Court reporters that thrive: Building career resiliency and success through mentoring

Photo by John Lynch

Photo by John Lynch

By Kevin Nourse

New court reporters face a variety of obstacles that can derail their careers. These barriers range from meeting speed requirements in their training programs to getting established in their first full-time role. Psychologists have known for decades that one important factor that helps successful people overcome their challenges is resilience — an ability to bounce back from setbacks. You can enhance your resiliency and thrive in your new career by partnering with a mentor.

In this article, we explore mentoring as an essential ingredient for helping you increase your career resilience and successfully enter the court reporting profession. You will gain insights on what mentoring is, how to find one, and tips for working with your mentor.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a partnership you can form with an experienced professional focused on your development and career success. This partnership is a relationship between you and your mentor where you both agree to cooperate as a way of advancing your mutual interests. Mentors agree to serve in this role because they want to help advance the profession and often gain enjoyment from helping people grow. As a mentee, you are interested in successfully completing your court reporter training and getting established in your first role.

While many new court reporters rely on social media, such as Facebook, to get support and answers to their questions, some prefer an on-going trusting relationship with a mentor. Your mentor can play an instrumental role in helping you complete your training and get established in your first role.

Who needs a mentor?

While you should focus the mentoring partnership on your unique needs as a mentee, there are some common situations where mentoring can help.

Career changers considering a career as a court reporter

Making a decision to enter a profession can be an overwhelming challenge without the right information. Career changers interested in becoming a court reporter may choose a mentor to help them determine whether it’s the right profession. Activities like shadowing experienced court reporters to observe what their day is like or conducting informational interviews with seasoned court reporters to learn more about the profession are great ways to find out if the profession is for you.

Students who are training to become a court reporter

Students in court reporting programs are faced with numerous challenges as they learn to master essential concepts and skills. Mentors can play a critical role to help students identify strategies to accelerate learning including increasing their speed. Lisa Hahn, RMR, a freelance reporter in Decatur, Ill., shared how she gave her mentee “tips to combine complex multi-syllabic words in one stroke.”

Another way that mentors provide support to students is in the form of emotional support. Rachel Barkume, RPR, is an official reporter based in Oakhurst, Calif.. She explained “family members don’t understand what court reporting school is like — every day we had pop quizzes that we had to pass as we built our speed. Even when you pass a speed test, the next day you have to work toward the next milestone. It can be very discouraging.” In these situations, a mentor can provide a supportive ear and validate the emotions experienced by a new student. By doing so, students are better able to sustain their perseverance to finish their training programs.

Steve Zinone, RPR, NCRA President and official reporter in Canandaigua, N.Y., adds that experienced mentors can also provide students “a light at the end of the tunnel” to help them maintain their resiliency with a clear vision of what life will look like once they complete their training program.

Recent graduates of court reporter training programs

Newly trained court reporters often experience stress in identifying their reporting focus as well as facing the realities of their first job. With the number of specialty areas available to court reporters as well as types of organizations that provide this service, people who are new to the profession can feel overwhelmed. Mentors can also help early career court reports explore and identify career options.

Starting out in a job after school can be highly stressful as new court reporters face the day-to-day realities that their training programs may not address. Barkume explained how she started her new job after school and was expected to perform reporting for motion call cases. She noted, “I had never experienced this before, and it was overwhelming … so I called my mentor at lunch for support and felt better equipped to complete the first day.”

Getting ready to be mentored

Before you begin looking for a mentor, be sure to do some self-reflection about what you want out of the relationship and the kind of mentor that would be a good match. The following questions will help you clarify your needs and facilitate a good match with a potential mentor:

  • What are your goals or challenges for which a mentor could help?
  • How often do you want to interact with a mentor (e.g., on a regular schedule or as needed)?
  • Do you have a preference for the geographic location of your mentor?
  • How do you want to interact with your mentor (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Are there certain qualifications or experiences that you would like your mentor to have?

Once you reflect on these questions, you can more easily communicate your needs to prospective mentors.

Finding a mentor

You have decided that a mentor could be helpful and clarified your goals. So how do you go about finding a mentor that is a good match?

There are two ways to identify potential mentors: informal and structured. Informal mentoring relationships happen when you meet an experienced colleague at a professional event and ask them to consider mentoring you to help you achieve your goals. This approach works best if you are comfortable attending professional meetings and engaging experienced court reporters one-on-one. On the other hand, structured mentoring relationships are those that are available from state court reporter associations as well as NCRA. With these mentoring relationships, you will typically submit a request via the website and be matched with a potential mentor. Formal programs, such as the NCRA Virtual Mentor Program, often try to match mentors and mentees based on criteria such as geographic location. Barkume explains “mentees can benefit from a mentor who is in the same geographic area and knows local formats … my mentor sent me the files she used, which saved me time.”

Whatever approach you use, it is useful to have an exploratory conversation with a prospective mentor to learn more about each other. During this conversation, you will also communicate your needs and goals. Ideally, the potential mentor will be a good match. However, it may be that the prospect is not a good fit. In this case, you might consider asking that prospect if he or she knows others who might be a better fit.

Interacting with your mentor

Assuming you found a good match for a mentor, how should you interact with him or her? One of the most important ways you can successfully work with a mentor is to take ownership of the interactions. Some specific strategies you can use include:

Establish an explicit contract at the beginning of a mentoring relationship

Excellent mentoring relationships begin with alignment between a mentor and mentee about the goals of the relationship and the various process associated with working together. While it is not necessary to write a formal agreement, it can be very helpful to clarify certain issues at the beginning of the relationship. For example:

  • How often will you meet and using what communication channel (e.g., email, in-person, telephone, Skype, etc.)?
  • Who will initiate the communication?
  • What is the overall agenda for each call?
  • What are the boundaries related to confidentiality of the information you share?
  • What happens if a crisis emerges and you need to cancel a meeting? How much notice do you need from each other?
  • If the mentoring relationship is not working out for you or your mentor, how will you handle it?

Follow through on your commitments

Mutual respect is a key ingredient of strong mentoring relationships. Mentors are there to support your success as a new court reporter. As part of their role, they may likely provide advice and suggestions. One way you demonstrate respect is listening to your mentor’s suggestions, maintaining a positive attitude, and taking action on the commitments you make. By taking action, you are communicating your respect for your mentor and his or her professional wisdom. By doing so, you are establishing a positive reputation for yourself in the profession.

