in the first place? It’s important to test your vision regularly so you can address these changes when they start and find the eyewear you need to help. 

Let’s take a closer look at how eye exam charts work to test your vision and what the results mean. 

How Does an Eye Exam Chart Work?

If you’ve ever been to an eye doctor like an ophthalmologist or an optician, you’re likely familiar with the various eye charts on the wall. While they may look random and confusing, these eye charts work based on specific principles about vision. 

Eye exam charts are tools that help eye doctors compare your vision to others’ vision. They’re used at a specific distance so your eye care professional can get an idea of where you can see from and what kind of glasses you might need. Even if your vision is perfect, using an eye chart can help you keep up with any changes and your vision preferences. 

Test Your Vision With These 3 Eye Exam Charts

Most eye exam charts follow the same basic principles with some variations. An eye chart or “optotype” uses letters or words of various sizes to measure how well you can see them from a specific distance. However, it’s important to know the differences between eye charts and how they work.

Here are two of the most popular eye exam charts and how to use them. 

1. Snellen Eye Chart

Developed in the 1860s by Dutch eye doctor Hermann Snellen, the Snellen chart is the traditional chart used by many doctors and represented in the media. Starting with the letter “E” at the very top, it lists 11 rows of capital letters that start out larger on the top row, and the letter sizes get smaller as you move to the bottom row of letters. 

These rows of letters get progressively smaller. The further you get from the top of the eye chart; it may become more difficult to read them. Keep track of the lines that you can read clearly and those you can’t. 

This is a great eye test to keep track of your visual acuity or how sharp you can see things at a normal distance to help you know whether you need glasses.

For this test, if you wear contact lenses or glasses to help with your distance vision, keep them on when performing this test. 

2. Tumbling “E” Eye Exam Chart

The Tumbling “E” eye exam chart was also created by Dr. Snellen. This chart uses the same general concept to test vision in a slightly different way. The Tumbling E Chart is primarily for younger children who haven’t learned to read yet or who aren’t familiar with the English alphabet. 

This chart uses a single letter E but the various “E”s face in different directions-hence the term tumbling. To use this chart, you would ask a child which direction the fingers or lines of the “E” are pointing. If they aren’t sure, the line may be too blurry from where they’re standing, and they may need eyeglasses.

3. Use a Printable Diopter Reading Test Card

Another eye testing chart, the diopter test chart, has rows of words ranging in text size that correspond to reading glasses strengths. If you’re purchasing reading glasses online, you can use our printable diopter chart below.

With the printed sheet 14″ away, attempt to read the top line (the smallest line of letters) without reading glasses. Continue down the chart until you find a line you can read with clarity without your glasses on: This is the diopter (power/magnification) you need.

  • Tip: Make sure to remove your glasses when you use the diopter test. If you have different vision needs in your right and left eye, simply cover up one eye at a time to test each uncovered eye individually.

You’ll notice that the diopter chart only goes up to a +3.25 magnification. We have found that our printable chart is a helpful tool to aid in finding your power up to the +3.25 strength. If you believe that your reading power is higher than a +3.25, we recommend contacting your local optometrists’ office for assistance to find the corrective lenses with the strength you need.

Use Our Power Finder Tool

Our PowerFinder quiz can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to finding your reading power.

If you have your current reading glasses prescription handy, select the “Reading and Distance” option and enter your information. You’ll need to have an “Add” power listed on your prescription for our tool to work properly.

If you have your current readers with you, even if you think they’re too weak or too strong, select “Reading Only” on the first page. Then based on some additional information, we’ll suggest a new reading power for you.

Test Various Reading Magnifications

Prescriptions for reading glasses increase by 0.25 diopters, such as +1.00, +1.25, +1.50, and so on. However, for simplicity, some diopter charts may increase by 0.50 or by the whole number.

Start by trying on reading glasses in the power that your test results yielded. If you’re trying on glasses at a retailer, you’ll want to test out several pairs that are both weaker and stronger than your test results. Narrow it down to two magnifications — both of which you see well with — and always choose the lower of the two powers.

Now, Time To Purchase

Once you’ve found the reading glasses strength you need, it’s time to start exploring your options. So, get shopping

There are tons of options to choose from. Whether you want Reading Sunglasses, Multi Focus options, or regular Fully Magnified Readers, there’s a pair of glasses for you. 

At®, you’ll find readers in the following magnifications:

Are you looking for something more specific? Maybe you’re in need of computer glasses, bifocal style glasses, or high power reading glasses but aren’t having any luck at the dollar or drug stores. All of these and more can be found at®!

When To See an Eye Doctor

Using an eye chart at home is an excellent way to figure out your reading glasses strength without having to go to the eye doctor. However, there are some cases where you need help determining the strength of readers you require or need a prescription rather than an over-the-counter strength.

Reading glasses for presbyopia are available over the counter, and you can use these charts at home to find your strength. However, if you have a nearsighted refractive error, you will need a pair of prescription glasses from your eye doctor to correct your vision. 

During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor can make any diagnosis needed for other types of vision impairment like depth perception or issues with peripheral vision. They will also examine your retina, look for cataracts, glaucoma, and other types of eye disease. 

You can also see a doctor if you have trouble finding the right reading glasses strength for you. These eye exam charts are easy to use, but if you still can’t seem to find the right pair of reading glasses, it may be a good idea to pay your doc a visit. They’ll be able to help you find the best strength to keep your eyes comfortable and healthy.


 All About the Eye Chart | AAO