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!

Facebook group celebrates certifications

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, recently started the Facebook group Stenographers Leveling up with Certifications. She talked to the JCR Weekly about what she hoped to accomplish with the group.

JCR | What gave you the idea for the group?

MR | The main reason I created this group is to encourage stenographers, including myself, to level up and take and successfully pass certifications tests. I wanted to provide a safe space for test-takers. There are many reporters who fear taking tests; many are embarrassed that they haven’t passed tests after many tries. I also wanted experienced reporters who obtained the highest level of certifications to join the group to encourage, train, mentor, and provide answers to questions that many reporters have. I want reporters to know that we are all in this together and that we have to help each other and celebrate each other when we fail and when we pass. This is a no-judgment-zone group. We learn from each other and support each other.

I am also a Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI). So I, along with other test-taking experts and highly decorated certificate holders, post test-taking tips, online testing tips, and test practice links. I also like to keep members of the group abreast of what tests are being offered and registration dates. Even though NCRA sends out weekly reminders of events, I thought having a page specifically based on certifications will keep people focused on their goal of obtaining certifications.

JCR | What do you hope to accomplish with the group?

MR | I firmly believe in teamwork. My desire is to have all members share test-taking strategies, common test-taking mistakes, post pictures of testing set-ups, how they prepare for tests, provide practice material, tips on how to write smarter, and discuss smart software settings. I want to hear good reports. I want to hear: “I passed the test that I have been trying to pass for the last five years.” I want to hear: “Ok, I am going to take an online test for the first time.” We also like to celebrate and acknowledge members when they pass tests and become certified. We want to celebrate every stenographic testing achievement and lessons learned.

What’s really ironic is at the time I created and launched this page on March 6, 2020, I had no idea that NCRA had a Celebrate Certification Month. When I realized May was Celebrate Certification Month and May 1 was the first day of online testing, I thought I have to do something big to celebrate the month with this group. We have to get some great, well-respected, certified leaders to come and encourage the members of this group during this month.

NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI

The first thought I had was, who is better than the president of NCRA, along with the leadership team, to encourage Stenographers Leveling up with Certifications members about obtaining certifications. I was very excited and honored to have President Max Curry, RPR, CRI; President-Elect Christine Phipps, RPR; Vice-President Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC; and Immediate-Past President Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, join our Celebrate Certification Month Zoom events during the month of May. They all provided great advice. They were all down-to-earth and realistic.

Kim Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, a highly experienced court reporter who has obtained many NCRA certifications, was also one of our speakers for our Zoom event. She gave great test-taking advice, and she has also contributed to our group by giving encouraging words to our members.

Another reason that I created the group is because I have always been concerned about the disparity with stenographers of color not having court reporting certifications and realtime certifications. I also recognized that some freelance reporters had more of a hustler mentality, and some officials had more of a complacent mentality or are more comfortable with the status quo, me included. I have also been concerned about not seeing reporters of color participating/represented in Speed and Realtime contests.

JCR | What is your personal certification story?

MR | The certificate that I am most proud of is my Bachelor of Science degree in court reporting from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, which I earned in 2000. I have also obtained the RPR and the CRI, which are NCRA certifications, and I also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator. I am geared up now and hoping to pass the RMR and CRC between now, 2020, and 2021.

JCR | Are you welcoming new members to the group?

MR | The group is always open to new members, members who would like to learn more about obtaining certifications, receive alerts about when online test registration opens and closes, and helpful tips about taking tests online. We also focus on writing cleaner to pass the CRC and CRR tests, writing “Real Realtime” as Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, says. Anissa is one of the top contributors to our page. She’s phenomenal. She’s very quick to answer questions that are posed by members of the group. I truly appreciate her and everyone else that contributes to the page to help others.

We also welcome contributors, coaches, and highly decorated, experienced certificate holders to help, train, and encourage those of us who are working toward earning certs. On our page, we have a mentorship program where experienced reporters with certifications are matched up with reporters who want or need help to level up.

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, is an official court reporter in Washington, D.C.

Former court reporter celebrates her CLVS certification

Chandler Alvino, left, and Deborah Alvino, RPR, CRR, CRC, CLVS

Deborah Alvino, RPR, CRR, CRC — and CLVS — has been a member of NCRA for about 20 years. A former official and freelance court reporter who holds several professional certifications marking her stenographic skills, Alvino said she was motivated to earn the CLVS certification after a car accident that left her with torn cartilage in her wrist that required two surgeries to repair the damage.

Today she works as a full-time legal videographer and is owner of Coastal Legal Video Specialists, in Pismo Beach, Calif., a firm that provides an array of video services, including depositions, synchronized video with a reporter’s transcripts, day-in-the-life videos, video mediation documents, last will and testament recording, construction videos, sworn statements, and more. Her firm has clients in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

“I had been an official and then freelance reporter for 15 years and just got certified as a broadcast captioner, but I was not able to report after nerve damage caused by one of the wrist surgeries,” Alvino said. 

