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From the trainers: Ready, begin

Last week, while attending a state court reporting convention, I was speaking with a group of reporters about taking certification exams and what aspect of the exams they found most challenging. By far, the most common response was “Ready, begin.” One reporter said, “When I hear that phrase, I tense up and forget to breathe.” She became noticeably agitated just talking about it!

This is not uncommon. In fact, most students and working reporters have the same reaction when hearing the phrase, “Ready, begin.” We all know what follows that phrase is the exam itself, so those two words can generate negative feelings, disruptive thoughts, and test anxiety. So, what do we do about it? What can we do to improve our reaction to that dreaded phrase, build our confidence, and propel ourselves forward on a positive, test-passing path?

There’s plenty of literature available on test anxiety — just Google it and you’ll see what I mean — but most of it relates specifically to educational assessments, not skill-based assessments like speed tests and certification exams. That doesn’t mean that the advice isn’t useful; we just need to tweak it a bit to more appropriately apply to our needs.

Of course, there’s the usual list of to-dos on test day:

  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
  • Arrive at the test site early.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine.
  • Exercise, if possible, prior to the test.

But, let’s face it, those suggestions don’t address the “Ready, begin” problem. We need to get beyond that phrase well before test day in order to pass certification tests without giving ourselves a stroke in the process. Here are some simple, yet effective, ways to achieve that:

  • Focus on “Ready, begin.” If the material you are preparing with does not include that phrase at the beginning of every exercise, repeat it to yourself. If “Ready, begin” is included in the practice material, repeat something positive to yourself every time you hear it.
  • Keep your positive statement short and sweet: “Yes” or “I’m ready!” or “I rock.”
  • Remember, the test begins approximately three seconds after “Ready, begin,” so you don’t have time for a full paragraph of affirmation!

Apply “Ready, begin” and positive affirmation to your daily routines. When you walk into the courthouse, a deposition or a CART job, or before beginning a captioning session, repeat “Ready, begin” and your positive response.

There are two things necessary to be a successful reporter (official, freelance, CART provider, or captioner) and passing tests (whether speed tests in school or certification exams), and those are writing skills and confidence. As Marcus Garvey once said, “With confidence, you have won before you have started.”

Ready, begin . . .