On days that I work at home, I practice for half an hour to an hour, depending on what's in front of me transcript-wise. I also do this most weekend days. I have found that I don't need to warm up before heading out to a job if I have been writing at least a few minutes every day for a while.
However, there are exceptions. This past week, I was doing pro tem work in court full time. Therefore, I am not doing any practicing until Monday. My hands and wrists need the rest. Avoiding injury is the priority. Being the best writer in the world, which I'm not, would do me no good if I were physically unable to write.
You get the practice in by setting realistic goals and then following them. I only attended court reporting school here and there, primarily teaching myself at home. When the door closed behind my husband in the morning, I marched upstairs and got in two good hours of study/practice right away -- no running down for coffee, no answering or making nonessential phone calls, no distractions (well, maybe I petted a cat once in a while). Normally, I did much more, but in any event, those two hours always happened. You just do it.
Practice?? I practice EVERY DAY I'm at a job, four to five days a week. Don't think I need more practice than that. I guess it depends on how much you work. Do you edit yourself? If you're spending too much time editing your transcripts and need more practice, maybe you should consider getting a scopist so you can work more, make more AND get more practice. =)
From the day I graduated from reporting school in April of 1977, I've never practiced. Getting good at what you do evolves over time. As was mentioned before, heavy-hitters get plenty of practice on the job. After about five or so years, I wouldn't think any reporter would need to practice. To further complicate the thread, I don't believe cramming and practicing day and night to pass speed tests are a true reflection of the reporter's abilities, other than the ability to cram and practice to pass a five-minute speed test. Just me.
I try to practice everyday. Most weeks, it's probably 4 days at least. I keep an old steno machine I found at a pawn shop set up and my tape recorder out with a tape in it and also drill tapes close by. Even if I have five minutes, I'll hit play and write. Makes me feel like I've accomplished something. And sometimes I end up sitting there longer. I'm not a natural writer so I do practice to keep accurate and find bad fingerings or weak fingerings that I have. I won't stop until I've got the Merit, I suppose.
Practice?! CRs actually do this? I never practiced even while in school except for classroom practice. I can't even imagine having to take out my machine and setting it up at home after a job. Working on the job is enough practice for me! Hehe! :)
Just to practice? Never. As Mary, MA, Marla & Quyen said, during school was enough for me then (I never even practiced at home when I was going to school) and on the job is enough for me now.
Although, I do have a spare machine under my desk that I can hook up easily, which I use for two things:
1) New dictionary/metadictionary/phonetic dictionary entries. Seems I'm constantly wanting to add things to my dictionaries that I don't normally hear in everyday depos. Yes, I can add metadictionary & phonetic dictionary entries on my computer, but I like to write a little to make sure they're coming out correctly.
2) When I'm practicing for a speed test. I agree with MA, it does you no good to cram for a speed test. You've either got the capability for that speed or you don't. But if you're trying to pass one of their tests, it's good to know what to expect as far as the style of the test.
I never practiced for the first 17 or so years. It wasn't until I wanted to go back and get some extra letters behind my name that I started to practice. After taking off extended leaves for each of my five children, from four months to two years, I'd waltz back into court without practicing the night before my first day back. It was like riding a bike. I was a bit shaky but never thought I was going to fall.
When it came to passing the RPR the second time (I let it expire from 17 years previously), I practiced a handful of RPR tapes, and of course I was all over them so didn't give it a lot of effort. Six months later for the CRR, I practiced the three CRR tapes that were out at the time until I could ace them. Six months later for the RMR, I practiced a handful of RMR tapes. Now these I buckled down on and spent some time with. Started about two months before the test, I think. I made sure I practiced the most difficult tapes I had. I don't think I had a single drop in all three legs of the actual RMR, so the practice paid off.
Now for the speed contest, if you can pass a leg without practicing, I'd be the first to bow down in your presence. I know it's happened, but I couldn't do it.
Guess "cram" needs to be further defined. When I was fortunate enough to pass a couple legs of the speed contest, I spent about six weeks before the contest getting ready. If you are really serious, I think you need at least three months.
What's SO great about practicing at these top-level speeds is it makes everyday court reporting an absolute breeze and extra speed improves the level of your RT by leaps and bounds.
I do agree that if you're working every day, have a family to take care of, for most of us practicing just isn't going to happen.
I have to add, too, Rhoda, that perfecting your writing, great RT, not only makes us superior to a machine/ER but also cuts down SOOO many unnecessary editing hours. I choose to fix my errors right out of the chute, when I'm hearing it for the first time. Why do I want to spend hours and hours fixing all my "mistakes" when I can spend the hours (dedication) on the front end and rest on the homestretch??
That's where you'll find a lot of extra time you didn't know you had -- when really all you need at the end of the day is a good proofer. That's just a wonderful RT perk.
At the courthouse I work at we get paid more for the CRR. The RMR doesn't even get an "attagirl" where I work. (I think the RMR is way tougher than the CRR, BTW.)
It's so hard to fit these tests in with our everyday lives. I wish I had taken the merit very early on in my career but never made it a priority. I know I could have passed it my first year out of school.
Judy, I think it's 220 lit, 240 legal opinion (not jury charge), and a 280 Q and A. It's a lot of fun. I competed for the third time last summer and totally bombed and still had the time of my life. The three legs are extremely dense. Definitely not a cakewalk. The "pros" are incredibly encouraging and just a great group of people to spend some time with.
If you're not writing well over your goal/test speed, you're not going to pass any test. Found out that the hard way. My first speed contest I practiced my RMR tapes. I thought since I aced the RMR with a couple errors that would be enough. HA!! Still laughing at myself for that one.
My second time I practiced at speeds well over the contest speeds and was able to pass two legs. I just have never had quite enough speed to pass the 280 Q and A. Think I can write 280 but with nerves I need to be a comfortable 300 to pass that test, and I'm obviously not there. I'm close, though. Passed our state speed contest at 270 Q and A, so I'm hoping one day I can get enough speed to get to that 280. I just hope the body holds out. :)
My dream is to be sitting next to my son in a speed contest and he beats me. Now that will be a great day. You can bet that year I'll be practicing -- and then some. :)
Well, Attagirl from me! :) Too cool you went on and got it anyway. I know many CRs in my area that don't even 'know' what the NCRA is and have NO intention to ever even do the CRR! We don't need to be certified to do freelance.
Very nice about your son! How old is he? I plan to start teaching my DD the machine when she hits 3rd grade. Figure I will have my 2nd laptop that she can start using to practice and write notes to friends and fun stuff. ;) Figure by the time she is a Sr, she will be better than I, LOL! She is K right now.