Skills Test registration starts Thursday, Aug. 1.

Registration is available Aug. 1-20 for online testing Sept. 1-20.

NCRA skills testing registration started following a new block schedule designed to make registration easier and more efficient for test candidates in June.

Under block scheduling, registration for skills tests will be open every other month, with candidates registering during the first 20 days of the registration month. Test candidates will be able to choose their test day from the first 20 days of the month following the registration month. For example, candidates can register for their next skills test between Aug. 1 and 20 and test between Sept. 1 and Sept. 20.

For the remainder of this year, registration blocks will be October (for testing in November) and December (for testing in January 2020).

For more information about block scheduling, visit NCRA.org/testing.

The faces behind the testing voices

Rob Buhrman, producer Mike Caplan and Brenda Line in the recording studio

The next time you sit down to take a Skills Test, you might not be thinking about the people behind the recording, but they are thinking about you.

“As a former reporter and reporting teacher, I think about the test takers every second I speak,” said Brenda Line. “Having been on the business end of a steno machine, I know how difficult testing can be. Rob and I want to make sure every word is intelligible. We try to project soothing voices to help the reporters stay calm and maintain steady nerves. We try to do everything we can to help the reporters have successful outcomes for this noble profession!”

NCRA Director of Certification and Testing Amy Davidson and Certification and Testing Program Manager Eva Liu recently worked with Line and Rob Buhrman to record new Skills Tests, as well as the legs for the Speed Contest and Realtime Contests, which recently switched to pre-recorded materials.

Liu said they record two or three times a year.

Rob Buhrman

Buhrman has been recording for NCRA since 2013. He said it is a unique job.

“There is an extra focus on pace, timing, and clarity for these recordings compared to other voice jobs,” Buhrman said. “Reading with a stopwatch for a 5-minute exam is a unique task, especially for the faster testimony pieces.”

Buhrman said to prepare, “I usually rehearse the higher speed exams aloud to try to identify any stumbling blocks. (There’s not much time to think when you’re reading at 260 wpm!)”

“They do such an amazing job,” said NCRA’s Liu. “Some of the tests are hard material and fast speed, so they have to re-record some of the sentences several times to get it right and on the time mark. They are very strict with themselves. They won’t let any voice crack, slurred words, or even a click in the background pass by without re-recording. They also have to ensure that they are perfect on time marks. The NCRA staff are there to also check and ensure that the reading and the test are a perfect match, down to each punctuation mark, as well as timing.”

Line said she has been recording for NCRA since May 2011, but she was not new to this type of voice work.

Brenda Line

“This job is similar to my other voice jobs that included live dictation in my work as a court reporting instructor and live dictation of NCRA skills tests while working for Central Penn College,” Line said. “I’ve also recorded countless hours of practice and test dictation for Lifeline Dictation. When NCRA recruited me, I was just finishing a skills test project for Realtime Coach, so there was a natural flow into recording NCRA Skills Tests. Although my experience spans many years, I still get a bit nervous at the high speeds.”

Line said she reads the tests before entering the studio.

Producer Mike Caplan

“We receive the tests that are marked in 15-second increments,” Line said. “For the high speeds, I add my own time markings at 7.5 seconds to help maintain an even cadence and preserve the accuracy of the speed.”

Both Line and Buhrman said they are thinking about the test takers.

“Absolutely!” Buhrman said. “Anytime we hear something that was even slightly unclear during recording, we have to correct it so that the test takers are listening to something that is as perfect as we can make it. They have enough to think about without hearing something that may not be perfectly clear.”

Celebrating NCRA’s Certified Members

Earning professional certifications means different things to different people. For some, it might be a requirement to be able to work; for others, it might be the desire to increase their skills in a certain area. But for everyone who earns a professional certification, the achievement always gives the recipient a greater sense of pride.

In honor of 2019 Celebrate Certification Month, the JCR reached out to several NCRA members who hold the highest number of professional certifications to learn more about what motivates them and why professional growth has been such an important part of their
careers.

Be the best that we can be

Jo Anne Betler, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, CPE, from Huntington, W.Va., is a freelance court reporter, CART captioner, and agency owner. She also holds the Realtime Systems Administrator and the Trial Presentation Professional certificates.

JCR | How long have you been a working court reporter and captioner?

Jo Anne Betler
Jo Anne Betler

BETLER | I graduated from Huntington Junior College in March of 1982, so… My goodness, that makes it 37 years. Surely, it’s not been that long — seems like yesterday.

JCR | What areas of the profession have you worked in?

BETLER | My first position in the profession was as a transcriptionist for other reporters while I was still in school. This was back when we used typewriters and carbon paper and dictation from the reporter. Upon graduation, I worked my first eight years as a freelance reporter before I had the opportunity to accept an official position. I held that position for 25 years. Upon my “retirement” from my official position, I returned to freelance and CART. During my tenure as an official, I continuously provided realtime and CART services for the court when needed.

Having returned to the freelance arena, I continue reporting and providing CART services. CART has been both on-site and remote in either an individual or a public big screen setting. While I hold my CLVS certification and am available, I prefer to work as the reporter. I have yet to caption on air, but I’m not through yet.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

BETLER | When I was in elementary school, my mother was a legal secretary. She would also transcribe dictation for a few reporters over the years. I remember going to the courthouse to deliver her work to Colin Miller, a pen writer. Little did I know that 30 years later that his very office would be mine!

When my family moved to Louisville, Ky., my mother transcribed for reporter Margaret Commons of Yoder & Commons. She encouraged my mother to become a reporter. She even gave my mother a machine. Mom then took classes through a correspondence course with that machine. Due to family commitments during that time, Mom was unable to finish. I later was able to start school with that machine.

JCR | What was your motivation to earn so many professional certifications?

BETLER | My motivation to attain my certifications has varied from time to time. First, my parents encouraged me. Education has always been important, so pursuing certification just kind of fell into place. When I graduated and began working, I did not need certification, but I wanted to be an official reporter. Official positions required certification.