Communicate regularly

While some court reporters create mentoring partnerships in which they communicate as needed when they face a particularly challenging issue, the best mentoring relationships incorporate regular communication. Many mentoring partnerships start off with more frequent contact then cut back once the relationship is solidly in place. Lisa Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner in Melbourne, Fla., advises mentees that “communication is key, and it is important for mentees to reach out to a mentor and not be shy about asking questions.” Johnston described how she interacted through email with one of her mentees every two weeks.

Revisit the relationship if your goals change

The goals you initially identified when you began the mentoring partnership may well change as you grow and develop. If you no longer have a need for your mentor because your goals were achieved, communicate this to him or her. Avoid the temptation to drift off and abruptly stopping communication with your mentor. Again, this is another way to demonstrate respect for your mentor.

Look out for your mentor’s needs

Many experienced court reporters act as mentors because they want to give back to the profession. However, your mentor has his or her growth and development needs too. One way to build a strong relationship that could last a lifetime is to pay attention to ways you can support your mentor. Perhaps you found an article that might interest them or met someone who would be a great networking contact for your mentor?

Consider mentoring others

Despite being new to the profession and possibly still being in school, no doubt there are others following in your footsteps who you might be able to mentor. Not only will you be supporting the court reporting profession, but you will also deepen your learning as a mentor. Zinone explained how rewarding it is when one of his mentees has developed his or her professional support network, becomes more confident as a court reporter, and begins to mentor others.

Entering the court reporting profession can be a demanding and rewarding challenge. The training programs are rigorous. Once you finish your training, there are many ways to launch your career in varying types of organizations. Resiliently bouncing back from setbacks you may face is critical to your success. By establishing a well-designed mentoring partnership early in your career, you can fulfill your dreams of becoming a successful court reporter.

Dr. Kevin Nourse is an executive coach and consultant based on Washington, D.C., and Palm Springs, Calif. He works extensively with associations to develop resilient leaders. Kevin is co-authoring a soon-to-be-released book with Dr. Lynn Schmidt entitled Shift into Thrive: Six Strategies for Women to Unlock the Power of Resiliency.

STUDENT REPORTING: Scoping through school and beyond

By Gretchen House and Roanna L. Ossege

Scoping can accomplish many things for a budding reporter, but there are pitfalls to avoid, lessons to be learned, and trust to be earned. Scoping can be a great way to make money, stay in steno mode, and get on-the-job training. In addition, student scopists gain knowledge and ideas and begin to get an idea of the kind of reporter they may want to be. The issues scopists will likely face as a student are making the investment in CAT software, being careful to manage their time for school and practice while being available to their reporters, and getting the hang of the job so they can find and keep clients.

scoping1Our journey

We decided to start scoping to accommodate our mutual desire to stay close to the field. In addition, scoping gave us more control over our schedules than a traditional job would offer. We both feared that jobs outside of the court reporting world might mean less time focused on our ultimate goal.

Roanna bought her software by taking from a retirement fund, and Gretchen used a leasing option. Both avenues accomplished the goal of allowing us to scope professionally. Some reporters have access to a scoping or editing key that may allow students to scope for them without additional costs. In reality, the best opportunity to have access to a lot of clients is to purchase one of the more popular CAT software options.

scoping2Finding clients

There are several ways to find potential clients. Several websites, including Facebook, have job boards where scopists can meet reporters. Scopists need to be prepared with a well-written, correctly punctuated introduction or ad. This first impression matters to the reporters looking for scoping help. Scopists shouldn’t be afraid to mention that they are court reporting students. Student scopists present a promising option because of the resources they have access to through their school, including an education delivered by reporters. Also, scopists who have attained their scoping certification through their NCRA-certified court reporting program should let their potential clients know. Highlight anything and everything that demonstrates competency and promise. A good opening is to show the reporter that student scopists require less training than someone else.

Another way to find clients is to attend seminars and conventions to network with local reporters. Gretchen attended a CAT class given at an annual convention and was the only student in the class. During introductions, she took her chance to mention that she would like to scope and gave out her email address. She met a reporter who she has been scoping for ever since, and this reporter has become a cheerleader for her as well as she finishes up certification testing.

Roanna found one particular long-term client who was a perfect fit. The reporter was new but not too new. This reporter knew enough to guide a new scopist, and Roanna knew enough to be of value to her. In the end, it was the experience with that reporter that got Roanna her first opportunity as a new reporter. She joined her client’s firm about a year later.

From the writers’ experience, the in-your-face, unavoidable, and most important parts of scoping in order to build and maintain a client list are:

  1. Improve skills with every job
  2. Ask for and take criticism
  3. Apply the criticism
  4. Show progress so the reporter sees the value in training

scoping3The learning curve

Many reporters are so appreciative of scopists who are dedicated, careful, communicative, and loyal, and especially those who always meet their deadlines that they will work with new scopists on what they don’t know. We made up for our inexperience by showing a fierce dedication to impress in any way we could. Did we impress every client? No. Some reporters and scopists are not the right fit. That’s just the way it is. Did we make a ton of mistakes? Yes, we did. But we just kept plugging along.

A common thing heard among reporters is that finding a good scopist is like finding a needle in a haystack. Many reporters are weary of even trying anyone new because anyone can buy software and call themselves a scopist. Student scopists have to demonstrate that they have the special knowledge, skill, focus, and dedication to be an effective scopist. Don’t miss words, and insert basic punctuation. If student scopists lag on the other skills in putting together a transcript, most reporters will value someone who goes word by word with the audio. Reporters can train their scopists much more easily on format, etc. So if the best student scopists can offer in the beginning is incredible attention to detail, they are well on their way to being a value to many reporters.

One of the challenges new scopists face is that they will only be able to scope a few pages an hour at first. This is a good thing. Student scopists need to take their time and get it right. They will build up speed as they go and thus increase their earnings per hour.

Put together an organized system to accept work, complete work, and bill work. This means that scopists communicate that the job was received, it was downloaded into the software, the audio is clear and usable, and that they are ready to go. When Roanna was first starting out, she would stop every 20 pages or so and just text or email an update. It seemed to be an effective way to put reporters at ease until they got to know their new scopist. This kind of communication is very attractive to busy reporters. When the job is complete, reporters should be able to reach their scopists in case there is an issue with the file.

Don’t be upset when a reporter offers feedback on areas of improvement. This is a gift. Find out what reference guide that reporter uses, pull the guide out, and study it. Each reporter and firm has punctuation preferences that may contradict what students learned in school. Respect their preferences, be sure to take notes, and keep a preference sheet for each reporter to tailor their jobs to their preferences.

As student scopists improve and get their name out there, they may find reporters contacting them out of the blue because the reporter heard that the scopist is easy to work with, is dependable, and can produce a transcript. The reporter may not always be the right fit, and that is okay. Scopists need to be comfortable communicating that this is the case.

Before working with new reporters, scopists should clearly communicate in writing their rates, expectations, process, and billing schedule before they take any work. Their billing and invoicing must remain organized. There should be a system in place that clearly states any payment expectations, i.e. check, money order, pay in two weeks, etc. They can also, for example, list a late payment fee, but all that needs to be clear and upfront.

If a new reporter client sends a 300-page video depo of a forensic pathologist, it is okay for student scopists to say they would feel more comfortable with something smaller to start. Starting with 60 to 100 pages of what may be a simple motor-vehicle accident to a seasoned reporter may still challenge a newbie scopist. It takes practice and focus to be able to pick up on small punctuation and formatting issues that our brains sometimes unconsciously autocorrect. At the end of the day, it is okay for scopists to turn down a job that is over their head. This will protect their reputation as they gain experience. Taking small jobs from new reporter clients is the best way to build up a system of trust. By starting small and communicating zealously, scopists will grow and increase their business as they improve and expand their skills.

scoping4Facing your fears

Jumping into scoping and facing the fear of failure is tough to overcome, but student scopists have to conquer these fears if they want to be in this industry. Don’t fear the software. Learn to use it. Don’t fear punctuation. It’s important to master these skills, and it takes time and practice. There are resources everywhere to get help with software, punctuation, and a host of other issues student scopists will face.

Don’t fear asking questions. You don’t know what you don’t know, and every reporter was a student once. Reporters want their scopists to ask questions, want them to get better, and appreciate their scopists seeking clarification as issues arise, rather than turning in an incomplete product.

As is always true in life, facing fears with action is often the best way to develop confidence, and as a future professional reporter, confidence in the ability to produce a great transcript is empowering. On the other hand, if scopists offer to take expedites and rushes before they are ready, they will quickly tarnish their name in this industry, and they could potentially harm their reporters’ reputations. Student scopists should take what they can handle and work up to the bigger stuff.

scoping6What you gain

Student scopists will learn how to research the craziest things. They will learn how to punctuate the unreadable. They will learn things about their software. They will learn how to effectively communicate with their clients. They will learn to ask for help, more help, and some more help. All these lessons become huge assets when student scopists take their first jobs as professional reporters and put together their first transcripts.

Roanna recalls the major advantage of scoping jury trials for her clients. When she faced her first jury trial as a professional reporter, she knew how she wanted to set up the pages and she knew what was coming her way. Without scoping, this process would have been more intimidating and much more difficult in editing.

scoping5Community benefit

The reporting community benefits from offering opportunities to those students who are on the verge of graduating or who have graduated and need to tackle certification. This is the toughest time for a student, as they likely need to work but also want to stay close to the field to maintain motivation to practice and keep moving forward toward their goal. They need our support.

Court reporting students are well placed to train as scopists. They have the medical and legal terminology necessary for success and experience with their software, and many have a good network of working reporters for support. They understand formatting and proceedings and deadlines.

In the end, scoping while we were students was a net positive for us. We got stressed out at times. We had to learn to balance life, work, and our commitment to practice. We both felt that all of our clients were willing to work with our schedules a little bit to accommodate practice and school. But we were both successful in earning money in a court-reporting–related field while able to keep focused on school and certification.

Students interested in scoping should start communicating within the community to see what opportunities they can find. Scoping may require missing a night out or weekend plans with friends, but that is a small price to pay. The insight, experience, networking, and income potential are worth the sacrifice.

 

Gretchen House, Mesa, Ariz., is a graduate of the Gateway Community College Court Reporting program. Roanna L. Ossege, Falls Church, Va., is a freelance reporter in Northern Virginia. Both are on the Student Community of Interest for NCRA.

STUDENT REPORTING: Realtime software through the lens of a student

By Ahlam Alhadi

Using steno paper was a great tool in the initial stages of my court reporting education, primarily because it was very easy to use and allowed me to focus more on speedbuilding and reading back my notes. However, as time continued and my ability to read my steno notes and write more quickly increased, my instructor and I both felt it was necessary that I begin to use realtime software since I won’t be using paper once I begin working and am at an assignment. I began to implement the use of realtime software once I reached a speed of 180 wpm. Since then I have been using realtime for all of my coursework, and I have found it to be very helpful. I can complete practice exams faster, and I can be more organized since I do not have to save stacks of steno paper.

I felt compelled to learn the ins and outs of realtime software as a student because it has such an immense impact on this profession. It enables transcripts to be produced quickly, it helps judges and attorneys get the information they need faster, and it can speed up the overall trial process. It is also the more advanced option during these times in which many legal professionals are trying to find alternative means to record testimony. In addition, many court reporters with their Certified Realtime Reporter credential earn more, and since the profession has become intertwined with this software, it only makes sense that it be emphasized among students.

I believe that it is crucial to improve myself professionally prior to entering the workforce, especially because there are perks to learning realtime while a student. Primarily, there isn’t any added pressure to know every facet and use of the software in a short period of time, and I can learn realtime as I go. Learning realtime as a student will also make life as a certified court reporter significantly easier because my dictionary will be comprised of a larger amount of legal and medical terms. This is extremely beneficial because I will be better prepared for any type of legal or medical malpractice deposition. Also, a new court reporter who is already familiar with their realtime software will be able to edit transcripts faster and more efficiently and submit court records at a more rapid rate. Likewise, the ability to turn in work sooner will ultimately allow for more assignments to be taken, which can lead to greater earnings.

The process of transitioning from steno paper to realtime proved to be quite simple given the fact that I had done my research and knew what software I wanted to purchase. Fortunately, there are many companies that provide reduced rates for students. That includes Gigatron’s StenoCat 32, Stenovations, and many more. Most court reporting programs are affiliated with a certain software company that may even offer a free student version of their software. I made sure to consider which companies would offer me the best software at a good rate and with tech support. I decided to purchase StenoCat 32, which has been easy to learn and has proven to be a viable and cost-efficient option. They offer wonderful technical support, which helped me immensely throughout the set-up process. Gigatron also offers free webinars and video tutorials that answer any questions about installation and set-up, adding terms to your dictionary, editing, and formatting.

As with any profession, its future depends on the students who will eventually be the backbone and leaders of this field. As a future court reporter, I feel it is necessary to stay on top of any and all advancements so I can offer clients as many services as possible that will allow for prompt and accurate court records.

Ahlam Alhadi is a court reporting student. She can be reached at ahlam513@gmail.com.

 

 

Going global: The Internet Keyboarding Competition – Join Team USA!

By Tori Pittman

As you may have know, Intersteno offers a way to participate in their competition from the comfort of your own home. No trans-Atlantic flights and jet lag, no customs and duty free; just you and your keyboard, typing (or stenoing) your heart out for a few minutes.

It really is a very simple way to whet your appetite for Intersteno. You can compete solo or perhaps have your whole reporting office sign up to participate, maybe even your state association. You could do a family team, a church team, your scouting troop. See, the Internet Keyboarding Competition is for everyone who uses a keyboard.

As outlined in a previous article and on the Intersteno website, individuals or teams sign up and then have a window to compete. Compitors type on the Intersteno platform and then wait for the results. The Intersteno website offers a guide and some practice materials for competitors. And people who speak Spanish, French, or something else – there are many options – may compete in several languages in addition to their mother tongue. There is a range of dates on which to compete, so people can make it fit within their schedules. The fee is small (approximately 7 euros which, at the time of the writing of this article, was approximately $7.25).

Most excitingly, your results are tallied within your group, your country, and then the world, so you can look and see how you rate.

Of course, after you’ve tasted a little bit of what Intersteno is, I’m sure you’ll be ready to make plans for Intersteno Congress 51 that will be taking place in 2017 in Berlin.

Please consider being a part of Team USA for the Internet Keyboarding Competition and also at the Congress in 2017.

For more information, please visit the Intersteno websites at www.intersteno.org and www.intersteno2017.org.

Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, a freelancer in Wake Forest, N.C., is chair of NCRA’s Intersteno Task Force. She can be reached at tori@tori-pittman.com.

 

 

Students win financial assistance, motivation with NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants

Students win financial assistance, motivation with NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants

The value of NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants is twofold: the financial support the awards provide as well as a confidence boost from the recognition. “The Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship not only helped me with the cost of schooling, but it also gave me the boost of confidence I needed to succeed through school and into this amazing profession. Realizing the director of my school believed in me through her nomination allowed for that,” said Kendra Steppler, an official court reporter in Helena, Mont., who won in 2015.

“The startup costs straight out of school can be daunting. It has been so helpful to have the financial boost and the unspoken vote of support and encouragement that comes along with it,” said Rachelle Cahoon, a freelance court reporter in Boise, Idaho, who won the New Professional Reporter Grant in 2015.

Many past winners of these scholarships and grants used the funds to help pay for school costs or for court reporting software and equipment. “The timing was perfect as I was graduating in June and had to turn in the school-supplied laptop. That $1,000 enabled me to purchase a really nice touch-screen Dell laptop, plus some court reporting accessories,” said Angeli English, a freelance court reporter in D’Iberville, Miss., who won a CASE essay scholarship in 2015.

For NCRF scholarships and grants, the student will need an instructor, advisor, or supervisor to apply on their behalf; for the CASE scholarships, students may apply directly. Regardless, the student has the power to get the application moving. “When I heard about the Student Intern Scholarship, I looked at the qualifications in order to see if I was eligible. I met all the requirements, and my instructor sent in my application form,” said Elizabeth Vanghelof, a student at Key College in Miami, Fla., who won in 2015. That means that applying for these scholarships and grants takes some preparation.

Tracey L. Tracy, a student at Green River College in Auburn, Wash., who won a CASE essay scholarship in 2015, offers some advice:

  1. “Plan in advance. [For example, the CASE essay scholarship] is due by April 1 and requires a nomination by your school, so plan ahead.
  2. Find an editor or proofreader. You wouldn’t want that winning essay to be derailed by spelling or grammar mistakes.
  3. Remember to thank those who nominate you as well as those who select you as the winner!”

“Don’t talk yourself out of applying for them in the first place. It is easy to think that your chances of being awarded a grant or scholarship are slim. In reality, however, you can’t know that because you don’t know how many applicants there are! So you have nothing to lose by trying except for the short amount of time it takes to see the application process through,” said Cahoon. She also added that the process of applying for the scholarships itself is valuable. “Applying for these grants and scholarships gives you opportunities for networking, which is one of the most important skills a new court reporter can develop. You cannot apply for these grants on your own. You need supportive colleagues and former teachers and school administrators to help you through the process and to give you the necessary recommendations. And even if you don’t win a grant or scholarship, you have strengthened your professional network in the process of the application,” said Cahoon.

Five NCRA and NCRF scholarships and grants for students and new professionals are awarded to eight qualifying members. In all cases, the applicant must be an NCRA member and attend or have graduated from an NCRA-certified court reporting program. Most applications are due in the spring. Information for each scholarship and grant, including eligibility requirements, is available on NCRA.org.

“Who says ‘no’ to free money? Not me, and no student should. It does not take long to apply and it’s time well invested,” said English.

NCRA CASE Scholarships

Due April 1, 2016

One $500 scholarship, one $1,000 scholarship, and one $1,500 scholarship

Student must submit two-page essay with references on a pre-selected topic (changes each year)

For more information, contact the NCRA Education Department at schools@ncra.org (although all NCRA-certified court reporting programs receive information in January).

 

NCRF Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

Due spring 2016

One $2,000 scholarship

Only one nomination from each NCRA-certified program is accepted.

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at aweiner@ncra.org.

 

NCRF New Professional Reporter Grant

Due spring 2016

One $2,000 grant

Applicants must be in their first year out of school

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at aweiner@ncra.org.

 

NCRF Student Intern Scholarship

Due summer 2016

Two $1,000 scholarships

Applicant must be an intern in any of the three career paths: judicial (official and freelance), CART, and captioning

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at aweiner@ncra.org.

 

NCRF Robert H. Clark Scholarship

Due fall 2016

One $1,800 scholarship

There will be a total of five awards, running through 2019

For more information, contact NCRF Foundation Assistant April Weiner at aweiner@ncra.org.

 

Honoring the Clarks of court reporting

Last fall, the National Court Reporters Foundation established the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, which is dedicated to aiding the education of court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. The Institute was officially unveiled during the Student Seminar Program at the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo in New York City with an inaugural event that featured a panel on professional dress.

Named for the late Corrinne Clark — wife of the late Robert (Bob) H. Clark, NCRA’s longest tenured librarian-historian — the Institute was made possible by a generous donation made by Donna Hamer, Santa Paula, Calif., Bob’s cousin. At the same time, Hamer also made a generous donation to the Foundation to support a scholarship in honor of Bob. The scholarship will be awarded in the amount of $1,800 annually through 2019 to an eligible court reporting student. The fi rst scholarship was awarded by NCRF in September 2015.

“Corrinne loved the national court reporters [organization] with a capital L. She attended all the conferences with Bobby and shared his devotion to the court reporting profession,” said Hamer and noted that Corrinne often mentioned her wish to make a substantial contribution to NCRF. “When Corrinne passed away, I learned that I was one of her beneficiaries. I realized that I could make her wish come true. I was delighted that the Professionalism Institute could be named after her. Corrinne always supported the goal of being a professional in her own work, and she especially valued professionalism among Bob’s colleagues,” said Hamer.

Although NCRF Board of Trustees chair Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS, Minneapolis, Minn., never had the pleasure of meeting Corrinne, she said that she feels strongly that Corrinne would be honored to have her legacy associated with an initiative focused on supporting and training the industry’s newest professionals and helping to ensure their long-term success in court reporting.

“The NCRF Trustees felt privileged to name the Professionalism Institute after Corrinne, especially in acknowledgment of and appreciation for a significant gift to the Foundation. We are grateful that Corrinne’s love for Bob, his profession, and especially NCRF led to her legacy gift to the Foundation,” Ballman said.

Although not a court reporter herself, as a journalist Corrinne actively kept up with current affairs and was active in politics, according to Hamer. She was a founding member of a women’s Los Angeles–based group that focuses on bringing political issues to its members and, in the early days of television, was an active participant in a number of shows as well as a choreographer for them. Hamer said that her love of dance led her to learn the native dances of Hawaii, which she later taught to students in the Los Angeles area.

“Those who knew Corrinne always remembered her flaming red hair, her beautiful smile, and her distinctive laugh. I’m certain Corrinne would be proud to have her name attached to the Professionalism Institute,” Hamer said. The Professionalism Institute’s first event, offered during the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo, was well attended and featured a panel of professional court reporters discussing proper dress in the workplace. It included a stylist from Macy’s department store who offered tips to achieve a professional look on a budget.

In the future, the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute will secure articles for publication in the JCR that will be related to the court reporting and captioning profession. The articles will address student and new professional–specific issues to provide a resource for those beginning their professional careers. The Professionalism Institute will also support various presentations at future NCRA Conventions & Expos.

ABOUT THE CLARKS

Corrinne Clark was born in San Diego, Calif., and grew up in the Ocean Beach area. She attended St. Mary’s Academy as a child and graduated from Immaculate Heart High School, where she played on the school’s tennis team. Although her parents wanted her to enter the convent, Corrinne chose journalism instead and attended Los Angeles City College. There she met her future husband, Robert H. Clark, who was also a journalism student.
After marrying, the Clarks lived in Long Beach. During World War II, Bob joined the U.S. Coast Guard as a court reporter while Corrinne worked for the Long Beach Independent, which later became the Long Beach Press Telegram.

A lover of dance, Corrinne began work as a choreographer for a number of early television shows. She was also a participant on Art Linkletter’s People are Funny and House Party, as well as Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life.

In 1993, Bob, who voluntarily served as NCRA’s librarian-historian for 26 years, donated his extensive collection of books, artifacts, and documents related to court reporting to the National Court Reporters Foundation to establish the Robert H. Clark Library, which is housed at NCRA’s headquarters in Reston, Va. He was honored with the title of Librarian-Historian Emeritus in 1997. He passed away in
2000. Corrinne passed away in 2005.

“Robert Clark was totally dedicated to court reporting and curious about  everything,” said Hamer, Robert’s cousin who made the generous donation to support the scholarship in his honor. “He always wanted to know how things worked and how to use words to explain it. Everywhere he went, he looked for new ways to use words and interesting court reporting tools.”

For more information, visit the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute.

SPEEDBUILDING: Getting motivated

By Sarah E. Vestrat

Like running a marathon, speedbuilding requires a fiercely determined attitude that can only be accessed beneath our sometimes whimsical desires for pleasure and accomplishment. Pushing to the next speed level demands strength, drive, tenacity, and courage – those character traits that can make us uncomfortable, yet focused and forceful. Those traits emerge when we have a goal that we feel is really worthwhile, and when we find that goal, we can find motivation.

As students, you must find this motivation to succeed within yourself. And you cannot do that unless you have first considered other options and goals, weighed the pros and cons, and have decided that for many reasons court reporting and/or captioning is the career you want to pursue. These reasons are your reasons. No one else can make you want to reach your goal badly enough to make sacrifices and to discipline yourself to achieve it. So when you feel your ambition draining, review the reasons why you are in court reporting school. Consider writing down your reasons and putting this list in a prominent place where you will see it and can read it every day to give yourself a motivational boost. It is nice to have others encourage you, but do not rely on others to give you your motivation. Only you can do that.

Visit working reporters

Visit the professionals in the field. Freelancers, officials, and captioners will each have their own unique perspective and advice to offer you. Observe them as they work, if possible. Ask them about their job, what they like and what they do not like about it. Learn all you can about the day-to-day duties of the profession. This will help you to affirm your reasons and decision for pursuing this career and can help you to develop a strong commitment to your goal. And the more professional contacts you make, the easier it will be to see yourself as a working reporter and feel that you, too, are a member of the court reporting community.

Remember the great things about being a court reporter or captioner

  1. Many job opportunities. You can enjoy the flexible hours of being a freelance court reporter. You could even own your own court reporting firm. Or you can become a broadcast captioner and work for a captioning company. Or you can have the stability of being an official court reporter and working in court. You could also provide CART for the deaf or the hearing-impaired. Court reporters are also needed to report meetings for state and national conventions. Congressional reporting is yet another field a student may pursue. You could even consider teaching court reporting.
  2. The money. Most court reporters are well paid and can increase their salaries by gaining further certification and by taking more jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual earnings for a court reporter were $49,860 in May of 2014. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $94,140 in 2014. Some court reporters make over $100,000 per year. Check www.bls.gov for their latest update on earnings.
  3. Interesting work. Reporting for depositions, court, education, meetings, or broadcasting involves a wide variety of subject matter. You will meet many people in different occupations and situations. You will learn a great deal from this exposure.
  4. Comfortable working conditions. You can make your workspace as enjoyable as you desire if you freelance or become a broadcast captioner and work at home. If you report depositions, they are usually conducted in pleasant surroundings at the attorney’s office or the office of the witness. Official court reporters have their own private offices at the courthouse. CART providers work in various locations, such as classrooms, meeting halls, courtrooms, and businesses. You will work with other professionals, many of whom are at the top of their fields.
  5. Respect from others. The court reporting and captioning field is well-respected. People are fascinated by the job and will inquire about the details of what you do. “Certified Shorthand Reporter,” “Registered Professional Reporter,” and all of the other specialty certifications reporters can acquire take tremendous effort and skill to attain, which makes the reporting field a unique and respected niche.
  6. Self-respect. Your desire to improve your life and achieve your goal can

help to bolster your self-esteem and self-respect. A worthy achievement is a source of pride.

