Coping with test anxiety

By Kay Moody

“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, inaugural address, 1933

Students repeatedly say they miss passing a test because of nerves or test anxiety. Almost all court reporters will tell you they experienced nervousness and shaking hands on tests, but they learned how to cope with test anxiety! There are proven relaxation techniques.

  1. EXERCISE: 
    1. Release tension with what’s known as the “tense-relax method.”  Make a fist; clench your fists as hard as you can. Keep them tightly clenched as long as possible. Then relax. For total relaxation, clench your fists, tighten your jaw, straighten your legs, and tense your abdomen all at once—right before a test. Then let go and take a deep breath. 
    2. Do a mini-aerobic workout: 10 jumping jacks, sit-ups, touch your toes, run in place for five minutes, etc. If you have a treadmill, run on it until you’re breathing deeply.
  2. IMAGING: To relieve tension during a test, use guided imagery. Before taking a test, relax completely and take a quick fantasy trip. Close your eyes; relax your body; and imagine yourself in a beautiful, peaceful, pastoral setting. Create as much of the scene as you can. Use all your senses: soft music, a candle, perfume, aroma therapy.
  3. BE POSITIVE: Substitute negative thoughts and emotions with pleasant, positive images: eating a hot fudge sundae, taking a nap on the beach, seeing your best friend, hugging a loved one, having a romantic weekend, etc. Think about these positive images before and during a test. Put a small picture of your favorite fantasy in front of you and look at it during the test. Take the test with a smile on your face. Post a happy emoji on your machine. 
  4. IMPROVE YOUR PHYSICAL WELL-BEING: There are a number of reasons you’re nervous.
    1. Too much caffeine:  coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate.
    2. Skipping meals, particularly breakfast. 
    3. Holding your breath. Breathe deeply while working on speed building dictation. When you feel nervous, inhale deeply.
    4. Poor circulation. Drop your head between your knees and stay in that position for a few minutes.
    5. Lack of endorphins. Laughter creates endorphins. Laugh hard.  Laugh out loud or silently. Laugh until your sides ache. Laugh for a couple of minutes.
    6. Cold hands and cold feet. Put on shoes and socks. Cold feet produce shaking hands. Keep both your feet and hands warm. 
    7. Not enough rest. Get a good night’s sleep before test day.
  5. USE VISUALIZING TECHNIQUES:  Feel professional. Dress properly to perform better. If you feel like a professional, it will be easier to imagine that you are a professional court reporter.
  6. KEEP A TEST DIARY: Divide each page into two sections: “Strong Tests” and “Weak Tests.” Keep a journal of what you did prior to the strong tests and/or prior to the weak tests. Indicate the following:
    1. What did you eat or drink before the test? 
    2. Did you have a cigarette right before a test?
    3. What time of day/night did you take the test? Was it at the beginning or end of the week? 
    4. Did you warm up before the test? What material did you use? How fast was your warm-up material?
    5. Did you have a focal point during the test?
    6. Did you practice breathing? visualizing? exercising?
    7. What did you think about during the test?
    8. Were you rested? Did you get a good night’s sleep?

In conclusion, don’t let anxiety prevent you from passing a test. Identify why you’re nervous; apply specific relaxation techniques prior to and during a test; and adjust your surroundings to help you stay calm and focused.

Plan ahead for learning opportunities through NCRA

calendar

Photo by Dafne Cholet

Mark your calendars and plan your learning path with NCRA through 2018. NCRA offers opportunities to earn CEUs in a variety of ways, from certification to webinars to live events. NCRA is your one-stop shop for your educational needs, whether you are working toward your next certification, your cycle ending date, or another goal.

Keep in mind that NCRA members can earn CEUs by passing the skills or written portion of certain tests, such as the RMR, RDR, CRR, or CLVS Exams.

Here is a short selection of dates and events (dates are subject to change):

Court Reporting & Captioning Week (Feb. 10-17), Memorial Day (May 30), and Veterans Day (Nov. 11) are also all good opportunities to schedule Veterans History Project Days to earn PDCs, although members and students are invited to participate throughout the year. And don’t forget that online skills testing is available year round.

In addition, NCRA is planning webinars throughout the year, which will be announced in the JCR Weekly and on the NCRA Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages as they are available.

Watch for more information in the JCR, in the JCR Weekly, and on TheJCR.com for registration, deadlines, and other ideas to earn continuing education.








NCRA members take advantage of the Best. Friday. Ever.

On Black Friday, NCRA members had seven discounts and giveaways to take advantage of. These giveaways were tied to membership renewals, event registrations, and purchases for e-seminars and certification tests.

