I think it is safe to say that the Q&A leg is the nemesis of all court reporting students. Students learn early on that it is a long and grueling road trying to reach the 225 wpm goal required to pass the RPR. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs how consistent and mindful practice will imbed the correct brain-to-finger connections essential to gaining speed and accuracy; but that aside, I thought I’d share with you three tips to help you on testing day that you may not have considered.
First of all, it may seem contrary to everything we are trained to do, but it may be a good idea to actually DROP during testing. Sometimes you just can’t hold on. If you cut your losses and immediately move on, you won’t dig yourself into a bigger hole trying to catch up, all the while writing unintelligible strokes. The errors will add up quickly. The “dropping” is easy; it’s the resumption that’s difficult to do, as it may be hard to get your rhythm back. However, if you can stay calm and execute this strategy as the words are flying by, it may work in your favor. Of course, if you do this throughout the Q&A take, you are not quite there yet and it’s time to regroup and practice some more. This advice regarding dropping does not apply to your practice sessions, however. Ultimately you will not gain speed if you don’t push yourself to the max when you practice.
My second thought would be to brief on the fly. I still remember my first attempt at the CSR. The street name “Furnace Brook Parkway” came up a few times. This was long before briefs were even talked about – we wrote everything out back then – but if I’d had the benefit of this knowledge and had come up with a brief on the fly, I would have turned five strokes into one, sparing myself much anxiety and energy. Briefing on the fly may not come easily to you, but try it during your practice sessions so you become accustomed to doing it. If you can come up with a brief one or two times during a test, it might just be enough to get you a passing grade.
As an example, try the OIG brief. I use this as a suffix on my right hand and use an initial sound or letter on my left hand. So for “Furnace Brook Parkway,” a great brief would be FOIG. The trick with any brief, though, is remembering what it stands for, which is especially challenging during a testing situation. A word of caution: Sometimes you will come up with a brief for “Norwegian Cruise Line” — NOIG, for instance — but the dictation may also include “Norwegian Cruise Lines” or “Norwegian Cruises.” Alternatively, you could just stick to NOIG for “Norwegian,” which would be a big timesaver in itself.
My last tip would be to transcribe your take even if you think you may not have passed. You may have gotten more than you think you did! For a 95% pass rate on the RPR exam, you are allowed 57 errors on the Q&A leg at 225 wpm. It’s always useful to know what your score was, if you missed a passing grade by ten errors or 20. Unless you think you absolutely blew it, it’s worth the effort and always good practice to transcribe.
Hopefully you will have enough time to carefully proofread your take. Familiarize yourself with NCRA’s Grading Guidelines and what constitutes an error. It is also important to pay attention to the content/story line when you are proofreading because doing so may provide clues that will aid you when transcribing.
It is not uncommon to be stuck at a certain speed for a long time and for months to go by before you pass another test. Everyone hits a wall at some point and discouragement sets in. You can’t break through, though, if you don’t keep trying. “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe