By Kristy Clark
“Ready? Begin.” These two simple words strike fear in my heart. But why do these seemingly innocuous words unhinge not only me but also countless other court reporters across the country? Because they denote that a test is ready to begin. And regardless of whether a court reporter is taking the RPR, RMR, CRR, or local state exam, there is a sense of pressure associated with having one’s skills tested.
For me, I was the court reporting student others hated. I never stressed about tests and had a seemingly natural ability at taking tests during school. That all changed when I hit 200 wpm, however. But yet even at that speed, I never experienced test anxiety. I merely experienced the realization that I needed more practice to achieve that next speed goal. Fast forward 13 years after court reporting school, and I have taken three separate state exams and the RPR with minimal test anxiety and the knowledge that I knew that I was fast enough to take any test thrown my way. That is, of course, until the dreaded Certified Realtime Reporter exam.
My first realtime test experience was the very last exam that NCRA gave as a Literary at 180 wpm. I took this test merely to see what it was really about and why other court reporters always said it was “the easiest test you’ll ever fail.” Due to this carefree attitude I had going in, I came relatively close to passing. The next exam, six months later, was the first as 200 wpm Q&A. Well, isn’t this what we do as court reporters in the freelance world as well as the courtroom? Shouldn’t this be a piece of cake? For goodness sake, I’ve written cardiopulmonologists speaking at 250 wpm. This was exactly my thought process going in. And then those two words: “Ready? Begin.”
I was cruising right along just fine until that first misstroke.
“Oh, no. Let it go! Let it go!”
And then I was back in my groove of writing, all the while telling myself to concentrate. But then the mental talk began.
“This is a good test, Kristy. You’re totally getting this. Oops! Wait! Was that a one-word or two-word hyphenate? Do I have that defined in my dictionary? Oh, crud! I wonder if my artificial intelligence (in my software) picked the right one? Just look at your screen and see. Oh, no! That other word didn’t translate because you dragged your L.”
And so my first failure occurred. And although I would love to share with anyone reading this article the very happy ending that I overcame all of my fear and am the proud recipient of my CRR, the sad truth is, it still eludes me.
And now you may ask as you read this: Why is a court reporter that cannot pass the CRR test on the NCRA Realtime TRAIN Task Force? Trust me, I asked the very same question. But the answer I came up with should be shared freely and without reservation to every court reporter out there: Although I do not have that wonderful acronym of “CRR” after my name, I do provide realtime to my judge, attorneys, and anyone who asks. I do this to hone my skills and become a better court reporter. I do this to combat the electronic recording that threatens our prestigious profession across the states. I have proven myself invaluable to my judge, and he sings my praises to attorneys and other judges. He tells attorneys that a court recorder will never be able to take the place of a court reporter. How could they, when a reporter can provide you exactly what was spoken at the very moment it was spoken?
So to those court reporters who have never tried realtime for fear that their writing is “not good enough,” I say, if this four-time-realtime-exam failure can do it, then so can you!
Kristy Clark, RPR, is a freelancer based in Las Vegas, Nev. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.