I passed the West Virginia state certification and got the official position. I could have stopped there, but if I passed the RPR, I would get a raise. If I attained the CRR and RMR, that would allow another raise for each certification. I had the honor to work for Judge John L. Cummings for 20 years. He encouraged me to pass the CRR, because he wanted me to provide realtime. And I can’t forget my husband. Gene has always supported me and encouraged me that I could do it. And I did!

I did have friends and coworkers ask me why I continued to pursue certifications. “You don’t need them.” They were wrong. I did need them. I needed them for myself. I was the one that could say: “I did it.”

JCR | How have these certifications helped you in your overall career?

BETLER | Certification has given me not only the opportunity of being an official reporter, I was given three separate raises upon attaining the certifications RPR, CRR, and RMR. Those raises not only increased my income at the time, they increased my retirement annuity. They gave me the opportunity to be assigned to different counties and cases in order to provide realtime. I have had the opportunity to serve on committees and provide input to others.

And I have received jobs because of my certifications. Above all, pursuing certification pushed me to improve my skills as a reporter.

JCR | How has earning these certifications helped you in
your overall confidence?

BETLER | It’s difficult to put into words the feelings of pride and confidence that each certification has given me. They allow me to recognize that I do have the knowledge and skills to strive to be the best I can be.

JCR | What is the biggest benefit of earning a professional certification?

BETLER | The biggest benefit for me has been the confidence and prestige that goes hand-in-hand with each certification. The pay increases and job opportunities have been nice!

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to earn professional certifications?

BETLER | I encourage everyone to reach for the stars. Be the best you can be. We never know where our lives will take us. Having not only certification, but advanced certification, gives us the ability and advantage to be ready for changes or obstacles that may come our way.

At the top of our game

Sandra A. German, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, CPE, is a CART and broadcast captioner, and agency owner from Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. She has been in the profession since 1979.

Sandra German
Sandra German

JCR | How long have you been a working court reporter and captioner?

GERMAN | I graduated from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) court reporting program in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in May of 1979, so this year is my fortieth year in this career! Over the years, I’ve been an official and freelance court reporter, a court reporting firm owner, a sessional instructor at NAIT, a broadcast captioner, and CART captioner, and I now own Canada’s largest remote CART captioning company, AB Captioning & CART Inc.

JCR | Anything else we should know about your background?

GERMAN | I pioneered CART in Alberta, Canada, in 1990. Those were the days of the technology dinosaurs! We had nowhere to go but explore and delve into the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

GERMAN | My dad knew two women from my hometown who had become court reporters, and he thought this profession might be a good fit for me. I guess he was right!

JCR | What was your motivation to earn so many professional certifications?

GERMAN | I always wanted to improve my skills and be the best that I could be. Writing shorthand has always been a game for me and fascinated me at the same time, and when realtime became a reality in the early 1990s, seeing my steno translate quickly into words on the screen was a thrill! Then seeing my writing on national television was
the ultimate dream come true!

I believe it’s ultimately important to earn professional certifications to stay on top of our game, especially when you operate a business. If you want to be the crème de la crème in your industry, you need to demonstrate that to your clients and also be an inspiration to the team of writers that work with you to hopefully encourage them to do the same.

JCR | How have these certifications helped you in your
overall career?

GERMAN | The old adage, you get what you pay for. Our clients demand the best quality CART captioning for their events. We have some of Canada’s best writers working with our team, who also possess NCRA certifications.

JCR | How has earning these certifications helped you in your overall confidence?

GERMAN | Well, our company is always eager to take on difficult or high-profile assignments or new technology. I can’t answer if that’s because of our certifications or not. Maybe we’re all just keeners!

JCR | What is the biggest benefit of earning a professional certification?

GERMAN | I believe clients want the best quality CART captioning and value for their money, and they’re willing to pay more than what entry-level or non-steno services can provide.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to earn professional certifications?

GERMAN | More education and knowledge is always a positive, without fail. We never know what we will learn every day on the job. I always said if I learned one thing every day, the day would not be a waste. And I can confidently say that I haven’t had a wasted day in 40 years in this career!


A way to stand out

Kimberly R. Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, is an official court reporter from Arlington, Texas. She also holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. She has been in the profession for 25 years.

Kim Xavier
Kim Xavier

JCR | How long have you been a working court reporter?

XAVIER | I have been a working court reporter for 25 years as of this summer, and I can’t imagine doing anything else for that many years.

JCR | What areas of the profession have you worked in?

XAVIER | As of the 25th year, the bulk of my career has been as an official court reporter, but I started out as a freelance reporter, and I also owned a full-service freelance firm for many years. Right now, I’m working on polishing up my skills so that I can take on event captioning.

I love the fact that we have so many career options to choose from, and I intend to explore them all!

JCR| How did you learn about the profession?

XAVIER | I had never even heard of court reporting until I got a phone call out of the blue from an old military roommate. I had decided to separate from the Air Force and she was considering doing the same, so our discussion naturally turned to what we would do in the civilian world.

She mentioned court reporting, and it piqued my interest enough that soon after that call, I pulled out the Yellow Pages (that tells you how long ago it was) and discovered there were two schools in the area. I ended up enrolling in court reporting school, and I heard through the grapevine that my old roommate ended up staying in and retiring from the military. We haven’t spoken since, but to this day, I’m convinced God sent her to me to plant that little steno seed.

JCR | What was your motivation to earn so many professional certifications?

XAVIER | Once I knew there were advanced certifications to be earned, it was always a professional goal for me. I mean, why wouldn’t you strive to get better and do your best in the field you work in on a daily basis? But I’d have to say that the thing that pushed me full steam ahead was speed competitions. I had gone for an interview with a firm, and one of the firm owners was displaying her Paul Burris Speed Cup. That was my first glimpse of the top award for our speed contest in Texas. I distinctly remember that crystal trophy glowing and calling out my name.