Making up your mind

Review often the reasons that have made you decide to pursue this career and add to those reasons whenever you can. When you fully understand this profession and what it takes to succeed in school, and when you have truly made up your mind that this is what you want — to become a court reporter or captioner — you have already taken some very crucial steps towards reaching your goal. Hard work, perseverance, self-discipline – and motivation — can then follow.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” — Abraham Lincoln

Sarah E. Vestrat is  the author of Student Guide to Success in Court Reporting School published by Avitus Press. She lives in Broken Arrow, Okla, and can be contacted at sarahvestrat@hotmail.com. Portions of this article were excerpted from the book, Student Guide to Success in Court Reporting School, by Sarah E. Vestrat.

 

New Professionals: Tips from the pros

By Annemarie Roketenetz

It’s not uncommon for new professionals in any field to face anxieties when starting out in their chosen career. This is especially true for those entering the court reporting and captioning professions, whether it’s a new internship or a new job.

But take heed, newbies. According to the pros, the three major concerns when starting a new position typically involve first impressions, working with others, and making a lasting, positive impression. And there are numerous ways to deal each of them.

According to Kevin Hunt, a freelance reporter and owner of Jack W. Hunt & Associates in Buffalo, N.Y., a first impression can make the difference between landing a job or being shown the door, regardless of how well someone writes. “When a reporter goes to a job, they’re representing the reporting firm as a whole, and if their clothes are inappropriate or they are not well-groomed, that’s probably not the image the firm wishes to present. That goes for not just the visual impression, but the auditory and olfactory impressions as well.”

NCRF Chair Jan Ballman, RMR, CMRS, owner of Paradigm Reporting & Captioning in Minneapolis, Minn., agrees that first impressions are instant. “Whether it’s fair or unfair, we are judged based on how we appear and whether we have our act together. You should be mistaken for counsel, not the witness,” she said. “If you come screeching through the conference room door for a deposition stressed out, in a huff, in a sweat, or otherwise agitated — whether because of traffic, or your GPS sent you on a wild goose chase, or your infant spit up on your shoulder just as you were leaving, or you had to turn back for your power cords — be assured of two things: First, counsel won’t care why you’re late; and, you’ve just started the day in a deficit when it comes to making a good impression.”

Ballman also stresses that the best and easiest way to create a good first impression is to look great, not average and not just good. “Look like you made an effort and that you belong in a room filled with highly educated professionals,” she advises.

In addition to looking professional, acting professional is also important in making a first positive impression. “I feel the most important part of making a good impression is arriving early, being friendly, having a good attitude, and being organized,” says Shelly Hunter, RPR, CRR, owner of Hunter & Geist, Denver, Colo. “As we all know, depositions are often stressful environments. Having someone in the room that is neutral to all parties and that can remain friendly in the midst of chaos can be a game changer. If a deposition is not going so well for a client, the last thing they want is a court reporter with a bad attitude.”

Don’t let your good impression down once you have established it. According to the pros, be sure to take the time to know the firm you plan to work with and understand its culture both in terms of employment and services offered.

In addition, be sure the work you produce is of high quality in terms of accuracy, readability, and usability. Hunt advises having a conversation with the transcript when proofreading. “The ultimate consumer of your service will not know how beautifully you wrote when they were speaking at 300 words per minute, they won’t know how skillfully you navigated the software used to translate, edit, and print the transcript; they will only make a determination of your skill as a reporter through the final presentation of the transcript. What are the attorneys and witness trying to verbally describe? If you don’t understand something, ask. In brief, if you want to know how your clients will judge you, remember this phrase: ‘It’s the transcript, dummy!’”

To help ensure an accurate transcript, new reporters should also not be afraid to interrupt the person who is speaking if they cannot understand what is being said. “I stress to my reporters that you must interrupt and you cannot rely on your audio sync,” says Hunter. “I stress that it is the reporter’s job to interrupt and get a good record.”

Ballman agrees. “As with anything else in life, it’s all about phraseology, phraseology, phraseology. If you can’t hear, you have no choice but to interrupt. It’s all about how you interrupt,” she says. “Think about how you would like to be interrupted if you were deep in thought and delivering a very important point in front of an audience, then practice doing that so it comes naturally when you have to interrupt attorneys in mid-sentence or mid-thought.”

According to the pros, maintaining lasting good impressions also takes work, and new reporters should make it a habit to keep positive attitudes both on and off the job, be helpful to others, and learn to be unflappable in the face of all things in the world of court reporting. “It’s not just a matter of doing a great job once and then being recognized for it; it’s a matter of doing an impeccable job consistently, over and over and over again,” says Ballman. “That’s how you set yourself apart.”

Hunter also advises that new reporters make it a habit to arrive early at jobs to ensure enough time to address any issues that might arise. “You may have forgotten something in your car. You may have trouble with your equipment. You may have gone to the wrong location. Being early allows you extra time to deal with situations that happen to all of us. You have extra time to add entries to your dictionary from the notice or the caption. Arriving early also allows you time to get acquainted with counsels who might have arrived early, as well. And most importantly, as a new reporter, arriving early will give you time to calm your nerves. There is a confidence attorneys have when they know the court reporter is set up ready to go and it is still 20 or 25 minutes before the deposition is to begin,” she says.

“New situations constantly arise, and as a professional court reporter, it is necessary for each of us to be aware of the guidelines that NCRA provides to assist us in acting ethically and professionally,” Friend continues. “While these guidelines from the Committee on Professional Ethics cannot envision every possible situation, they give a framework for all reporters – whether new or seasoned – on how to act appropriately, professionally, and without favoritism to any party in a case,” Friend advises.New professionals also need to ready for any situation that might arise and remain calm. One way is to be prepared, says Doug Friend, RDR, CRR, with Beouvich, Walter & Friend, Portland, Ore.: “Working as a new reporter can be stressful! Here you are on a deposition or in court, and there is no one to hold your hand, so it’s important to be prepared.

NCRA’s Code of Professional Ethics can be found at NCRA.org/CodeofProfessionalEthics.

Annemarie Roketenetz is NCRA’s Assistant Director of Communications. She can be reached at pr@ncra.org.

 

Developed in coordination with the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute

The Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, NCRF’s newest initiative, officially launched at the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo. It was developed to educate court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. NCRF will be developing materials, such as seminars and articles, for dissemination for court reporting students and new professionals throughout their careers.

The Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute was created to honor Clark’s lifelong passion for journalism and education, as well as her love of the court reporting profession. Corrinne Clark is the wife of Robert H. Clark, for whom the NCRF library is named.