Hundreds of NCRA members renewed their membership on Black Friday for an opportunity to win one of several giveaways. Regina Berenato-Tell, RDR, CRR, an official from Hammonton, N.J., won a free registration for the NCRA Realtime Contest. Beranto-Tell works at the House of Representatives and has been a reporter for 30 years — she’ll probably bring some strong competition! Christy Fagan, RMR, CRR, a freelancer in Mansfield, Texas, won a free registration for the NCRA Speed Contest. The contests are held at the NCRA Convention & Expo. Speaking of Convention, Misty Bubke, RDR, CRR, an official in Kingsley, Iowa, won a free registration to the annual conference.

Cynthia Lew, RPR, a freelancer in Oakland, Calif., and Carol Danielson Bille, RPR, a freelancer in St. Paul, Minn., won a Kindle Fire for renewing their NCRA memberships. “The Kindle will be a new toy for me, and I’m up to the challenge,” said Lew. “In my student years, reading the JCR was a way to keep my goals in sight, and 20+ years later I’m still reading the articles. They keep me abreast of advances in technology (I’m something of a Luddite) and what issues our industry is facing across the country.”

NCRA is grateful for everyone who has renewed their memberships for 2018, on Black Friday as well as before and after the promotion.

Two members who registered for an NCRA Skills Test (SKT) on Black Friday won a free registration. Elia E. Carrión, RPR, a freelancer in Chicago, Ill., registered for the Certified Realtime Reporter SKT, and Holly Ortman, a student at Des Moines Area Community College won a leg of the Registered Professional Reporter SKT. Good luck as you work towards your certifications!

Starla Wiggins, RPR, CRR, a freelancer from Lovington, N.M., won a free NCRA e-seminar. Dozens of members purchased an e-seminar on Black Friday. Several members also took advantage of a 20 percent discount in the NCRA Store on Black Friday.

Teresa Evans, RMR, CRR, got an extra perk for registering for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference – she won a free spouse registration. Evans is a freelancer and owner of Realtime Reporters based in Charleston, W.Va. “I describe my career as getting paid to watch Lifetime TV!” said Evans. “I have been a member of NCRA throughout most of my career, and I encourage every reporter to be a member and take advantage of the educational offerings and the testing to receive advance certifications, as well as the networking of other professionals like yourself. Every month when I receive the magazine, I learn something, and each time I attend an event put on by NCRA, I come away enthused about my career and amazed at the professionals around the country who bring so much to the table.”








The CLVS experience at the NCRA Convention & Expo

Back view of a packed classroom. In the front left, a man sits on a chair in front of a PowerPoint presentation; the slide is on the topic "computer as recorder."

Jason Levin leads a discussion on equipment during the CLVS Seminar at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

By Jason Levin

Each year at the NCRA Convention & Expo, videographers from across the country (and even from around the globe) meet for a three-day intensive course. Instructors and attendees go over everything necessary for starting a career as a deposition videographer. While the primary purpose of the CLVS Seminar is to instruct both novice and experienced videographers on how to become legal videographers, perhaps even more crucial is impressing upon them the importance of a professional and respectful relationship between reporter and videographer. Any reporter who has had a bad experience working with an uncertified videographer can appreciate the value of the CLVS certification process.

The curriculum for the CLVS Seminar is developed and taught by the CLVS Council, which is a team of volunteers who already have earned their CLVS certification. Attendees at the Las Vegas Convention had the privilege of being taught by a legend of legal video, Brian Clune, CLVS, who after twenty years of service to NCRA, stepped down from his post on the CLVS Council. Brian’s wealth of knowledge and inimitable charm will be greatly missed!

Attendance at this year’s Seminar was higher than anticipated. It was standing room–only until we brought in extra chairs to accommodate the high demand. An added benefit to having the CLVS Seminar at the Convention is the networking opportunities available to both videographers and reporting firms alike. I hear from firm owners all the time that they have great difficulty finding qualified videographers to cover their jobs. The CLVS certification is the gold standard for identifying competent and vetted legal videographers and sets them apart from the rest of the field.

In addition to teaching the legal video curriculum at the Convention, the CLVS Council also administers the Production Exam. This is a thirty-minute timed examination in which the candidates video a mock deposition under real-life circumstances. We grade them on how they conduct themselves in the deposition as well as the video record they produce. I am pleased to report that the results of the CLVS practical exam at this Convention had the highest passing rate in many years, which I believe is a testament to the quality of teaching at the Seminar.

The next opportunity to take the practical exam will be Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. Based on the attendance in Las Vegas, NCRA expects the time slots for the Production Exam to fill up quickly, so reserve your spot now! Visit NCRA.org/CLVS for more information about this program or to register.

 

Jason Levin, CLVS, of Washington, D.C., is chair of NCRA’s CLVS Council. He can be reached at jason@virginiamediagroup.com








Register for the September CLVS Production Exam

VideographyThe next testing dates to take the CLVS Production Exam will be Sept. 29-30 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. Registration is open Aug. 25-Sept. 22. Space is limited, so candidates are encouraged to sign up early. The registration form is available here.

The Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, use, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace. “The CLVS certification is the gold standard for identifying competent and vetted legal videographers and sets them apart from the rest of the field,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, Chair of the CLVS Council. The CLVS Council leads the CLVS Seminar and administers the Production Exam.

“I am starting down a new career path and have chosen the CLVS program to add to my video skills. I found the CLVS workshop to be extremely beneficial and well organized,” said Benjamin Hamblen, a multimedia producer in New York who attended the CLVS Seminar at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. “I now know that the CLVS certification will help me down my new career path and will let others know I can produce to the CLVS standard.”

During the Production Exam, candidates will run the show at a staged deposition and be graded on their ability to follow video deposition guidelines and produce a usable, high-quality video of the deposition. Candidates must have taken the CLVS Seminar first; the Production Exam and the Written Knowledge Test may be taken in any order. Learn more about the CLVS program at NCRA.org/CLVS.








Making a few adjustments

A smiling young adult woman, dressed cassually, sits on a floral couch with a golden retriever at her side.

Kayde Rieken with her seeing-eye dog, Fawn

Long nights of practice and endless speed tests are familiar challenges for court reporting students. But Kayde Rieken, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., has experienced one that is unique. She was the first student to take the RPR Written Knowledge Test (WKT) in Braille. With her new career, she hopes to make a difference in the lives of other people who are disabled.

  1. What made you decide to go into court reporting?

I have always been an avid reader, and I enjoy expanding my vocabulary. I am also fascinated by technology and the impact it can have on the lives of disabled people such as myself. When I found out that court reporting was a profession that combined these two interests, I was sure I had found where I belonged.

  1. Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school or did you have another career first?

I was about three-quarters through a bachelor’s degree in Spanish translation when I discovered that it just didn’t feel right for me anymore. Court reporting was one of the things I listed as an interest when I was debating career choices in high school, so I decided to do more research on it. It was a very hard and frightening decision, but I chose not to finish the degree I had begun and start my court reporting education. I have, of course, not regretted it for a moment.

  1. Have you had any special accommodations for classes or testing throughout your court reporting program?

I have not needed many accommodations. Court reporting students are often told during the first few weeks of theory not to watch their hands as they write. I use an ordinary Windows laptop with a text-to-speech screen reader that converts print into synthetic speech. Another essential component of my setup is an electronic Braille display that works in conjunction with my screen reader to convert print into Braille output. My steno machine has a basic screen-reading program on it, although I only use this when changing settings on the machine itself.

There were a few things in my CAT software class I was not able to do, such as use the autobrief feature because I am not able to see suggestions pop up on the screen as I write. However, my instructor provided me with alternative assignments that we agreed would be beneficial for me to do during that week.

  1. What kinds of challenges, if any, have you faced during your court reporting program?

My challenges were mainly what everyone else faces — being stuck at a speed for a long time or that stroke that you can never seem to stop hesitating on. I never felt that my blindness itself presented a challenge in court reporting, as I gain most of my knowledge of the environment through listening anyway. In past college experiences, I sometimes had problems with professors not believing in my abilities; but all of my teachers at the College of Court Reporting have held me to the same high standards to which they hold all their other students.

  1. Describe your experience taking the WKT.

I was initially a bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure what accommodations could be made. I was worried that the only thing NCRA would be able to provide was someone to read the questions to me. If you stop and imagine only listening to some of those complicated punctuation questions without a “visual” medium in front of you, I think you can see that would not work. However, the people in charge of testing at NCRA could, and did, provide me with a Braille copy of the WKT. I cannot express how grateful I was for this. Then, with that accommodation taken care of, I had a somewhat typical test-taking process. I read the questions in Braille and had a recorder there to mark down my answers in print for me. I went over the questions twice to make sure everything was marked correctly.

  1. Which tests do you plan to take next?

I plan to take the jury charge portion of my RPR next, as I have passed my two online tests and my jury mentor evaluation.

  1. What types of challenges do you anticipate in your career ahead?

I am the kind of person who tries to meet challenges as they come. I can anticipate that the marking of exhibits could be something I may need assistance with, but I don’t see that as being much of a problem. I am glad to know, however, that I have several mentors, blind and sighted, within this profession to answer any questions I may have.

  1. Do you have any advice for people who are blind or visually impaired who are considering a career in court reporting?

As I mentioned earlier, I think Braille is a very important component to this profession for a blind person; so make sure your Braille skills are solid. Also — and this applies to any student — it is important to do your research and find places where you can network and foster mentoring relationships. I had the opportunity to go to the NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago last year, and it was one of the most overwhelming and exciting experiences of my life; so don’t be afraid to embrace experiences that might be a little scary for you. They are nearly always worth it.








Test Advisory Committee meets at NCRA headquarters

Members of NCRA's Test Advisory Committee. Karyn Menck attended remotely.