“I really missed reporting and seeing my wonderful reporter friends, so I reinvented myself, got trained and certified as a CLVS, and started Coastal Legal Video Specialists on the central coast of California in 2012,” which she notes has now become a family affair. 

“My son Dalton and my daughter Chandler have since joined me in the business. After being a videographer for a year, Chandler decided to go to court reporting school also and is now a high-speed student getting ready to take the RPR test and then the California CSR. I’m so proud of her and so happy that we will have another excellent reporter soon,” she added.

Alvino said she uses her videography skills on a daily basis, whether she’s in a deposition (or now working remotely during quarantine), at a site inspection, will signing, press release for a law firm, or a judicial awards ceremony.

She said the greatest benefit of earning her CLVS certification is being recognized as a trained, qualified professional in her field by reporting agencies and attorneys, since not all videographers know about legal video procedures, technology, ethics, or even how to act in a legal setting. 

“I would encourage others to earn the CLVS certification because you never know when you may need the skills, even if you are primarily still reporting.  I absolutely love working alongside my reporter friends and helping make their jobs a little easier by providing great audio, the best chair in the office, looking up spellings, and giving them just any support that they need.”

Certifications show pride in the profession

Jason T. Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

In honor of Celebrate Certification Month, the JCR Weekly reached out to two esteemed veteran NCRA members to find out what impact earning professional certifications has had on the success of their careers. We heard from Jason T. Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Fort Collins, Colo., and NCRA Director; and Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Chicago, Ill., and frequent participant in state, national, and international speed and realtime contests. Here’s what they had to say:

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

Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR

DU | I sat for the Illinois CSR in September of 1969. This is my 51st year in reporting.

JM | Forty-five years. Three-and-a-half years as a voice reporter for courts-martial, the rest in steno years as official and freelance with a smattering of captioning jobs.

JCR | At what point in your career did you begin pursuing your NCRA certifications?

DU | In my third year, 1972, I took and passed both the Certificate of Proficiency and Certificate of Merit on the same day. Back then, it was very casual, no need even to sign up in advance. And I received these cool pins with the “flying hand” holding a quill. The CP had a little red gemstone; the CM had a little diamond chip. Sadly, I have no idea what happened to them.

JM | Immediately after reporting school.

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn these certifications?

DU | The firm where I worked at the time had two merit writers out of maybe 30 reporters. That fact stood out to me, and I held them in high esteem. I was so young, a rookie surrounded by accomplished and experienced reporters. Attaining the CM was one way of measuring up to reporters who represented the gold standard in my sphere. 

JM | To qualify for the work I wanted. To demonstrate to the world at large that I had the needed qualifications to do the work.

JCR | How valuable have these certifications been to you and your career?

DU | Having the CM was a source of great pride and confidence in my abilities. It was the pinnacle before realtime and the CRR and meant that I had proven myself capable of any assignment that came my way. It gave me the confidence to start my own firm, which I did in 1985. After typing and dictating transcripts for 11 years, I went to CAT in 1980. Once the CRR was introduced, I had to have it! 

JM | Essential. The RPR allowed me to work as an official in Colorado. The CRR was required for my first international realtime assignments. The then-CCP, now CRC, was required for many weeks, over the course of years, of captioning work that I did in Alaska.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to pursue certification? 

DU | Do it for yourself. Do everything you can to be a professional: your appearance, your comportment, your level of skill that is on display.  

JM | Good first impressions are critical. If your first impression when seeking work is certifiably proving that you possess the necessary skills, it’s a good one.

JCR | What would you say is the greatest benefit of holding professional certifications?   

DU | The key words here are “professional” and “confident.” You are a confident professional when you strive to prove you are the best that you can be in your chosen field. 

JM | Pride in profession and professional competence. Increased hiring potential.

Registered Skilled Reporter certification seen by candidates as a confidence launcher

In January 2020, NCRA launched the Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR), a new certification designed to serve as a stepping-stone for aspiring court reporters or those returning to the profession who have not yet gotten their speeds up enough to earn the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification.

For those who earn it, the RSR certification offers the prestige of an NCRA certification; demonstrates their ability to hold a verified level of skill to current and potential clients, current and potential employers, and fellow reporters; and offers them a foothold on the path to growing their skills by earning additional certifications in the future.

Giana Di Nella

“After being out of school for court reporting since 2013 and leaving my machine shortly after, I randomly had a desire to get back into court reporting,” said Giana Di Nella from Chicago, Ill., who will be testing for the RSR this month.

“It just so happened to be that this new certification was being offered. I was excited to test and pass two out of the three legs shortly after. I think it’s wonderful that the RSR gives you the same testing experience as the RPR and grows your confidence in testing and your writing while earning a few more letters after your name at the same time.”