I left that office and did some research and found out that you had to be a merit writer to even earn a seat at the contest. From that day on, I pushed myself to get that certification, and it was just a natural progression to get the others.

But earning some of the other certs, like the CRI and the CMRS, came from my own freakish need to “feel” prepared. I think our community has always fallen short in the area of training new reporters, so about 10 years into my career, when I finally felt like I knew what I was doing myself, I began providing training opportunities for new reporters who were willing to put in the time. When the CRI came about, it sounded like something that would help me in my attempts to help other reporters. I actually ended up taking that one twice, a few years apart, before actually obtaining the certification. The CMRS caught my eye when I was running my own firm because I’ve always felt a huge gap between my steno sense and my business sense. I’m still very much attracted to just about anything that promises to sharpen my business judgment and understanding.

JCR | How have these certifications helped you in your overall career?

XAVIER | I have been fortunate enough not to have to search for jobs too many times in my career, but when I have, I believe my résumé has set me apart from the crowd when I have needed it to. But I don’t want it to sound as if I believe certifications make the reporter. They certainly don’t. I believe in being a well-rounded reporter, so I’ve made it a habit to be a help in the court reporting community through volunteering for committees and leadership positions as well. I think all of these things have helped me in my overall career.

JCR | How has earning these certifications helped you in your overall confidence?

XAVIER | Earning advanced certifications is definitely a confidence booster. At the end of the day, non-steno people are probably not impressed, but there is no greater feeling than walking into a room and feeling like you can handle whatever is thrown at you and then actually handling whatever is thrown at you. Most working reporters would probably agree that believing in yourself plays a huge part in being successful when it comes to test-taking, and once you’ve proven yourself through advanced certifications, it’s hard to talk yourself into not being confident in what you’re doing.

JCR | What is the biggest benefit of earning a professional certification?

XAVIER | I would have to say I believe the biggest benefit is to the court reporting community as a whole. At the end of the day, we are judged by the least of us and the services we provide are of such importance that there should be no room for mediocrity. Obtaining professional certifications lends legitimacy to this career field. It gives us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow. Professional development goes a long way towards personal growth. As human beings we should always be reaching for “more” and making efforts to improve and evolve.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to earn professional certifications?

XAVIER | Let us all remember that 225 wpm is an entry-level speed, and we are not meant to stand in the entrance. We need to pass through it. How would you like it if you found out that your kids’ doctor or dentist had gotten out of medical school or dental school five, 10, 15 years ago and never did another thing to improve their skills? You wouldn’t like that, would you? Who wouldn’t want the best darn doctor or dentist they could afford tending to your kid?

We need to think of the services we provide as something that is just as important as other professions where we expect high standards to be maintained, and the responsibility for maintaining those standards rests with each of us.

I think we can take a look at the way our field has changed over the last decade and that alone should encourage us to want to position ourselves to be able to travel down any steno path we choose. Who knows what the future holds? It’s best to stay ready so you don’t have to scramble to get ready. The great thing about it is no matter whether you’re a brand-new reporter or a seasoned veteran, you can start from right where you are. There’s room for everyone to improve.

A sense of pride

Teresa Kordick, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, CPE, is an official court reporter from Des Moines, Iowa, and has been a working court
reporter for more than 40 years.

JCR | What areas of the profession have you worked in?

Teresa Kordick
Teresa Kordick

KORDICK | I have been an official except for three years of freelance on my own starting when my son was born.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

KORDICK | From my high school English teacher.

JCR | What was your motivation to earn so many professional certifications?

KORDICK | My first motivation was job security. There was talk even “way back when” about replacing reporters in the courts, so I wanted to make sure I had other good options available. I then earned my CRI and CPE certifications because I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the evening court reporting procedures classes at the AIB College of Court Reporting and also visiting other reporting schools as a program evaluator.

JCR | How have these certifications helped you in your overall career?

KORDICK | By earning certain certifications, I’ve been able to serve on and chair some wonderful committees (hi, TACies!) and work with exceptional reporters from all over the United States and other countries. The knowledge and contacts I’ve gained by jumping aboard the testing and association trains have made my career much more fulfilling.

JCR | How has earning these certifications helped you in your overall confidence?

KORDICK | When I have passed a certification that some of my court reporting “heroes” have passed, I have felt privileged to be in their company!

JCR | What is the biggest benefit of earning a professional certification?

KORDICK | In some states it means a pay increase for officials. Even though as an official in Iowa, I am unable to freelance, I often get calls from around the country offering me a job or asking me to do certain deposition work because of my listing in the NCRA Sourcebook. But
the biggest benefit is knowing I’ve done the best I can do in my profession. I’m very proud of my certifications!

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to earn professional certifications?

KORDICK | Just do it! It can be scary and seem expensive, but this is your career. Stay in the testing mode and try again if you need to. I didn’t pass everything on my first try, but I learned what I needed to focus on for the next time. Also, the more involved you get with committee and association work on both the state and national levels, the more you will absorb helpful topics and learn practice skills. And remember, those who have gone down the path before you are ready to help!

Certification builds credibility and confidence

Shirley Hall, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, CPE, is an official court reporter from Pittsburgh, Pa. She has been a working court reporter for more than 40 years.

Shirley Hall
Shirley Hall

JCR | How long have you been a working court reporter?

HALL | The years fly by so fast, that I always have to sit down and count how many have gone by when I’m asked this question. I’m surprised by my answer each time, as I think I can’t possibly be reporting that long — but it was April 1975 that I took my first freelance assignment, so that means 44 years — wow, now I’m feeling really old!

JCR | What areas of the profession have you worked in?

