Members appreciate convenience of online Written Knowledge Tests

October marked the first time NCRA members and nonmembers had the opportunity to take the Written Knowledge Tests for the RPR, RDR, CLVS, and CRC certifications online through Pearson VUE; and the feedback so far has been positive. The online tests are available four times a year (January, April, July, and October).

The move to offer the WKTs online were the direct result of member feedback requesting the option for convenience, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions hindering in-person opportunities for testing. The decision to move online was made by NCRA’s Certification and Testing team. Feedback from several of the first-time online WKT candidates has ranged from having a smooth and positive experience to excited to receive their test results so quickly as well as receiving pre-test information and instructions that helped ensure they were ready to test and succeed.

“I thought the whole process was great,” said Lauren Richardson, an official court reporter with the Orange County Superior Court in California, who tested online in October. “This was my first time taking the WKT ever, so I have never taken it in-person. I can’t compare to how the in-person process was compared to the new online one, but if I had to choose to take it online versus in-person, I would definitely take it online,” she added.

“The best thing about being able to take the WKT online was I was able to stay in my pajamas. It was so convenient being in the comfort of my own home,” Richardson added.

Allie Hall, RMR, CRR, a full-time official court reporter and court reporting instructor from Tulsa, Okla., agrees that a major benefit to being able to take the WKT online was being able to do so in the comfort of her own home and the comfort of fuzzy socks and pajama pants.

As is common with most first-time endeavors, glitches still happen. Both Hall and Richardson reported that they did experience some issues initially connecting to Pearson VUE’s OnVUE when getting ready to take their tests. According to Hall, she was asked to reschedule her test via the automated chat while she was waiting to log on. However, since she was early, she instead logged off and logged back on as if she were just accessing her test, and she said it worked.

Richardson meanwhile said that she was trying to answer a question and was unable to click any of the options. “All of a sudden, the screen went completely white. There was an option on that white screen to ask a proctor for help. I asked for help immediately, and the proctor resolved the issue right away,” she said.

Richardson and Hall both said they felt very prepared to take their online WKT and offered those taking them online in the future several tips to help them to prepare before they test.

According to Richardson, it is important to make sure the candidate has a strong WiFi connection that is tested beforehand.

“Pearson VUE allows you to do a practice run to make sure you understand the process and to ensure all your equipment is working. Do it. Don’t let anything be a surprise. Also, just stay calm. If a technical error does happen, like it did for me, just relax. Use the proctor option immediately, and they will help you the best they can,” she said

Hall advises candidates to read the materials that are sent to them to familiarize themselves with procedures and be prepared. Also, she reminded candidates to log in 30 minutes early so that they have time to work out any problems with connecting to the proctor.

According to NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification Cynthia Bruce Andrews, the Certification and Testing team have been welcoming feedback from first-time WKT online test takers and have continued to work with Pearson VUE to resolve any issues candidates have reported. Andrews encourages all future WKT online test takers to share their experience and feedback with her via email at candrews@ncra.org. NCRA’s Certification and Testing team are committed to ensuring that all online test takers have the best possible experience when testing.

To sign up for the WKT online tests, candidates will continue to register with NCRA and will receive a con­firmation email within three business days of registering that will include scheduling instructions for the test.

Candidates will schedule their test through www.pearsonvue.com/ncra and log on at their scheduled date and time within our testing window to take their test. Candidates will take their multiple-choice exam online while monitored by Pearson VUE proctors.

Technology requirements and full directions for the new online testing are available at NCRA.org/WKT. NCRA will continue to send all official results within four weeks of the close of our testing window via the email address on file with NCRA.

The next registration period is Dec. 1–31 for the Jan. 7–21, 2021, testing period. For more information or to register, visit NCRA.org/WKT.

Friday nights bring CRR practice and inspiration

By Margary Rogers

I started the free “It Pays to Phrase: CRR Practice, Prep & Motivation” practice group, which included four hour-long practice sessions held on Friday nights from 8 to 9 p.m.