Di Nella  said she finished school at 200 words per minute in 2013 at Prince Institute in Schaumburg, Ill. She later enrolled in the court reporting program at MacCormac College in Chicago and has been practicing her writing and testing through the EV360 program.

“While the RPR is my main goal, I strongly believe that any employer and client will appreciate the dedication and extra proficiency that the RSR offers. It’s a win-win!” she noted.

Dorene Glover

Dorene Glover, a freelance court reporter from the Bronx, N.Y., has been working as a freelance court reporter since 2007. She is testing for the RSR as well this month. “It can give me confidence to take the RPR.”

Current or aspiring stenographic reporters are eligible to earn the RSR and do not need to be members of NCRA to take the RSR tests; however, candidates do need to become members to actively hold the RSR.

Candidates seeking the RSR need to pass three 5-minute Skills Tests:

  • RSR Literary at 160 words per minute
  • RSR Jury Charge at 180 words per minute
  • RSR Testimony/Q&A at 200 words per minute

To pass, an accuracy level of 95 percent is required for each leg.

“It is hard work and practice, but it will be worth it when it is over,” Glover said, and added that, along with the hard work and practice, there will be “more opportunities for jobs and more income.”

Get your certification celebration on

This week kicks off NCRA’s third Celebrate Certification Month, launched to help encourage members to share with customers, clients, and potential clients the importance of working with professionals who hold national certifications.

The campaign is also designed to encourage NCRA members and nonmembers to earn a certification or to add to any they already hold. In addition to showing proficiency in various skills, numerous NCRA membership surveys have found that court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers who hold NCRA certifications make more money and are often in higher demand than their competitors. 

Richael Silva, RMR, CRR

“Earning my RMR has been the highlight of my career. Practicing at speeds that felt out of reach helped boost my confidence both at work and while taking that final test,” said Richael Silva, RMR, CRR, a court reporter from Arvada, Colo., who works for Hansen & Company Litigation Services.

“I am extremely proud and excited to have earned this honor. Being a member of NCRA has pushed me and inspired me to do my best and helped me to work towards the next level of my career. With the support of NCRA and its members, I’m proud to say I am part of a community that works together to build each other up and to always encourage one another to be better,” added Silva, who has worked as a court reporter for 15 years.

To help members celebrate, NCRA has launched an official Celebrate Certification Month resource page that offers an array of downloadable resources members can use. The resources range from press release templates to flyers to customized certification business cards and more.

In addition, NCRA members can also celebrate their pride in their certifications and save 15 percent on all customized items on May 7 and 8 in the NCRA Merchandise Store. Choose from a variety of items such as clothing, accessories, gifts, and more; and customize them with your favorite NCRA, NCRF, I Love Steno, NCRA STRONG, or official certification logos.

Make plans to celebrate yourself and your peers during the 2020 Celebrate Certification Month. For more information, visit 2020 Celebrate Certification Month, and don’t forget to share how you plan to celebrate with NCRA’s PR staff at pr@ncra.org.

Some privacy, please

Ashley Stokes taking down the investiture ceremony of the newest U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. She is assigned to the Hon. Judge Van Bokkelen, who is administering the oath.

By Ashley Stokes

Testing can be stressful, even under the most ideal circumstances.

I graduated from the College of Court Reporting, Valparaiso, Ind., as an onsite student in 2008, and all of my testing was administered in person. Once I passed my speeds in school, I set my sights on the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) exam and the Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) exam, all in-person tests at that time. After passing those certifications, I set out as a freelance reporter in hopes of gaining as much experience as possible. And there I was, almost 10 years later as a federal official reporter for the Northern District of Indiana, and I found myself in desperate need of obtaining the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) certification. 

Having never taken an online test, the fear of the unknown had held me back long enough. What better way to force myself into taking the plunge of online testing than by registering for the test? 

To say this time in my life was a little crazy might be an understatement. My husband and I were in the middle of a major home renovation; so our family of five moved in with my parents while our house was under construction. At the time, we had three very active boys ages six, three, and just over a year old. Since my parents lived in a small Cape Cod-style house, there wasn’t much room for peace and quiet. But I was determined to take the CRR test, and I didn’t want to let an insignificant issue like a quiet testing place stand in my way. 

After surveying my options, I decided the best course of action would be for me to take the test in the bathroom. It’s the one room in the house where I get the most privacy, it’s fairly quiet, and I can lock the door. I also scheduled the test for 10 p.m., a time when most everyone should be sleeping. 

When the time to take the test finally came, my setup was complete. I brought in a little TV tray from the living room to use as my desk, and I sat on the toilet as my chair. Once connected, the proctor asked me to pan the room with my video camera.

I heard chuckles as she asked, “Is that your bathroom?”