HALL | I began my career as a freelance reporter with a firm, then eventually went out on my own. I was a contract reporter for the federal courts the whole time I freelanced; and 11 years after I first began reporting, I became a full-time federal official court reporter. I taught a speedbuilding class at the Community College of Allegheny County for one semester and that put the teaching bug in my mind, so I wound up teaching court reporting and psychology at a local business school in the evenings for five years.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

HALL | I had a college-oriented curriculum all through high school, but I was overwhelmed by the class sizes and anonymity of being a non-resident student when I went straight to the main campus of the University of Pittsburgh right after high school. I knew I was not ready to be out in the world yet, so I began looking for something to do while I grew up a bit more. While touring business schools looking for something to help me get a job while I found myself, the representative at Duff’s Business School suggested court reporting. My answer was: “What’s that?” It sounded intriguing, and I enrolled.

JCR | What was your motivation to earn so many professional certifications?

HALL | My mom and dad taught me to always do the best I could at whatever it was I was doing, to try new things, and to not be afraid of an outcome. I was the oldest of four children, so I was also responsible for leading the way for them. All of this instilled in me a real thirst for knowledge, as well as a put-up-or-shut-up mentality. Once I began working, there was a natural flow to work hard to get a certification and then, once I succeeded, to move on to the next level. I was lucky enough to have my natural inquisitiveness encouraged throughout my life, so I’ve always found new areas to jump into and learn about, many of which came with certifications of some sort.

JCR | How have these certifications helped you in your overall career?

HALL | Well, I’ll go with the obvious answer first: Each certification level helped me do a better job reporting, which in turn allowed me to write more difficult but interesting proceedings. Federal court was the gold ring of reporting as I was coming up through the ranks; and by the time I had the experience to apply for an officialship, I had more than the basic certifications that were required — though I did have to apply twice before I was hired. Even after becoming a reporter for U.S. District Court, I continued working on my skills and became the first realtime reporter in my courthouse. That effort helped motivate my colleagues to get their CRRs and improved the judges’ and attorneys’ views of our office’s professionalism as a whole.

JCR | How has earning these certifications helped you in your overall confidence?

HALL | As I mentioned before, I really do have a put-up-or- shut-up attitude. My certifications have given me self-assurance that I am a good reporter and my continuing education courses have kept me up-to-date on reporter-specific subjects as well as management issues, the law, finances, health, etc. I was very, very shy growing up; but being comfortable with my knowledge base and adding to it all the time has made me feel at ease talking to federal judges and high-powered attorneys, teaching, giving seminars, and sitting on boards.

JCR | What is the biggest benefit of earning a professional certification?

HALL | While earning a certification demonstrates your interest and dedication to your profession to your colleagues, I believe the impact it has on people not in the profession is even greater. Reporters love to interact with other reporters, no matter in what area they specialize, because no one else “gets us.” Having a few letters after your name immediately puts everyone on notice that you have an expertise and have been recognized as such. Adding the highest certification after your name on your business card opens the conversation with judges, attorneys, and other people working in the legal field and presents the opportunity to educate them about how we do what we do. I have found thereafter a greater respect and cooperation while I’m working, which creates a great deal of satisfaction.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to earn professional certifications?

HALL | There many terrific reasons to earn professional certifications: career advancement, recognition, self-confidence. But my question is: Why not? Court reporting/captioning/CART work are all part of a profession, not just a job and not just a career. You must be dedicated to do this work and do it well. Mediocrity has no place here.

Earning successive certifications is as natural as going from elementary school to middle school to high school. It’s a natural progression. Take pride in being an expert at your level and shout it out to the world.

Always a work in progress

D’Arcy McPherson, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, is an official court reporter from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a working court reporter since 1987.

JCR | What areas of the profession have you worked in?

D'Arcy McPherson
D’Arcy McPherson

MCPHERSON | I have worked as a freelancer, official, broadcast captioner, and legislative reporter. I still caption to keep my fingers mobile — and because I love writing shorthand — but my full-time job is as the Manager of Debates and Publications at the Senate of Canada. Our amazing reporting team includes both English and French realtime reporters.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

MCPHERSON | Although I had always been intrigued when I would see machine reporters in movies or television, I first heard about reporting as a job through a friend who was taking the training.

JCR | What was your motivation to earn so many professional certifications?

MCPHERSON | When I was at reporting school, a gentleman who had been reporting for 50 years came to speak to us. He said that we need to believe in ourselves and be confident in knowing that we can write quickly and cleanly. He was a merit writer and encouraged all of us to strive for certification as a great way to bolster confidence and to develop as professionals. I believe in ongoing professional development, and I have never regretted the time that I have put into trying to achieve certification.

JCR | How have these certifications helped you in your overall career?

MCPHERSON | Having certification has helped to open some doors or made some doors easier to get through. I know that I have been considered for certain jobs because certifications help to demonstrate a commitment to improving myself as a professional or because certification was an essential requirement.

JCR | How has earning these certifications helped you in your overall confidence?

MCPHERSON | There is a strange thing about speed certification. I am someone who wanted to be a merit writer. It was a personal goal for me. Once I passed the tests, things did change. It was like finding that comfortable gear on the highway. Writing fast is much more about the brain than the hands. Allowing my brain to understand that I could write quickly translated into more confidence and quieted some of those inner doubts — it also makes practicing more enjoyable.

JCR | What is the biggest benefit of earning a professional certification?

MCPHERSON | Certification provides a quick indication of a reporter’s commitment to personal improvement. However, certification is not a free pass. The hard work is in making sure that you live up to what the certifications stand for. If certifications have made me want to strive towards what I believe are standards within our association and profession, then I think they have been an excellent investment.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to earn professional certifications?

MCPHERSON | I would encourage all reporters to continue to set personal goals and put in the work needed to achieve them. For me, certification was a goal that I will never regret. The advice of that reporter emeritus who spoke to my class when I was in reporting school stands true today, and I thank him for helping me to always work towards being a better reporter and a more rounded professional.