So why did I start it? Because I know many of us are eagerly striving to pass the CRR test and because I know that realtime is the heartbeat of our profession. Stenographers desire to write the best that we can and acquire one of the greatest stenographic accomplishments, becoming a Certified Realtime Reporter.

Also, during this pandemic, it is great camaraderie to practice together. During our practices, we have fun. We share briefs and phrases and receive great advice and motivation from some of the best reporters in our profession.

We had 75 court reporters and students sign up for the “CRR Practice, Prep & Motivation” practice sessions. The participants were very professional, showed up on time, and were always on mute when they needed to be. They were eager to practice, eager to learn, and they were always in great spirits.

Truthfully, I was nervous when I saw all these people signing up for the practice. It was 30 people, 40 people, 50 people, 60 people, 70 people. I said to Ronda Thomas, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Catonsville, Md., my right-hand partner in serving on the Maryland Court Reporters Association Board, “What did I get myself into?” We laughed, and she said, “You are going to do fine. I will help you.” So Ronda helped with preparation and management of some of the practice sessions.

Eventually, I calmed down when I remembered why I was led to create this practice group. It’s for the betterment of my peers, my profession — and of our paychecks.

I am so thankful to the NCRA testing and certification team: Cynthia Andrews, Senior Director of Education and Certification; Amy Davidson, Director of Certification and Testing, and their entire team. They took time out of their busy schedules to create a special CRR Prep PowerPoint video with audio specifically for the “CRR Practice, Prep & Motivation” practice group. It can’t get any better than that, hearing directly from the NCRA testing team.

I am so thankful to the four awesome motivational speakers who said yes when I asked them to be speakers at my practice sessions. Three of the speakers are CRRs, well-known and sought-after speakers in our profession, and they have a history of providing great advice and motivation to students and reporters. The CRR speakers were Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, a captioner in Boise, Idaho; Kim Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, an official in Arlington, Texas; and Ronda Thomas, president of Maryland Court Reporters Association. And then we had the queen of Realtime Coach, Marybeth Everhart, who always brings laughter and calm to us every time she speaks.

For the first 10 to 15 minutes of the four practice sessions, one of the four speakers provided helpful CRR tips, motivation, software tips, and some real talk regarding passing the CRR examination. There were so many great nuggets we learned. One thing that we learned that some participants did not realize is that we can take the CRR test in ALL CAPS! Wow! This information is also listed in the “CRR What is an Error?” documentation. We learned so much invaluable information from those four speakers.

After each motivational speaker finished their talk, we began to practice. We practiced CRR practice dictation using Realtime Coach and Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR) Practice Sessions CDs. I also created some “It Pays to Phrase” handouts that included lots of frequently used phrases in testimony dictation. I also created a “It Pays to Phrase” job titles handout. We practiced on our machines for at least 45 minutes per session.

I am so thankful to Marybeth Everhart and Kelli Mulcahy, president of the United States Court Reporters Association (USCRA) for allowing me to use their practice material from Realtime Coach and the FCRR Practice Series during the practice sessions.

Realtime Coach is such a great tool for students and reporters for evaluating writing skills and progress. In Realtime Coach, we were able to adjust the speeds of the 200 wpm CRR practice dictation up to 220 wpm. I tried not to take the speeds more than 20 wpm past the speed we were trying to obtain for the CRR.

FCRR Practice Series CDs are also great tools to practice to. They contain some great court-related material, which include lots of job titles and drug names such as sergeant, lieutenant, special agent, corporal, methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine.

I am thankful for my creativity and my love for event planning. I am a person who loves to squeeze in a party or a fun event at any given moment. So I thought let’s add some music to our practice at the end, and that is what we did. I wanted the practice sessions to be educational, motivational and, most of all, fun. At the end of our 45 minutes of steno practice, we had some well-deserved fun. We wrote and danced to some music. I thought it was a good idea to end our night on a great note. On our first day of practice, which was the day before Halloween, we wrote and danced to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.

Since our practices were on Fridays, we also wrote and danced to Just Got Paid by Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainor, and Sigala, as well as Just Got Paid by Johnny Kemp. On our last Friday of practice, since the holidays are approaching, we wrote to The Twelve Days of Christmas which was fun and hilarious to write to (if you know how many times the song repeats itself).

I am thankful for the editors of the CRR Practice, Prep & Motivation flyer: Susan Watts, RPR, and Diane Salters, RPR.

I am thankful to all participants who wrote in the Zoom chats that they were thankful that I created the practice. They were thankful to have the opportunity to attend and learn. They were thankful for the speakers. They were thankful for the time and the order of the practice sessions. They were thankful to Marybeth and Realtime Coach. They were thankful to Kelli Mulcahy, RDR, CRR, an official in Des Moines, Iowa, for the FCRR Practice Series dictation. They were so thankful and appreciative that many of them asked that the practice continue.

So guess what our Friday night practice sessions will continue, starting on Friday, Jan. 22, same time, same place, 8 to 9 p.m. We also plan to add “Sunday Inspirational Practice” starting Jan. 24, which will include inspirational speeches, sermons, and songs. Email Sluwcerts@gmail.com to join us.

Don’t forget to sign up for our Court Reporter (KROERP) Karaoke on Fridays, Dec. 4 and 11, via Zoom, same time, same place, 8 to 9 p.m. Sign up by emailing sluwcerts@gmail.com.

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, is an official court reporter in Washington, D.C. Her email is mfrogers1@gmail.com.

Safety first in prep and conducting exams

CLVS Council members Robert Butcher, Tim Janes, David Jenkins, Mindy Sindiong,
and Andrea Kreutz

In preparation for the Fall CLVS Production Exam, NCRA staff took great measures to ensure the safety and health of everyone attending were at the forefront of planning. Following state COVID guidance, all staff, CLVS Council members, and attendees were required to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and adhere to designated room occupancy loads. In addition, all in attendance were required to sign a personal health self-assessment before entering the NCRA offices. The assessments required attendees to confirm that they had been fever-free for more than 48 hours prior to entering the NCRA offices, that they possessed a face covering, that they washed and or sanitized their hands upon arrival, they were not living or caring for a COVID patient, and they were not sick.

Other safety precautions included mandating that candidates for the exam arrive no earlier than their assigned time, sign a COVID-19 disclosure regarding testing requirements, have their temperatures checked upon check-in, and bring their own headsets. NCRA provided everyone in attendance with latex free gloves.

Thanks to the safety steps taken by NCRA staff, CLVS Council members who attended said they were very comfortable administering the hands-on workshop held prior to the exam as well as administering the exam itself.

“I was very comfortable. Masks were required. We wiped down all tables, chairs, and equipment between each testing candidate. Hand sanitizer was readily available and used often. I never felt that my health was at risk,” said CLVS Council member Andrea Kreutz, CLVS, from Des Moines, Iowa.

“The CLVS Council discussed with our national team the extra personal protection equipment that would be necessary to make sure the CDC guidelines were followed. Once we arrived, we walked through each protocol to verify we knew the best procedures to maintain everyone’s safety,” she added.

“I was perfectly comfortable working at NCRA headquarters. Everyone worked together as a team to sanitize and observe physical distancing protocols,” said CLVS Council member Robert Butcher, CLVS, from Lakewood, Colo.

Butcher, who also holds NCRA’s Trial Presentation Professional certificate, said it was important for him to attend in person because of the opportunity it provides to allow council members to work with and test candidates in a hands-on manner and be able to evaluate them in person.

“I did not hear any safety concerns expressed by any testing candidates,” he added, echoing Kreutz’s belief that the candidates could see the measures taken were to protect everyone attending.

“We also made sure to allow for social distancing within the exam room itself.  In years past, the mock deponent and attorneys would sit closely together. This year’s test gave an accurate representation of current COVID distancing in depositions,” Kreutz noted.

“I believe the candidates felt we were taking as many precautions as possible with the hand sanitizer being readily available, along with a fresh mask and getting their temperature taken,” added CLVS Council Chair Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, from Lawrenceburg, Ind. “It all seemed very smooth and organized.”

As for the spring 2021 CLVS Production Exam, members of the CLVS Council agree they will be ready.

According to Kruetz, the council will continue to work diligently with NCRA staff to protect all parties. “We will closely monitor the CDC guidelines as they change and are hopeful that we can provide a safe, comfortable environment for the testing process,” she said.

“Be confident that we are all in this together. The CLVS Council takes safety seriously and we will continue to observe any local restriction and health safety requirements,” Butcher added.

“We have an amazing group of professionals who care about the industry and the CLVS standards we operate by. I am encouraged as we move forward in this new COVID/post-COVID world, that we will find legal video and legal tech services become more critical than ever in the legal process,” he said.

“It is because of this CLVS must rise to the challenge. I am confident as the CLVS Council continues to work together, re-writing study and testing materials, this council will elevate the industry and our standards to the next level, strengthening the industry and our role within the legal process. We must be forward thinking and persevere even in the face of current challenges. We hope to see you in Spring 2021,” Butcher added.

It’s a great time to watch fan favorite Connect sessions

Five of the fan favorite sessions from NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 conference are available as e-sessions for purchase, offering a great opportunity to earn CEUs to anyone who needs to maintain certifications or just upgrade the skills they need to continue working in this new era.

If you are interested in gadgets, don’t miss Reporters and Gadgets and Apps — Oh, My! presented by Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, a freelancer in Memphis, Tenn.

“Want to fill your need to embrace gadgets and apps and ease them into your workflow?” Mueller said. “My Connect Virtual webinar may be just what you’re looking for! I’m so honored that this session is a fan favorite and being offered to court reporters who couldn’t attend the convention this year!”

Mueller said she is careful about which apps and gadgets make her list.

“The criteria must be that they are unique and must do something that cannot be done with a different app or gadget or it does it better and more efficiently and, also, it must help with my court reporting workflow,” she said. “This learning session covers so many awesome recommendations — from remote depositions to microphones to headphones and many more!”

Watch Mueller’s Instagram account, @omegareporting, for details about a new contest she is running related to her presentation. It ends Nov. 14.

Another session features Rene White Moarefi, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Houston, Texas, who presented about marking exhibits. She said, “You will learn how to confidently mark exhibits electronically with ease!”

The cost for each session is $55 for members and $79 for nonmembers. Each of the sessions are worth 0.1 CEU.

Five e-sessions from the NCRA Connect Virtual 2020 conference are being offered:

Reporters and Gadgets and Apps — Oh, My!

Presented by Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR

Learn to be self-sufficient, productive, efficient, and courageous in your everyday professional life! Lynette Mueller will share the gadgets, apps, and other resources that assist her to meet the many challenges that may arise in the deposition or courtroom setting. She will also talk about the workflow she uses after the job — work smarter, not harder!

Ethics Jeopardy

Presented by Andrea Kreutz , CLVS; Mindy Sindiong, CLVS; LaJuana Pruitt, CLVS; and Tim Janes, CLVS

This session is presented as an educational game show where contestants answered everyday videographer scenarios. Categories include Remote Depositions, The Secret World, and It’s Not That Kind of Video.

Just Okay is NOT Okay; Is YOUR Realtime Good Enough?

Presented by Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

While realtime does not mean perfection, how do you know if your realtime measures up as a sellable product? Let’s look beyond the gray and examine concrete, real-world examples of what is great, good, and just okay. Just because you can read through it doesn’t mean that your clients can. Anissa Nierenberger will debunk untranslate rate myths and other misperceptions about quality realtime. She’ll also provide solutions to common stacking and easy brief ideas, as well as explain why you should be editing in a way that school never taught you! If you’ve felt “in the dark” regarding realtime standards, you won’t want to miss this presentation!

Social Media Bootcamp

Presented by Cathy O’Neal

What social media should I use? When should I post? How often? What should I say? Do I have to answer every stupid comment? Can’t someone else just do it for me? Social media can be just one more chore, or it can help you gain visibility, reputation, and clients. Learn the who, what, when, where, and why of social media from a seasoned communications pro who has a 3.2 million Facebook reach! Weed out the stuff you don’t need, focus on the stuff you do need, and walk away from the session with action items you can use right away to start building the social media presence you want.