REPORTING: Reflections on my career

 

By Gayle Hays

Driving my car the other day here in Seattle, it occurred to me that I had graduated from Kenosha Technical Institute in Kenosha, Wis., as it was called then, forty years ago in June 1973 with an associate degree in Court and Conference Reporting. I’d like to tell you what that education has meant in my life.

I come from a blue-collar family with five siblings, so college was never a possibility for me. But I definitely knew I didn’t want to be a waitress the rest of my life in a small town of East Troy, so I flipped through the KTI programs book. I can still recall the picture of the young lady sitting at the steno machine. I had zero knowledge about it but I signed up. Getting through two years of school was the toughest thing I ever did, especially getting my speed up to where I could keep up with someone talking. And I got whipped into shape with my math, anatomy, business law, and philosophy (which I didn’t like). Back then tuition was free. I only needed to buy books and get myself to school the hour each way, rain, snow, or shine, in my little Volkswagen Beetle.

Of course, everything has changed since then. There’s no more carbon paper or white-out. It’s gone from typing to realtime on a computer. I started out my career filling in at court in Waukesha County, including the awful day when two people murdered in the next courtroom. I freelanced in the Walworth-Kenosha-Racine County area for many years and then moved to Seattle in 2001.

I knew I could always take care of myself and my family financially, without having to depend on anyone. When I moved to Washington, I found a job in pretty much 15 minutes because I’m a Registered Professional Reporter, and that means something. Every working day has been interesting, meeting new people. Even if the subject of the lawsuit is, say, plumbing, it means someone’s life and someone’s money. I haven’t had a nine-to-five job in decades. I answer to no one since I’m incorporated as my own company.

Some testimony has been challenging, and I’ve heard terminology on everything from toxicology to blood-splatter science. I’ll do research for my transcripts until it’s absolutely correct. The highlight here in Washington was the occasion when I did realtime before the Washington State Legislature on huge screens around the room on hearing-impairment issues.

And now I’m on the cusp of retirement. I don’t know who said that, if you have a job you love, you never work a day in your life, and that’s very true for me. I haven’t “worked” since 1973. Thank you.

Gayle Hays, RPR, owner of Hays Reporting, Inc., is a freelancer in Renton, Wash. She can be reached at jghays@q.com.

 

 

 

 

Get in gear for NCRA’s online skills testing

NCRA’s switch to online testing for the skills portion of the RPR, RMR, CRR, and CBC/CCP/CRC comes with some differences and some similarities. Here’s an overview of what to expect.

By Marybeth Everhart

So, the rumors are true — NCRA has launched online testing. Some of you have already participated in the new online process and have an understanding of how it works, but many do not. So, let’s unravel some of the mysteries by answering some of the most common questions.

What is online testing? What we mean by online testing is that you will no longer be required to travel to a testing location at a date and time specified by NCRA. Instead, you will be able to schedule your test — RPR, RMR, CRR, or CBC/CCP/CRC* — for a day and time that best suits your schedule and comfort level, and take your test from a location you choose. Are you a morning person and feel you are at your best at 6 a.m.? Then schedule the certification exam for 6 a.m. Or do you prefer to stay up late and want an 11:30 p.m. test? Maybe Saturday at 3 p.m. is best because your spouse, kids, and family pets will be out of the house and you can concentrate. Whatever suits your schedule best is what works.

Is any of the process the same as the brick-and-mortar setting? Yes, a lot of it is, actually. For instance:

  • NCRA still creates and records the content, following the same standards.
  • Candidates still register for all certification exams through NCRA at NCRA.org/testing.
  • The accuracy requirements remain the same: 95 percent for transcription tests and 96 percent for realtime tests.
  • Candidates are required to submit their steno notes file and their transcript, just as in a brick-and-mortar setting.
  • And candidates must still delete all parts of the test from the computer and writer once finished.

If a lot of the steps are the same, what’s different? Well, first and foremost, candidates no longer have to travel to a testing site and are not limited to a few eligible dates per year to test. The other primary difference is the proctor is now online and watching via webcam as opposed to being in the same room. Additionally, now you can purchase and take only the leg or legs of the RPR or RMR that you need rather than purchasing all three. The number of testing opportunities available will increase over time. Initially, you’ll get a new chance to take a given test leg every 3-4 months, with up to four opportunities per year, more  opportunities than under the brick and mortar model. Finally, you’ll receive your results much faster, even if the test is reviewed by a qualified grader.

What do I need to know to test online? You need to know essentially the same things as if producing a transcript for clients:

  • How to connect your writer to your CAT software (for realtime) or how to read your steno notes into your CAT software (non-realtime).
  • How to edit a transcript in your CAT software (transcription tests).
  • Where to locate your CAT files on your computer.
  • How to distinguish the various parts of the CAT file from one another, such as a note file versus a transcript file.
  • How to mark and copy a chunk of text in your CAT software. If you don’t do this on a regular basis, refer to the CAT-specific instructions on NCRA.org/testing or contact your CAT software vendor for assistance.

Who are the proctors and how does it work? ProctorU, an online proctoring company selected by NCRA, will provide live, online proctoring for all future exams. They are pioneers in the online proctoring industry and have proctored hundreds of thousands of exams since their inception in 2008. To learn more about them, go to proctoru.com, or watch the YouTube video at youtube.com/watch?v=SsUeNrpGADM.

How does the proctor know it’s me taking the test and not someone else? ProctorU has a process by which they not only verify you are who you say you are, but also that the testing location is secure; that you have open on your computer only those applications necessary to test; that you are not recording the audio portion of the test; and that no one else is writing the test for you. The proctor will also watch you delete the files from your computer upon completion of the exam.

What’s to stop me from sharing my test with a friend? First, the exams are randomly selected from a bank of tests, so it’s unlikely that you and your friend will actually take the same version of a certification. Second, at the beginning of the process, you must agree to the disclaimer, which says essentially that you understand you are to retain no copies of the test, in any format, nor will you share the content (topic or text) with any individual or social forum. It further states that possible repercussions of cheating (including revealing test content) are loss of existing certifications and NCRA membership. In addition all tests are the exclusive property of the National Court Reporters Association. Copyright law protects all of NCRA’s tests. The theft or attempted theft of an NCRA Test is punishable as a crime.

