Visit page
Press "Enter" to skip to content

INTERSTENO: Demystifying the Intersteno Speech Capturing Competition

By Laura P. Brewer

Are you curious about the Intersteno speed competition (referred to as Speech Capturing at Intersteno), but your eyes glaze over when people start talking about four-point versus one-point penalties; sections A, B, and C; incremental speed increases; testing strategy; and tables for syllables per minute in seven different languages?

Take heart — you are not the only one who gets confused! But don’t let that stop you from participating in something that just might be the highlight of your career. Attending an Intersteno conference and competing in one or more of the competitions is a rewarding and fun experience like no other, and it provides an opportunity to travel to interesting destinations and meet people from around the world who are excited and enthusiastic about stenography.

Next summer – July 2017 – the Intersteno conference will be in Berlin, an interesting and vibrant city with convenient air connections from most major U.S. cities. English is widely spoken in Germany, and German cities are modern, safe, and interesting, making them ideal tourist and business destinations. Team USA is looking for reporters who are interested in joining the American contingent at the Olympics of court reporting, and we would love to see you.

At its core, Intersteno’s Speech Capturing competition is a speed competition, most similar to the literary portion of the annual NCRA Speed Contest. The table below contrasts Intersteno’s Speech Capturing competition with NCRA’s Speed Contest.

Intersteno Speech Capturing Competition NCRA Speed Contest
Length 3 5-minute segments, dictated as one 15-minute take with a pause at the conclusion of minute 5 and minute 10 3 5-minute segments, dictated as separate takes
Speed Literary material (United Nations or European Commission texts)


Speed is by syllable count and increases every minute


Section C

Slowest speeds

From roughly 92-132 wpm


Section B

Moderate speeds

From roughly 144-192 wpm


Section C

Fastest speeds

From roughly 205-258 wpm


Literary: 220 wpm

Legal Opinion: 230 wpm

Testimony: 280 wpm


Speed is word count, not adjusted for syllabic density, so the difficulty can vary depending on the word density of the text.

Rules Rules subject to change before each Intersteno Congress Rules generally remain the same from one year to the next



Intersteno weights errors by their significance (Intersteno calls them “penalties”):


-4 points – Any error that changes the meaning of the sentence; the first word of a drop.


-1 point – All other errors or subsequent words in a drop.


-Repeated errors counted only once.

Same guidelines as RPR “What is an error?”


-1 point – each error


Scoring and Maximum Penalties allowed Sections graded in three-minute segments. For each three-minute segment passed, the grading continues to the next segment. Contestants need only turn in the highest completed section (C, B, or A).


Allowed errors range from -24 points to -57 points per three-minute segment as you progress from the slowest to the fastest dictation.




95 percent accuracy required to qualify. Contestants must qualify on all three sections in order to hold a place in the overall rankings. Each 5-minute segment is graded and scored individually, then an overall score is calculated averaging the three takes:


Literary – 55 errors

Legal Opinion – 58 errors

Testimony – 70 errors

Time to transcribe 150 minutes 90 minutes per section
Form of dictation Recorded Live
Minimum Accuracy to Qualify or Pass 92%. (Note that some errors are -4 points.) Successful competitors must turn in at least one complete section (C, B, or A) and pass the first three minutes. 95%. To qualify overall, each take must have 95% or greater accuracy.

Join Team USA in Berlin and try your hand at international competition. The spirit and camaraderie are phenomenal and really enhance the experience. Intersteno provides a unique opportunity to get to know your colleagues better in a fun atmosphere.

Team USA participation in Intersteno includes:

  • NCRA member Russell Page is a Washington, D.C.,–area reporter and Intersteno board member who will be the proctor for English contestants for the Speech Capturing Competition in Berlin.
  • NCRA member and long-time Intersteno volunteer Linda Drake, of Savannah, Ga, is on the Intersteno Jury and will be in charge of the Realtime Competition in Berlin.
  • NCRA’s Intersteno Committee, comprising Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, (chair), Russell Page, Linda Drake, Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, and Laura Brewer, RDR, CRR, CRC, will also attend

And we hope to see you.

Laura P. Brewer, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner in Los Altos, Calif. She can be reached at

More information: