by CAROL DOROTHY
Every working court reporter was once a student. And we all remember the intensity, pressure and frustration of taking speed tests. Each of us had different strategies we used to concentrate and get every word when the speed was a real challenge. What we learned as we became working reporters is that these strategies were useful beyond our days in the classroom. There are times for every court reporter when the testimony is coming in at speeds that are challenging. At those times, the old strategies for coping with high speeds kick in.
With students in mind, I asked some court reporters and students for tips on building speed and what worked for them. I wanted to share their great advice with you.
Court Reporting Speed-Building Tips: Brigette Sumeraj
(Proofreader and former freelance reporter in the greater Chicago area)
Another bit of advice that I wish I had had then was, while in school, really focus on learning briefs. I knew a lot coming out of school but nowhere near the number that I should have known. They really make a difference.”
(Paralegal and court reporting student at Prince Institute in Shreveport, Louisiana)
“Our teacher requires two hours a night for speed building, and then an extra hour a night for briefs, hesitation words and theory review.
In school, those who focus on briefs (of which I am one) are oftentimes called “Brief Queens,” to poke fun. But, I find that learning the brief, if it is a brief that makes sense to my mind and my fingers, really pushes my writing to the next speed.”
(Court reporter at M&M Court Reporting, Boise, Idaho)
“When I was in school over 31 years ago, my teachers were both court reporters. They taught me to practice, practice, practice, and read back everything when you practice. You need to learn to read your garbage, and you will see what fingers you drag. By reading your notes, you do become a better writer. It is easy to read back perfect notes, but in the real world, when working with attorneys talking over each other, witnesses who mumble, have accents, talk fast, we need to be able to handle everything.
The number one thing I would say is “read your notes.” And also, I have very good hand posture. I don’t move my hands a lot, or my shoulders. Learn good posture in writing, it will help you write faster, and will cause you less issues the longer you report.”
(Former court reporter and online court reporting instructor at Bryan University)
“There are many strategies out there. First and foremost, you need to practice, practice, practice every day. Be strong with theory. Review it from time-to-time if need be. “Write what you hear.” Do not think of “how” during a test. Just do it. Perfection is in the final product.
Push your speed comfort to no more than 20 words per minute above the speed you are attempting to pass. You do not want to risk trashing notes. Warm up 10-20 words above your speed for about 15-20 minutes, then going right to the test.”
Liz Harvey, CCR, RPR
(Independent Court Reporter in Seattle, Washington)
“The thing that worked for me was to practice at speeds 20 wpm or so above the speed I was testing for every day. Then on test day I would do the same thing right before the test. When the test dictation starts, it sounds slower.”
Each court reporter has their own set of strategies that have brought them through to success. You may need to try several of the tips and find which ones work best for you. Once you discover the speed-building skills that work for you, use them over and over as you reach each new speed level.