Marking Exhibits Electronically for Remote Proceedings

Presented by Rene White Moarefi, RPR, CRR

This session will cover the steps for marking exhibits electronically during remote proceedings, including download and setup of electronic exhibit stamps.

For more information or to purchase any of these sessions, click here.

Make plans for the Exam Retention Policy

In May 2018, NCRA announced to members that a new Exam Retention Policy was recommended by the Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (CAPR) and would be implemented in October 2018.

Under this policy, any person with an existing history of passed educational components or passed tests will have three years to complete the remaining components and earn their certifications. Translation: All pre-existing passed test histories (any earned prior to Oct. 1, 2018) will have an expiration date of Nov. 1, 2021. Beginning with the start of the Exam Retention Policy, any person passing a required education component or a Skills or Written Knowledge Test has an expiration of three years from the date of the official pass.

Despite the 2021 deadline being more than a year away, time passes quickly, and NCRA wants to make sure its members are aware of and understand the policy’s requirements.

NCRA places a high value on the standards it sets for the professional certifications it offers. The three-year time requirement on completing the components needed to earn a certification reflects this commitment and also aligns the Association’s policies with certification best practices.

A look back: Why the change?

CAPR, which is responsible for the development and administration of continuing education programs and credential examinations, reviewed the current policy, which allowed Skills Tests (SKT) and Written Knowledge Tests (WKT) scores to remain valid indefinitely. Members of the Council made the recommendation to place a three-year requirement on completing the components needed to earn a certification. Benefits of the Exam Retention Policy are that candidates are highly likely to maintain their skills while completing all requirements and that candidates will be more likely to pass all requirements for reporter certifications because their skills (speed and/or accuracy levels) will be at their highest.

How it works

Under the Exam Retention Policy, candidates for certification who have taken any mandatory certification education requirements or passed any SKTs or WKTs prior to Oct. 1, 2018,  have until Nov. 1, 2021, to pass the remainder of requirements for the certification for which those requirements apply.

Passing test scores will expire after three years if a candidate fails to complete the additional requirements to earn that certification. If an education component/test score expires, the candidate will need to repeat the education component or successfully retest before being able to earn the certification.

Have additional questions? View the Exam Retention Policy FAQs.

Court reporter earns national certification

The San Diego Union-Tribune posted a press release on Sept. 10 issued by NCRA announcing that Erica Varquez of Carlsbad has earned her Registered Professional Reporter certification.

Read more.

Taking exams in lockdown

By Leah Willersdorf

As I write this, here in the United Kingdom I am coming toward the end of week 12 of having had no work due to the pandemic. It is what it is. But what’s a girl to do when she knows no different to travelling the world with her passport in one hand and pulling her steno machine (and numerous iPads) along in the other? Why, sit down at home and  practice every day, of course. Well, almost every day.

I began by taking down our governmental daily briefings on TV and adding plenty of new words to my dictionary. Then, as COVID-19 well and truly took hold of London, I realised that I had to settle in for the long haul and had to find better ways to practice because, to be honest, I didn’t want to hear about COVID day in and day out. And so it was on 28 April I decided to register for the RPR.

I am a Australian reporter who has lived in London for 25 years and have been accredited with the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters for as long as I can remember and have also passed their Qualified Realtime Reporter (QRR) exams at levels 1 and 2, but I have never taken an online exam before in any country and I have to say I was a little worried that the online platforms would be my downfall, not my actual skill. The only exams I have ever taken have been in a room with other stenographers, which isn’t exactly a silent affair, but to be able to do it in the comfort of your own home was a novel experience, that’s for sure, and, boy, did I have a few experiences!

I bought the SmartPrep package for the exams on Realtime Coach. I was unfamiliar with this platform but soon got used to it. I will say that in some of the pieces, the errors it gives are incorrect, but if you see one, please, please take a screenshot of it and the practice session you’re in, and send it to the folks at Realtime Coach so they can correct the text. If they’re not told, they will never know. In total, I think I sent five through.

I practiced for varying times each day, except weekends. One day I sat down to do it for an hour, only to look at the clock and realise that three hours had gone by. It really is quite addictive. And fun! But isn’t steno anyway?!