Members of NCRA’s Test Advisory Committee. Karyn Menck attended remotely.

The NCRA Test Advisory Committee met June 8-11 at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. During the meeting, the committee used technology to approve written knowledge tests with Pearson Vue and approved skills tests for 2018. In total, the committee wrote 73 tests and accepted 58 tests.

Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, attended the meeting remotely. “It was very useful to be able to participate when I couldn’t make the trip to be there in person,” she said. “It allowed me to caption and manage a large event for my company in the evenings. I was able to write prospective tests on my machine as they were dictated to the group and help decide whether they would be used or if there were areas that needed reworking, as well as review questions for the written exam. It allowed me to be a part of the meeting even though I couldn’t make the trip. And while I did miss the comradery of dinner with my peers in the evenings, it was the next best thing.”

“It was great having a member who was willing to test out the technology” for attending remotely, said Cynthia Andrews, NCRA Director of Professional Development Programs. “Her feedback will allow me to improve the process in the future.”

The Test Advisory Committee members include:

  • Russell L. Page, Jr., Washington, DC
  • Diane L. Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE, Oro Valley, AZ
  • Robin Cooksey, RMR, Houston, TX
  • Wade S. Garner, RPR, CPE, Edmonton, AB
  • Robyn M. Hennigan, RPR, CRI, Springfield, OH
  • Tonya J. Kaiser, RPR, CMRS, Fort Wayne, IN
  • Donna J. Karoscik, RDR, CRR, CRC, Pickerington, OH
  • Deborah A. Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, St. Louis, MO
  • Karyn D. Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Nashville, TN
  • Janice Plomp, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, St. Albert, AB
  • Susan D. Wasilewski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, Lakeland, FL
  • Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, Miami, FL

“Russell Page and I are so proud of how far the Test Advisory Committee has come in being able to produce the volume of skills tests required for online testing. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of the dedicated individuals on both the Test Advisory Committee and Skills Committee along with Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRR, and Lesia Mervin, RMR, CRR, co-chairs of the Skills Test Writing Committee,” said Diane Sonntag, who serves as co-chair along with Russell Page. “Each test is written, debated, and tweaked to be the best test it can be. We are hoping all of our members will take advantage of our hard work and sign up to obtain those valuable NCRA certifications today!”








Written Knowledge Test Committee meets at NCRA headquarters

IMG_5176NCRA’s Written Knowledge Test Committee met at NCRA headquarters May 5 and 6. The committee reviewed more than 260 questions for the RPR and RDR Written Knowledge Tests and archived outdated questions. Members also had additional training on the item writing platform.

“It was truly an eye-opening experience where we all collaborated respectfully, learned from each other, and truly demonstrated team initiative towards the betterment of our profession,” said Geanell Adams, RMR, CRR, CRI.

L-R: Carrie Robinson, Wade Garner, Cindy Cheng, Angela Starbuck, Geanell Adams, and Vonni Bray

L-R: Carrie Robinson, Wade Garner, Cindy Cheng, Angela Starbuck, Geanell Adams, and Vonni Bray

The Item Writing Committee members include:

  • Geanell Adams, RMR, CRR, CRI
  • Vonni Bray, RDR, CRR
  • Laura Brewer, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Wade Garner, RPR, CPE
  • Cassandra Hall, RPR
  • Allison Kimmel, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Holly Moose, FAPR, RDR, CRR
  • Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR
  • Carrie Robinson, RPR, CRI
  • Angela Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC

Cindy Cheng, a consultant for Pearson Vue, also attended the meeting. Kimmel and Mueller attended remotely via GoToMeeting. “With my schedule being so fluid, attending remotely really helped me out so much,” said Mueller.








Sign up for the Written Knowledge Test

Photo by Ryan Hyde

Registration opens March 1 for the Written Knowledge Tests for the RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS certifications. Candidates have until March 31 to register, and the testing period is April 8 to 20.

After registering, candidates will receive a confirmation email within three business days with information about scheduling a testing location, day, and time with Pearson Vue. If you do not receive the confirmation email, please email testing@ncra.org. Candidates will need to present photo ID when signing into the testing center, so it’s critical that the first and last name on a candidate’s photo ID match their NCRA record. Candidates whose name does not match will not be allowed to test. Update your record now.

Testing center slots fill up quickly, so it is important to register as soon as possible. Candidates may register here. For more information on NCRA certification programs, visit NCRA.org/certifications.








Sign up for the New York open-competitive court reporting exam

New York courthouseThe filing period for the New York State Office of Court open-competitive examination for court reporters is open through April 5. This is the lower court civil service examination and qualifies those who pass to work in the state’s court system. Candidates are not required to be residents of New York. The examination will be administered statewide on May 20, 2017. For more information, an online examination application, or an orientation guide, visit nycourts.gov.