I sheepishly confirmed her suspicions, and we both had a good laugh. One final request before I could begin: “Ma’am, can you please pull back the shower curtain to confirm that the tub is empty?” 

I complied with her requests, and then we moved on to testing. Having that little laugh with the proctor helped to calm my nerves. I’d love to say that I nailed the test, it was easy-peasy, and my notes were near perfection. That’s definitely not the case. However, one thing I did learn is that once I gave the test a try, it wasn’t quite as scary as imagined in my mind. I came out of that testing experience with even more determination and a solid understanding of how online testing works. I was much more confident on my next attempt at the CRR – a passing score!

Certifications are important to me because it encourages me to be a better writer, a better reporter, and to always challenge myself. Having certifications has also been a benefit to my career, and I plan to continue practicing for that next test. Although the bathroom proved to be a quiet testing atmosphere, our home renovations are completed, and I’m happy to say that I’ll be taking the next certification test in my newly renovated office.

I encourage all my fellow reporters to just register! The hardest part is making the commitment.  Once you’re registered, follow through and take the test, even if it seems daunting. Each attempt moves you one step closer to your newest certification. And in between tests, your writing will improve from the practicing. And clean, fast writing is something we all can appreciate. 

Ashley Stokes, RPR, CRR, is an official court reporter from Valparaiso, Ind. She can be reached at ashleystokesrpr@gmail.com.

Professionals who hold certifications provide higher quality services and earn more

YahooBusiness.com posted a press release issued by NCRA on April 27 announcing that the Association has deemed May Celebrate Certification Month.

Read more.

Online Skills Testing update – know before you test

NCRA recently received an update from its testing partner, ProctorU, on the impact that COVID-19 is having on the company’s services.

NCRA’s Testing Department wants to share some key points from this update as you prepare to test online in May.

  • Test takers 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.
  • Test takers are encouraged to test their equipment prior to exam day.

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, and the usual wait time of 15 minutes or less for connecting with a proctor cannot be guaranteed at this time.

NCRA E-seminar Spring Sale

Need CEUs? Don’t miss this special deal on e-seminars recorded at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo.  Make your purchase between midnight March 24 and midnight March 26 Eastern time. The seminars will then be available for viewing from April 1-30.

Bundled seminars

The spring bundle includes 4 e-seminars for the discounted price of $60 members/$85 nonmembers (regularly $220/$316). Earn 0.4 CEUs.

  • Ethics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, presenters Deanna Baker, RMR, and Heidi Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC: Attendees will get a detailed description of the Captioners Code of Professional Ethics and leave with a better understanding of the various aspects of the Code that they can use on a daily basis.
  • The Lost Art of Professionalism, presenter Marsha Naegeli, CMRS, CRI: Learn the subtle and not-so-subtle tweaks to your personal brand that will set you apart from others in the room, elevate your business, and enhance your life. Gain new perspectives on the many ways in which professionalism can make an impact on the entire profession.
  • A Guide to Social Media for Post-Millennials, presenters Lauren Lawrence, RPR, and Matthew Moss, RPR: This session is designed to help participants navigate the benefits and pitfalls of using social media as a means for connecting and collaborating across multiple platforms. It will also help them avoid potentially career-damaging mistakes.
  • Back to School: A Day in the Life of a University of Wisconsin-Madison Staff CART Provider, presenter Kristen Wurgler, RPR: Topics include providing successful post-secondary CART in the classroom, accessibility versus verbatim writing, STEM captioning, and special adaptations for hard-of-hearing or deaf consumers to increase inclusion and enhance the learning experience.

Individual seminars

These e-seminars are only sold individually. Receive a 69 percent discount from regular prices ($65 members/$89 nonmembers).

  1. Captioning a Sporting Event 101:   Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey, presenter Sandra Smith, RPR: 0.125 CEU $20 members/$28 nonmembers: Learn a few basics of each game, discussing positions, plays, and terminology. Tips and tricks for captioning a sporting event. The goal is to give the participants a basic understanding of each event to prep and take a on captioning assignment.
  2. Where Languages Intersect – Best Practices in Interpreted Proceedings, presenter Aimee Benavides: 0.125 CEU $20 members/$28 nonmembers: This session is designed to help individual court reporters as well as owners of court reporting firms to understand the best practices of interpreters which affect interpreted proceedings, foreign language transcription and translation requests, requests for vital statistics translation, and other special requests.
  3. How Voice Writing Technology Works:  Dispelling Myths and Explaining Facts, presenter Tori Pittman, RDR, CRI, FAPR, CVR-CM-M, RCP: 0.125 CEU $20 members/$28 nonmembers: There are many stories about voice writing out there but what is the reality? Get an in-depth explanation of how the technology works, how it is similar to steno (and how it’s different), and the practicalities of working as a professional using this method of reporting.