I did my exams on three consecutive Fridays during May, the Celebrate Certifications month. First up was the jury charge. I had done the proctored practice test, which gives you the exact experience of the examination process. Well, not so exact because I didn’t have all those belly butterflies that we get in exam situations. First off, during this situation we are living in, do expect to wait for a technician. On exam day, I waited for just under an hour, which, yes, is prolonging the exam angst, and then I was transferred from technician to technician to technician, which further added to it, but it can’t be helped; so please do be prepared that that may happen to you and that also taking a proctored practice test is highly recommended.

When I finally was assigned a proctor, he didn’t verbalise his instructions like the one on the proctored practice did; instead, he used the chat box. I guess it was plausible that could happen, but it hadn’t entered my mind because I was expecting the exact process as the proctored practice. Then, at one point, somehow when he was taking control of my computer and doing stuff, my task bar at the bottom of my screen disappeared, as did the chat box. Because I had no task bar, I didn’t know how to minimise the screen to see if the chat box was sitting behind it. I began to panic a little. All of a sudden, the task bar came back, and the chat box was there so I was able to follow his instructions. Talk about a little extra stress when you’ve already been waiting for a while. Still, it was time to do the exam, so all of that went by the by.

Moral of this story: Stay calm. Let the proctor do their thing. Keep an eye on that chat box. Breathe.

Outcome: Jury charge passed 99 percent.

Next up was the testimony portion. Now au fait with both the Realtime Coach and ProctorU platforms, it was just a matter of practicing until the big day and taking each step of the process as it came. One and a half hours before I was due to log in to the ProctorU site, I heard a drilling noise in my surroundings. I live in the middle floor of a three-storey block of six flats. There’s been nobody upstairs during the pandemic as it was being renovated, but exam day, of all days, they decided they needed to pop in and do a few bits and pieces. I went upstairs and politely asked when they would be finished and explained that I was doing an exam. Well, the drilling would be finished but the carpet fitter was due midway through my exam apparently. Thankfully, I didn’t hear a peep.

However, I did have a technical issue when uploading my transcript where it seemed to get stuck in a loop; you know the kind when the wheel just goes round and round and round. And round. After last week’s loss-of-task-bar panic stations and being a little unnerved by the technician, this surely could not be happening! I found myself wondering if it doesn’t correct itself, what’s the worst thing that could happen here. I don’t pass? Well, I can’t pass if I can’t upload a transcript, right? I’d just have to resit the exam, so not the end of the world, just a bit of a hassle. Before admitting technical defeat to what turned out to be an issue on my end, unbeknownst to me, I contacted my proctor via the chat box because my instinct was telling me to refresh the page. The proctor said not to, and I absolutely had to be guided by her. Time was ticking by, but I had 54 minutes to go when I first started in the loop de loop, and 20ish had already passed. She went away, made a few enquiries with her manager, and I was able to email my transcript to the NCRA, along with my steno notes, all under the guidance and view of the proctor. Phewy, I won’t have to sit it again after all! Or so I thought.

Moral of this story: Don’t get flustered if you experience a technical issue. Stop and think. Listen to your proctor’s advice. Breathe.

Outcome: Found out on 8 June that my exam was not able to be graded because, in my haste, I uploaded a practice test.

Moral of the outcome: Don’t get flustered. Don’t kick yourself. Just accept you’ll have to sit it again. You know you can do it!

And, finally, the last Friday of May 2020 saw me take the literary leg. I was due to log into ProctorU at 1:20 p.m., and so I spent my morning practicing, using the Internet Explorer browser, and running equipment tests. All was A-OK. Well, it was from about 8.30 a.m. to 10.29 a.m., but at 10.30 I figured I’d open up RTC in Chrome using my NCRA credentials. I couldn’t navigate in Chrome and so I went back to IE. Nothing. Got out my second laptop and tried the same thing. Nope. The internet at large was playing games with me. I knew something had to happen today because of the last two exams, but I got through those and I would get through this. So I then tried my desktop and it was the same. I couldn’t even get onto the NCRA website nor RTC’s. I messaged a friend and asked her if she could get on because maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t a Leah issue but an issue with their websites. Ha! Of course I didn’t really believe that. I turned the wifi off on my phone and was able to use the 4G, so I then knew it had to be my fibre optic broadband. I turned everything off, put the kettle on to make a cuppa and then set up my mobile router I take to depositions (just in case the law firm’s wifi is miserable). I straightaway tested my equipment on ProctorU. Mifi to the rescue!! I kept the home router off, as well as all but one computer, in order to do the exam. Potential disaster #1 diverted. Breathe.