Pennsylvania court reporter gets perfect score on an online skills test

Alison Moffett, Elizabethtown, Pa., recently scored a perfect score on the RPR literary skills test.

“Congratulations to Alison!” said Eva Liu, NCRA Certification and Testing Program Manager. “It’s extremely hard to match word for word on a test to get a perfect score, but it’s not impossible.”

JCR Weekly asked Moffett for more information about her perfect score.

JCR Weekly | When did you take the test?

Moffett | I took the test on April 30 around 7:30 in the morning. I had previously had problems with internet connectivity and losing my connection during the middle of the exam, so I wanted to take it at a time when less people would hopefully be using the internet.

 JCR Weekly | Are you working as a court reporter? Where? How long?

Moffett |Yes, I work as an official in the courthouse in York County, Pa., for just 3.5 years.

 JCR Weekly | Why did you decide to test for your RPR?

Moffett | We provide realtime for nearly all of the judges and occasionally some attorneys, and I would like to earn my CRR. Getting my RPR is the first step towards that goal!

 JCR Weekly | How did you prepare?

Moffett |I did the practice tests in Realtime Coach a couple times, but the most important thing was practicing the testing procedures so you aren’t overly anxious when it comes time to test.

 JCR Weekly | How did you think you did when you finished the test?

Moffett |I thought I did pretty well.

 JCR Weekly | How did you react when you got your score?

Moffett | I was excited but also had to leave to go to work, so I didn’t have much time to celebrate except for a quick call to my fiancé.

  JCR Weekly | How do you think having your RPR will help you?

 Moffett | It will allow me to get further certifications such as the CRR or CRC  and open up other options for careers going forward!

  JCR Weekly | When do you plan on taking the next test?

 Moffett |After the wedding! In all seriousness, I plan on practicing over the summer and testing in the fall. The last leg I need is the Q&A.

Get the edge by attending NCRA’s CRR Boot Camp

Professionals considering taking the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) test have the opportunity to gain an advantage by attending the CRR Boot Camp being offered at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., being held Aug. 15-18.

NCRA’s CRR certification represents realtime pro­ficiency for those who earn it as it is recognized in the industry as the national certification of real­time competency. Holding the CRR also can lead to an increase in salary, as noted by a number of recent NCRA surveys.

“As the CRR Chief Examiner in Massachu­setts, I saw so many candidates come back time and time again to take the certification test. It was bittersweet. They couldn’t pass, but they kept trying,” said Kathryn Sweeney, FAPR, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter and agency owner from Acton, Mass., who helped develop the boot camp pro­gram and who will be teaching it at the NCRA Convention & Expo.

“The idea of the boot camp came about when the Board of the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association (MCRA) approached me with ques­tions as to why there were not more people pass­ing the CRR exam and what I could do to maybe help those candidates,” said Sweeney, who also served as a beta tester for NCRA’s online testing system and as CRR Chief Examiner on behalf of the Association for 17 years.

“They gave me two hours and a place to give a seminar back in October of 2009. It was originally named ‘Ready? Begin.’ Those are the two most dreaded words for even the most skilled court reporter,” Sweeney said.

Because it was felt that the original name of the program might actually scare people away, it was renamed the CRR Dress Rehearsal. Over the years, however, said Sweeney, the presentation turned into a three-hour session and was appro­priately renamed again to the CRR Boot Camp.

Word about the program has been spreading across states, according to Sweeney, who has been presenting the session all across the country, with more state associations contacting her about presenting it at their meetings.

Unlike NCRA’s newest certification, the Certi­fied Realtime Captioner (CRC), which requires participation in a 10-hour workshop before being able to take the test, the CRR Boot Camp is not a prerequisite for taking the CRR test. However, said Sweeney, it can certainly help with increasing the chances of passing on the first take.

In the course, she explains to attendees the testing requirements, covers NCRA’s What is an Error?, discusses what is not an error, and talks about the online testing process. She also offers tips on working on self-preparation, includ­ing what to have on test day, what to do and not do on test day, and how and why candidates fail. Participants in the session are also asked to bring their equipment with them because Sweeney said she also lets them take a couple of practice tests, as well as manipulate the system settings and dictionary entries.

“There is so much material. Even if just one thing I teach resonates with an attendee, one thing that they can go back and fix or change, it may just be the one thing that pushes them over the hump and gets them that CRR desig­nation,” said Sweeney.

One reason she attributes the program’s success in helping CRR candidates be suc­cessful in passing the test is because much of the material she covers about being prepared includes information often missed, such has having flash drives or SD cards properly for­matted, which is included in the recommended reading on the testing website and contained in the pre-test emails they receive.

“The most frustrating part of being the proc­tor at brick-and-mortar testing sites was that I could not help the candidates. It was simply not allowed. They were supposed to just know all this stuff. Heck, candidates showed up without their driver’s license because they didn’t know they needed to show it to me,” she said.

“I strongly believe taking the CRR Boot Camp will increase the chance of passing this test. When I finished my presentation in Geor­gia, a woman who already had her CRR came up to me and said that she wished this seminar was around when she was preparing for the test; that it had all of the information and steps that she muddled through on her own. She said it took years of figuring out what was being asked of her and then changing her writing and learning her equipment and software in order to pass,” Sweeney said. “With this boot camp, I can help you in three hours.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit of taking the CRR Boot Camp is that attendees will know if they’re ready to take the test or not, while those who have taken the test before will realize why they didn’t pass, she noted.

“I am a huge proponent of not throwing money away. If you’re not quite ‘there’ yet, then don’t spend (the money) on this test. You will learn what you need to work on before you take the plunge and sign up for the test. You will know when you’re ready, instead of just winging it and hoping for the best,” Sweeney added. “The CRR really is the easiest test you’ll ever fail. But why fail at all? Learn what you need to do in order to pass. Come to my boot camp!”

Sweeney, who has been a court reporter for 28 years, served eight years on her state association’s Board of Directors, two years as president, and recently joined as a director again in April.