Is there any way to practice the new testing procedure before I schedule my exam? Yes, there is. You have access to practice files on myrealtimecoach.com, and you can take those practice tests again and again. To get analysis, detailed coaching, and practice with hundreds of exercises and past exams, you can also purchase a membership to myRealtime Coach. Once you’re comfortable with the layout of the site, the testing steps, and attaching your files, you can register for your test at NCRA.org/testing and then schedule a practice session with a proctor. By doing so, you can confirm that all your equipment is in good working order for the test, such as your webcam, microphone, and Internet connection. Be sure to schedule a proctored practice session as close as possible to the same day of the week and time that you plan to test.

The reason for practicing at the same day of the week and time of the test is two-fold:

  • Psychologically, you’ll feel better prepared because you’ve practiced successfully during that time frame.
  • Internet bandwidth could vary in your area depending on day and time. For example, weekends and after school, when more people tend to be online, may equate to slower Internet and frustration.
  • HINT: Ask your kids, spouse, roommates, and pets not to be gaming or streaming movies while you’re testing. Best to just get them out of the house on both the proctored practice and proctored test days!

What equipment will I need to test online? You’ll need the same equipment you’ve always needed, like a computer, a writer, and CAT software, but you’ll also need a few more items:

  • Internet access. We highly recommend using a hardwired connection versus a wireless connection. Under the new online testing model, the quality and consistency of the Internet connection is your responsibility. This is another great reason to test out the connection in advance and work out any connectivity issues with the Internet service provider prior to testing.
  • Electrical power. Again, this may seem obvious, but as the candidate, you’ll need to power your steno machine and computer. Consider using an uninterruptable power supply for testing purposes. Any serious interruption in the power to the testing environment could result in a failing score or lost testing opportunity.
  • An external webcam. Why? Because the proctor will need to see you and the room you are testing in, just as an on-site proctor would. An external webcam will be much easier to pan the room with than the built-in webcam that’s permanently attached to a computer.
  • Headphones will block out any extraneous noise, like the neighbor’s dog barking or the doorbell ringing. Also, there will be no ambient audio that can be recorded and later listened to or shared with others.
  • Windows 7 or higher and Mac OSX or higher. No DOS computers, please!
  • A web browser like Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. See the minimum testing requirements at NCRA.org/testing.
  • Adobe Flash Player v11 and Adobe Shockwave Player are recommended plug-ins for a webcam. You likely already have them installed on your computer without even realizing it. If you are unsure, ask any teenager and he or she can confirm that.
  • A shredder. If you prefer to print your transcript to proofread it (RPR and RMR only), you will need to have a shredder handy so you can shred that copy in front of the proctor before completing the testing session.

What else should I know before registering for a test? As part of the testing process, you’ll need to upload some files. Don’t panic! This is much like attaching a file to an email, but you will need to know where to find your CAT files on your computer and what the file extensions are. For instance, how does your CAT software designate steno notes and transcript files? Is it FILENAME.not, or FILENAME.sgngl, or FILENAME.trp? Most likely, you look at those file extensions every day as you produce transcripts, but perhaps you’ve never paid attention to them. Now would be the time! If you don’t know where these files are kept or what file extensions are used, contact your CAT vendor for assistance, and do so well in advance of taking a test so you are comfortable with the names and locations. For practice, send yourself or your friends emails with note files and transcripts attached so navigating to those locations and finding those files becomes second nature.

And, remember, you can practice this uploading process again and again on myRealtimeCoach prior to your scheduled test date and time.

How, and when, will I receive my test results? When you complete the testing process, you will immediately receive an electronically graded estimated score. That means you will receive the percentage of accuracy determined by the myRealtimeCoach grading engine, which does a word-by-word comparison of your transcript to the master transcript. If your electronic score is below 90 percent, then that is your final grade, meaning that you know instantly that you did not pass. You will still receive a confirmation letter from NCRA.

If, however, the electronic grade is 90 percent or higher, your transcript will be reviewed by an NCRA qualified grader to confirm your final score. Note that 90 percent is not the required accuracy to pass a certification exam! The RPR and RMR requirements are still 95 percent and the CRR and CBC/CCP/CRC requirements are still 96 percent. The 90 percent is simply a threshold set to designate the need for a human review of an electronic grading.

Could you walk me through the process, step by step? Here’s a simple checklist of the steps you’ll follow:

  • Register for the test(s) at NCRA.org/testing.
  • Receive the confirmation email, which includes your login information. Be sure to check your spam folder if there isn’t an email in your inbox. Confirm that the email address NCRA has for you is (A) still correct and (B) one you check regularly.
  • Log onto com using the user name and password in the confirmation email.
  • Practice, practice, practice so you are comfortable with the steps, including attaching a note file, attaching a transcript, and copying/pasting your transcript.
  • Schedule a proctored practice session.
    • The first time you connect with ProctorU, you will be required to download a small applet, called LogMeInRescue.exe.
    • If you experience any technical challenges during your proctored practice, resolve them and schedule a second proctored practice to confirm the issues have been successfully resolved.
  • Schedule your test.
  • On test day, log back onto com using the user name and password in your confirmation email, and click on the Take My Test button.
  • Since you already downloaded the applet, you won’t need to do that again. Just click on the “Allow” button when it appears.
  • Follow the written instructions in the chat box while awaiting an audio/video connection with your proctor.
  • Once cleared by the proctor to test, take your certification exam.
    • Write the warm-up.
    • Write the exam.
    • Attach your steno notes file.
    • Mark and copy the test portion only of the CAT software file. Note that you can do this after attaching the transcript, but since you likely will need to close the CAT file before attaching the transcript, copying it at this time will save a step.
    • Immediately attach the transcript (for realtime tests) or begin editing your transcript (for transcription tests), and attach the transcript prior to the expiration of the 75-minute transcription window.
    • Paste your copied text into the My Transcript window.
    • Click the Get Estimated Score button and receive either the message that your transcript will be reviewed by a qualified grader or to continue to practice and try again another time.
    • Follow the proctor’s end-of-testing procedures, which include deleting files from both your CAT software and recycle bin.

Still have questions? NCRA has created an online testing resource center with helpful information on CAT software settings, putting your writer in Test Mode, security questions, and much more. Access those resources by going to NCRA.org/testing.

Good luck on your next certification exam! Ready, begin. . .

Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE, is the national marketing manager at RealtimeCoach, a realtime trainer, and former court reporter. She can be reached at meverhart@learnrealtime.com.

* NCRA’s CBC and CCP skills tests will be available through December. As of January 1, 2016, the CRC skills test will replace the CBC and CCP skills tests. Any member in good standing who holds a CBC or CCP certification on Dec. 31, 2015, will be automatically granted a CRC certification on Jan. 1, 2016, when the CBC and CCP certifications are officially converted to CRC. After that point, NCRA will no longer offer testing for the CBC or CCP certifications.