But then – what, there’s more? – at midday the gardeners turned up with their strimmers to trim the hedges. Okay, fine, I have one hour and 20 minutes until I need to log on. Surely they’ll be done in time. Oh, but then they had to get the blower out to blow the strimmings. And so it was with three minutes 30 seconds to spare, the strimmers stopped, the blowers blew out, and potential disaster #2 was also diverted. I took one last sip of water, put my machine in test mode, and as I watched that counter go down to start my session, I imagined hearing the words “Ready. Begin,” with all my internet/gardening issues now well and truly behind me.

Moral of this story: Take each obstacle which comes your way one at a time. Have a backup for your internet because you may just have to reschedule the exam if you don’t. Thank your gardeners.

Outcome: Literary passed 99 percent.

To anybody taking exams soon or in future, I found Realtime Coach and ProctorU easy-to-use platforms. In the exam process, take your time and don’t rush. Easier said than done, I know. I took big, deep breaths before pressing Play. There’s no time limit before pressing that Play button, not that I could see anyway. Relax, breathe, and focus. Close your eyes if you have to. I did.

I do wish they graded these transcription exams with a decimal point; after all, that’s what we are looking at every day if we have our stats up on our software screen. For example, say you got 94.8 percent, and the pass is 95 percent, a decimal point grading gives you an exact idea of where you are on that spectrum between 94 and 95, i.e., sooo close, and that in itself can be a huge boost to your confidence.

UPDATE 08/24/20: As we enter Week 24 of the pandemic here, I am delighted to say that not only did I pass the testimony leg in mid-July at 98 percentAND it was free of any incidents — but two days after that, I traveled into central London for the first time in months (an eerie feeling) where I sat and passed the WKT. I honestly did not think I was successful.  As I walked toward the man on reception, I was shaking my head and giving a thumbs down, but even behind his mask I could tell he was smiling.

My tips for the WKT:  Get a good night’s sleep. Read the questions and the answers. Sounds obvious, I know.

Before all of this, the only kind of long haul I’d experienced was flights, but in a way I have to thank the London lockdown for getting me well on the way to my RPR. The CRR is already booked for September!

Leah Willersdorf is a freelance court reporter and captioner based in London. She can be reached at courtreporterlondon@gmail.com.

Written Knowledge Tests move online

NCRA is excited to announce candidates will soon be able to take our Written Knowledge Tests from the comfort of the location you choose. Starting with our October 2020 Written Knowledge Tests, all WKTs will be given online through Pearson Vue four times a year (January, April, July, October). That’s right! It’s now possible to take your Written Knowledge Test online through Pearson Vue. Registration is open Sept. 1-30 to sign up to take the online WKT from Oct. 8-22.

Member feedback requesting online options and the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for in-person opportunities for testing solidified NCRA’s Certification and Testing team’s plans to expedite changes to the administration of our Written Knowledge Tests.

Candidates will continue to register with NCRA for their test and receive a con­firmation email within three business days of registering that will include scheduling instructions for the test.

Candidates will schedule their test through www.pearsonvue.com/ncra and log on at their scheduled date and time within our testing window to take their test. Candidates will take their multiple-choice exam online while monitored by Pearson Vue proctors.

“COVID-19 has us expediting several initiatives we had planned for 2021. By switching to online testing, we will be able to offer all WKTs giving candidates more opportunities to test throughout the year,” said Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification. “The online testing instructions are a little different than the Skills Test; therefore, candidates are encouraged to read the instructions thoroughly,” she added.

“I believe NCRA’s decision to move the RDR, RPR, CLVS, and CRC tests fully online will result in more people earning those certifications,” said Brook Nunn, RPR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Boise, Idaho.