To earn the CRR certification, professionals are required to hold the Registered Profes­sional Reporter (RPR) certification, be a current member of NCRA, and pass a realtime testi­mony skills test at 200 words per minute with 96 percent accuracy.

For more information about or to register for NCRA’s CRR Boot Camp and the 2019 Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/events.

Why certifications are beneficial – according to members

If you are interested in earning an NCRA certification, official reporter Cindy Shearman, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Vail, Ariz., advises: “Keep on keeping on. You only fail when you quit trying to earn the certification.”

People have many different reasons for earning NCRA certifications – from it being required in their state, to the increased pay it brings, to the confidence and sense of accomplishment they feel about earning a new set of letters behind their names. The JCR Weekly reached out to several NCRA members during Celebrate Certification Month to learn more about why they earned their certifications and what the benefits are.

“I wanted to continue to improve my skills and qualifications and, on some of my jobs, there was a pay increase associated with an additional certification,” says Shearman. “I feel the certifications help my self-confidence and also have helped in obtaining employment and salary increases. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I earn another certification.”

“While I was a court reporting student at MacCormac College, we were encouraged – no, expected – to achieve the RPR in addition to the required CSR. After I passed my RPR, I wanted to continue to distinguish myself and earn the respect of my family, mentors, and peers,” says Sabrina Lewis, RDR, CRR, who works as an official court reporter in Birmingham, Ala.

Freelancer Marvie Votaw, RPR, CRR, of San Diego, Calif., said that she earned her NCRA certifications “to become more employable and later on [to receive] higher pay.” She says that earning her certifications gave her everything she was hoping for — better opportunities and higher pay – and that she is proud of her accomplishments.

“Having credibility behind my name was always important to me, so I sat for the RPR WKT when I started high speed classes in court reporting school,” says captioner and freelance court reporter Donna Karoscik, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Lancaster, Ohio. “After graduating, I took the skills portion and passed. At the time my employer did not require certifications and, being a new reporter with student loans, I let the RPR lapse for financial reasons. Wouldn’t you know it, a few months later the firm I worked for set a policy that all reporters needed to obtain any and all certifications we could, with the RPR being the required base-level certification? I took it the next time it was offered, passed all four legs, and will never let it lapse again.”

“One of the key benefits I have experienced is my certification credentials help me stand out from a sea of reporters. I’ve also worked for employers who paid more for higher certifications – both freelance and court,” says official reporter and captioner Allison Kimmel, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Marysville, Ohio.

Captioner Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Caseyville, Ill., shared that she earned her certifications “to show to others (and myself) that I’m always working on upgrading my skills.” In addition, she points out that the credentials increased her confidence in her skills. “It’s something specific and concrete I can point to, to say, ‘I’ve achieved this goal.’”

The many benefits of certification

Lewis went on to list all the ways that credentials were worth the time and effort: “First, your credentials speak for you. For example, attorneys or reporting agencies utilizing the NCRA Sourcebook are able to search for reporters by type of credential; i.e., RPR, CRR, etc. I have gotten countless referrals this way. Second, when a position needed to be filled on the state licensing board, my national certifications brought me to the attention of the nominating committee; I was appointed to the Alabama Board of Court Reporting. That service then led to a position on the board of the Alabama Court Reporters Association. Last, but not least, because of my credentials, I am at the top of the pay scale as a federal official court reporter.”

“I gained a new level of confidence with each credential I earned. That confidence increased my love for and commitment to the profession. I became more active in and encouraged others to get more involved in the court reporting and legal communities,” says Lewis. “Your credentials show the world that you believe in yourself and you believe in the importance of your profession.”

Karoscik agreed that both the recognition and the financial benefits were important benefits. However, she said: “I have always felt it is important to stay current on technology and information within the court reporting and captioning professions, even if they don’t directly apply to my current position. If I am asked questions about why we do this or why we don’t do that, I want to know the answer. It makes us more credible members of the business world. In my opinion, knowledge is invaluable, especially when marketing yourself, your business, and your skills as a reporter.”

Some advice on pursuing NCRA certification

When asked for advice to others who are pursuing NCRA credentials, Votaw urges: “Get as many as you can!”

“My best advice for others pursuing credentials is to take them seriously and take the time to adequately prepare. Preparation is key! Practice above the skills test speeds – including the CRR and the CRC. Look through the Job Analysis for whichever WKT exam is being taken, review the NCRA website, and examine books from school days on legal and medical terminology,” says Kimmel.

“Practice until you are better than the test,” advises Thomas. “Test nerves are ubiquitous, and for any student reading this, they never fully go away. You’ve got to work with and around the nerves until you are better than your nerves.”

When it comes to the skills tests, Karoscik says: “Practice at least 20 wpm faster than the dictation you’re trying to pass. Practice difficult, dense literary. Nowadays it is easy to find dictation on YouTube. There are social media outlets just for practicing. Rich Germosen, RDR, CRR, has an excellent dictation library which he shared with me. Eileen Beltz, CRI, CPE, has a vast YouTube presence with her dictation as well. I turn it on to practice for upcoming assignments or if I’ve been on vacation and away from the keyboard for a while. Don’t wait to try. Confidence works wonders. You can do it!”

Online skills testing moves to block schedule June 1

Beginning June 1, NCRA skills testing registration will start following a new block schedule designed to make registration easier and more efficient for test candidates.

Under the new block scheduling, registration for skills tests will be open every other month, with candidates registering in the first 20 days of the registration month. Test candidates will be able to choose their test day from the first 20 days of the month following the registration month.

For example, candidates can register for their next skills test between June 1 and June 20 and test between July 1 and July 20.

For the remainder of this year, registration blocks will be August (for testing in September), October (for testing in November), and December (for testing in January 2020).

For more information about block scheduling, visit NCRA.org/testing.

NCRA’s CRR and CRC certifications showcase realtime skills

To mark the 2019 Celebrate Certification Month, all through May we will take a look in each week’s JCR Weekly at the certifications offered by NCRA.

NCRA’s Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) and Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certifications reflect that the professionals who hold one or both are at the top of their game when it comes to providing first-rate and accurate realtime services.

Earning the nationally recognized CRR certification signifies that the professional who has received it has demonstrated their timely knowledge of cutting-edge realtime technology and proficiency and accuracy of reporting. CRR credentials ensure a reporter is an expert in the specialized field of realtime reporting. They are highly sought after because of their proven precision in reporting and ability to deliver high-quality realtime services.

Vanessa Alyce

“Acquiring my CRR certification gives me such a great sense of accomplishment, and it has actually enhanced my confidence in my abilities as a reporter,” said Vanessa Alyce, RPR, from Las Cruces, N.M., who earned her CRR in January.

“NCRA’s certification program is a great way to measure our skills as reporters and serves as a testament to the professionalism of the court reporting industry,” added Alyce, who has worked as both a freelance and official reporter for a little more than 26 years.

Marla Faith Knox

“This CRR certification has reinvigorated my career and the path I chose 24 years ago to become a court reporter,” said Marla Faith Knox, RPR, an official court reporter from Phoenix, Ariz., who earned her CRR in May 2018.

“This journey has brought me wonderful friendships with colleagues around the country. I have been able to help countless litigants, judges, and attorneys along the way, as well as the hard-of-hearing community. Being a member of NCRA is incredibly rewarding as they are advocates for a profession that has continually provided for me and my family,” Knox added.

To be recognized as a CRR, candidates must hold the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification and have passed, with high accuracy, tests that include equipment set-up, accurate realtime writing, and prove they hold a thorough knowledge of realtime technology.

The CRC certification acknowledges proficiency in language skills and in realtime writing in the broadcast and CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) environments. It was implemented in August 2015 to provide NCRA members with a higher level of captioning training and the resources they need to transition to providing captioning services. The certification reflects the combined training of the previous certifications Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC) and Certified CART Provider (CCP). The CRC certification was developed to increase realtime proficiency and certify more individuals in providing realtime services. CRCs are highly sought after because of their expertise in this very specific field of reporting.

Greta Bourgeois

Greta Bourgeois, from Nashville, Tenn., has worked as a captioner for six years and earned her CRC in January. She is currently a freelance captioner and CART provider for three firms.

“I attended my first NCRA national convention in 2018, and being around so many talented professionals inspired me to pursue this certification. I know having my CRC will help me achieve my career goals,” Bourgeois said.

Laura Axelsen, RPR, CRR, from Vacaville, Calif., also earned her CRC in January. She has worked as a court reporter for 35 years and currently works as a freelance court reporter, a broadcast captioner, a CART provider, and a certified life coach.

“I love my career and never want to stop. Striving for these and other certifications keeps my relationship with my career fun and makes me a better professional after all,” Axelsen said.

To be recognized as a CRC, candidates must successfully complete a captioning workshop provided by NCRA and a skills exam that is a realtime dictation of 180 words per minute on literary matter.

For more information about earning your CRR or CRC or any other NCRA professional certifications, visit NCRA.org/Certification.

The RDR is NCRA’s most prestigious certification

To mark the 2019 Celebrate Certification Month, all through May we will take a look in each week’s JCR Weekly at the certifications offered by NCRA.

Lisa Mayo and Candace Covey

NCRA’s Registered Diplomat Reporter (RDR) is recognized as the Association’s most prestigious certification because it is a direct reflection of the commitment to advancement in a court reporter’s career and professional growth. RDRs are the elite members of the court reporting and captioning field when it comes to experience and knowledge of the latest technology, reporting practices, and professional practices. To date, less than 500 members of NCRA hold the certification.

Earlier this month, Candace Covey, CRR, and Lisa Mayo, CRR, added the RDR certification to their dossiers. Both women are official court reporters for a federal court in Memphis, Tenn., and now represent two of the only three NCRA members who hold the RDR in that town.

“I earned the CRR (Certified Realtime Reporter) to prove to myself I was competent to offer realtime to clients,” said Covey. “I earned the RMR just to prove to myself I was fast enough to be in court. For me the RDR was just a challenge and the next step in the progression,” she said.

“The biggest reason for taking this test was knowing there was one more out there that I hadn’t passed yet,” added Mayo. “There was a constant little voice reminding me it was still hanging out there.” 

It took multiple times for both Covey and Mayo to earn the RDR. For Covey, it was twice. For Mayo the third time was the charm. After taking the test for the first time, Covey said she swore she was not going to pay any more money to fail the tests. “So I bought the books and made Lisa study too,” she noted.

And the feeling they had when they were notified that they passed?

“My immediate thought was I can finally have a hobby!” said Covey, who has been a court reporter since 1996.

“When I walked outside of the testing room, I was so nervous,” Mayo said. “I knew I had done all I could do, but the nerves were still there. Walking to the counter to see the results flipped over, I was all butterflies. There was such joy when I turned it over and saw ‘passed’ on there. I have to admit, I hugged the sweet lady at the counter. To say I was thrilled is an understatement,” added Mayo who has been a court reporter for 30 years. 

Both agree that the benefits of earning the RDR are not just personal but could lead to more opportunities should they ever leave the world of official court reporting. On a personal level, earning the RDR gave each of them a great deal of confidence.

“The RDR has given me a sense of empowerment. I tend to not be very consistent; through getting the RDR I have proven to myself I can stay the course. Even through the fails,” Covey said.  

For Mayo, earning the RDR meant not having to study anymore and like Covey, earning her free time back.

“I feel like each certification has represented a different phase in my career,” she said. “I think this has been a great reminder to my children to keep going for it. What a better example than seeing that their mom took this test three times before passing it. She didn’t give up.”  