“Simply put, it’s just more convenient. If we can take the Skills Tests online, the Written Tests should be even more straightforward. This is a win for everyone!” she added.

Technology requirements and full directions for the new online testing are available at NCRA.org/wkt. NCRA will continue to send all official results within four weeks of the close of our testing window via the email address on file with NCRA.

Caption Masters program offers new opportunity for experienced CRC candidates

NCRA has announced that the Caption Masters program is now a prequalified training course for the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC). For certification candidates who are experienced in the field, the addition of the Caption Masters program as an alternative to NCRA’s mandatory CRC workshop offers a new learning opportunity in meeting the requirements to earn the nationally recognized professional certification. Candidates completing the Caption Masters Training program from 2018 forward are eligible to take advantage of this new opportunity.

“NCRA is happy to announce this new opportunity for aspiring captioners pursuing the CRC credential. We recognize that the Caption Masters program provides training that further expands a candidate’s captioning skills,” said Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA Senior Director of Education & Certification.

“At a time when professionally trained captioners are in extremely high demand, I’m excited to help reporters transition into captioning with LearnToCaption.com’s 16-week Caption Masters course. Taking and passing the CRC exam after the course will open doors to endless opportunities,” said Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, a captioner from Boise, Idaho, and owner of Caption Masters.

To earn the NCRA CRC certification, candidates must either complete the CRC Workshop or take the Caption Masters training program, as well as pass the NCRA Written Knowledge Test (WKT) and an online skills test for the CRC, which consists of literary matter at 180 words per minute.

The NCRA CRC Workshop is 10-and-a-half hours of online captioning education and is designed to prepare candidates relatively new to the captioning field for the CRC Written Knowledge Test, while the Caption Masters program provides a more intense curriculum of learning geared toward more experienced candidates.

Learn more information about the CRC certification and its requirements at NCRA.org/certification.

Attention Online Skills or Written Knowledge Test candidates

NCRA members and nonmembers registering for Online Skills Tests or Written Knowledge Tests this month are urged to read before they register to make sure they are fully prepared to test in July.

Online Skills Tests

Registration for Online Skills Tests for the RSR, RPR, RMR, CRR, and CRC certifications is open now through June 20 with testing dates available July 1 through 20.

Online Skills Test candidates should note that an external webcam is required for online testing. Be aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge demand for webcams. Given this information, candidates should not register to test unless they have an external webcam to use and have completely read all of the technical requirements needed to test online.

Once candidates register with NCRA, they will receive a confirmation email from Realtime Coach within three business days. Their confirmation email will contain scheduling information for their test. Candidates are reminded upon receipt of their confirmation to schedule their test. All tests must be scheduled 72 hours in advance. If you do not receive a confirmation email within three business days of registration, please contact testing@ncra.org.

Online Skills Candidates should note:

  • Candidates are encouraged to schedule their tests as soon as possible. There are a finite number of appointments available on each day, and they are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Wait times may be longer than normal and during peak times may be up to 30 minutes.
  • Candidates are encouraged to test their equipment prior to exam day and should take advantage of doing a proctored practice exam to aid in this process.

NCRA’s Testing Department is collaborating with ProctorU to do everything conceivable to keep wait times as low as possible, but the current COVID-19 situation has created extenuating circumstances. Connection times with proctors may be longer than the less-than-15-minutes normal and could average 30 minutes or more due to the increased demand. For more information contact testing@ncra.org.

Written Knowledge Tests

Registration for the Written Knowledge Tests for the RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS certifications is open now through June 30 with testing available July 9-23. Candidates are urged to schedule the WKT with Pearson VUE, NCRA’s testing partner, upon receipt of their confirmation email with scheduling instructions. Please note that although additional testing centers have been added, the capacity at centers has been reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions. Scheduling early gives candidates the best chance at getting a slot at the testing center most convenient to their location. Be sure to visit https://home.pearsonvue.com/ncra for the listing of test center locations.

NCRA’s Certification and Testing Team would like to wish the best of luck to all of our candidates testing in July!