Covey and Mayo both agree it is never too late to work on achieving goals and said they would encourage others to never stop investing in themselves.

But first comes the RMR

To be recognized as a RDR, candidates must hold the Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification and have five current and continuous years of membership in the NCRA, as well as pass a written knowledge test that focuses on the areas of technology, reporting practices, and professional practices.

RMRs have demonstrated their ability to produce a high-quality verbatim record. The certification distinguishes stenographic court reporters and captioners who hold it as being among the top contributors to the profession in terms of reporting skills, transcript production, operating practices, and professionalism.

Earning the RMR credential is quite a step forward in a court reporter’s career, especially given the amount of preparation and knowledge that successful candidates must possess to pass. RMRs are among the top stenographic court reporters in the profession and are often offered greater opportunities for challenging and lucrative job assignments. NCRA currently has approximately 3,000 members who hold this prestigious certification.

In February, Theresa Ann Vorkapic, CRR, a court reporter from Geneva, Ill., who works for Esquire Deposition Solutions in Chicago, earned her RMR certification. In March, Diana Osberg, from Malibu, Calif, a court reporter for HG Deposition and Litigation Support, also earned her RMR.

“Becoming a court reporter was undoubtedly one of the best decisions of my life. I am so proud to have earned my certifications and to be a member of a great organization like NCRA which recognizes and fosters the many skills needed to do this job,” said Vorkapic, who has worked as a court reporter for 30 years.

“As an agency owner with a deep respect and admiration for the profession of the Guardian of the Record, and especially with the lightning speed of advancing technology that will continue to be adapted to service our legal community, continuing stenographic acceleration and proficiency is critical to stay abreast, current, and at the top of our game,” added Osberg, who has also worked as a court reporter for 30 years.

For more information about earning your RMR or RDR or any other NCRA professional certifications, visit NCRA.org/Certification.

Pass around the cards and Celebrate Certification Month

NCRA’s Celebrate Certification Month resource page has an array of items members can use to help celebrate their certifications and showcase their high-level skills to current and potential customers and clients, like our new certification and occupation cards.

Members can download the two-sided cards and print them on Avery brand perforated business card paper available at office supply stores. The cards are laid out with 10 to fit on one sheet of paper. They measure three-and-one-half inches wide by two inches tall. The cards are designed to help members creatively share with others more information about what they do and what their certifications mean.

Celebrate Certification Month Business Cards

There are two versions of these cards that feature either ‘May is Celebrate Certification Month’ or  ‘Celebrate Certification Month’ artwork with the website on the front side and two customizable reverse sides that read ‘Are you certified’ or ‘Ask me about my NCRA certification’.

Certification Specific Cards

Certification-specific business cards can be used all yearlong not just during the month of May. Downloadable cards include the RPR, RMR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and the CLVS. The backside of each card includes information about what the certification means and what it takes to earn it. The cards are also customizable. Each of these can be found at the Celebrate Certification Month resource page under the heading Professional Cards.

Occupational Business Cards

Like the certification specific business cards, these cards can also be downloaded and used throughout the year. The front side of these cards include CART provider, Freelance Court Reporter, Legal Videographer, Legislative Court Reporter, Official Court Reporter, and Legislative Court Reporter. The reverse side card includes information about salary potential, a job description, and the required education needed to enter the field. In addition, these can be customized with the user’s name and contact information or be printed with the DiscoverSteno site for more information. Each of these can be found at the Celebrate Certification Month resource page under the heading Professional Cards.

The idea for the cards was the result of similar occupational cards shared with NCRA by Linda C. Larson, RPR, CRI a freelance court reporter firm owner from Carlisle, Pa., and President-Elect of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association (PCRA). Larson said the idea came from a gubernatorial candidate who visited a committee she serves on with her local chamber of commerce. The candidate shared a pack of career cards that featured workforce careers such as different types of engineers, welding, pipefitting, and more.

“When I saw the cards, I thought of court reporting. PCRA has been putting a lot of effort into marketing court reporting to potential students, and I envisioned creating cards with Realtime Broadcast Captioner, CART Reporter, Legislative Reporter, Freelance Reporter, and Official Court Reporter, showcasing the five different types of court reporters,” said Larson.

“As President-Elect of PCRA, I shared the idea for the cards at the next Board meeting and showed them. The Board was enthusiastic about creating some of our own. I was then appointed as the Chairman of the Baseball Card Committee.”

Larson said the committee sought models for the different cards, secured the information for the back sides and then worked with a local print shop to create them. The cards were packed in packs and were officially distributed to members at PCRA’s convention held in April.

“There was quite a bit of interest in the cards,” Larson said. The packets of cards she distributed will be going to career fairs and to individuals interested in learning more about careers in court reporting and captioning.

“I’ve been carrying the cards with me when I work and handing them out to people who show interest in court reporting. Pennsylvania is divided into eight districts, and we have a district director on the board in each area that will also be distributing the cards,” Larson added.

A reminder to NCRA members who want to mark the 2019 Celebrate Certification Month by working toward earning one, from now through May 15, members can save when they register for RPR, RMR, CRR, or CRC skills tests. There’s no better time than certification month to earn a nationally recognized professional certification from NCRA to boost your skills and your career potential. During the special rate offering, students taking the RPR Skills Test will pay $65 for each leg, while members will pay $80 for each RPR or RMR Skills Test leg. In addition, members can take advantage of a discounted price of $180 for the CRR or CRC Skills Tests, while students will pay only $150 for a CRC Skills Test.

Throughout the entire month of May, members can also save an additional 10 percent on all purchases from the NCRA Store when they use the special savings code MAY10.

Be sure to visit the Celebrate Certification Month resource page to choose from the many downloadable materials designed to help NCRA celebrate their certifications.

For more information about the 2019 Celebrate Certification Month, contact pr@ncra.org. Share with NCRA how you celebrate the month by sending information to pr@ncra.org.