I have been in school for a little over a year and a half and I am working on speed building. I've passed my 140 JC and Lit, but I can't pass my 120 Q&A. I am extremely frustrated because I should be able to do it! And all of sudden this week, it seems like my fingers and brain have become disconnected. My writing is horrible! Does anybody has any advice?

Also, does anybody have a good practice routine that they follow? I seem to jump around everywhere and don't follow a set routine. Is that my problem?

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Hi Cynthia,
Is there any way you could set aside an hour when you first get up in the morning to practice? You won't have a million things on your mind yet, and you would probably be able to focus more. Forget about how disconnected you have been, put that in the past, and start new with an open mind. If you start a dictation and you're way too distracted, stop it, and start it again from the beginning.

You really have to believe that you can pass the test. Practice and be positive. You can do it.

Hey. You are doing very good for only being in school for a year. I understand your frustration about being at 120 in QA, esp. when you know being a court reporter is all about QA.
Realize that QA is much faster, because you are hitting in extra strokes by designating the question and answer.
There are a few practice routines on ladysteno.com.
One thing that has helped me when practicing QA is to figure out why I am not keeping up? Are you hitting the question/answer bar and nothing else, or are you getting every word, but not designating the speakers?
Even though you haven't been able to pass you 120 QA, I think you should only practice at 160 for QA. This will put more pressure on your fingers to move faster. It will also make you accustomed to the 160 speed, so when it's time for 120, your braink KNOWS it slow and something you can accomplish.

Also, if you keep dropping the speakers, listen to fast QA and make sure you get the speakers.
If you keep dropping the words, focus on the words and the speakers.

Give yourself the entire week to practice ONLY QA. You won't fall behind in the other categories. You just need some extra attention right now in the QA department.

Feel free to ask for as much help as you need.

Another thing that helped me with QA was only hitting the Q/A once, as opposed to twice. A stroke saved is two gained. lol.
Hi, Cynthia.

Don't know if this will help, but on my (cheap and sleazy) website is a set of archived files from many generations of Court Reporting Help.com.

One of those (Testing.rtf) shows you how to take a test, as well as how to grade a test.

I recommend that you read the article, grab your last three Q&A tests, and analyze them as the article suggests. Once you have done that, you should be able to figure out what specific types of errors you are making ... and then you can find drills which address the issues you've found.

Another article on ol' Cheap and Sleazy is the unfinished book (not by me), "The Plateau." You should grab a copy of that and read through it as well.

Next, since you're stuck on Q&A, are you using any of the Q&A extensions?

By that I mean, do you have any strokes that include the Q bank and a few other keys that give you something like this:

         Q. All right, sir

I use STKPWHR-LTS for that one.

If you aren't using the extensions, you might want to order a copy of the book, "Q&A, a Faster Way, by Donna Dunn ... but while you wait for it to arrive, you might want to take a look at my article, "Dictionaries 'r' Us," where I talk about learning basic phrases, and how to use those basic phrases to create a dictionary of Q&A extensions.

It's been a while since I last passed my 80s Q&A, but shortly before I did that I learned about six (SIX!) of these Q&A extensions.

The more of these you know, the better you will do!

Good luck ... and hope that helps!

"For a Good (steno) Time ...."
I personally think you should hold off on the Q & A extensions. While I love the extensions and use them aplenty, I think you need to get solid with the Q & A before attempting them.

When I was in school, we were not even introduced to Q & A until we reached 140. We were taught to get solid in difficult lit. We were always pushed at higher speeds.

If you're jumping around and it's not working, get in a routine. I think Janet's advice about first thing in the morning is a good one. If you're taking days off the machine, it will be difficult to increase your speed.

And anybody who is stroking the Q & A symbols twice -- or more -- knock that crap off. :)

I used to sit there and hit Q & A, the Court, attorney symbols, five, six times when I was bored. After I ended up with two claws for what I used to call hands, it was too late for me to knock that crap off.

Thankfully I got a second chance -- after years -- to do it the right way. I now write as short as I possibly can and look for every opportunity to save a stroke.

Janet is so right about believing in yourself and staying positive, and I'll add never give up. That's the common trait for those of us who have been lucky enough to make it to the other side.

Good luck, Cynthia!
Hi Glen, I think I may have read the article you were talking about. Is it "The Plateau" by Barb DeWitt, Anna Mae Tedley, Stephen Shastay? It was so informative!
Cynthia --

Yes, that's the one! A good article. Just wish His Steveness would finish it!

One day.

Perhaps ... and e-mail campaign might work ....

If you're practicing using mp3's, try using the Play Speed Settings function in Windows Media Player (if you haven't already). From the "Now Playing Tab", there should be an arrow somewhere under the tab...click that, select enhancements from the drop-down menu, then Play Speed Settings.

You can take a single dictation at anywhere from 30% slower to 30% faster and still have pretty good audio quality. I like to practice a difficult take a few times at regular speed, then force myself to slop through at 20% faster, drop down to 10% faster, then back at original speed. Then I might work on specific sections, usually about a minute long, and do those over and over. Meanwhile, if a few specific words are really killing you and are high frequency, make a note to find briefs for them.

It's easy to get burned out practicing the same take over and over, but if you take breaks every so often, it can be well worth it. The feeling of mastering a dictation that was kicking your butt is an awesome motivator to keep going, and it's a great way to ingrain those difficult strokes and/or new briefs.
Wow! Thank you to everybody who answered my post. I am so overwhelmed by the amount of support and all of the suggestions!

I sat down to think about my writing over the weekend, and I think I may have figured out my problem. It is not necessarily just with Q&A, but I think I'm having some problem writing cleanly because my writing lacks clarity. Does that make sense?

I actually changed my Q&A stroke awhile ago to -FR and -RB. I found the left bank and right bank to be too cumbersome. The simplified strokes helped a lot. I also have incorporated some Q&A extensions, which are a great way for me to catch up when I'm behind. But I think the problem is that the Q&A throw off my rhythm.

I'm having a much better week, but it so hard to stay positive!
I also have a suggestion that I used when I was in school. I don't know if anyone has told you this, but the 140/160 area is where you go from thinking writing to totally auto writing. That's where I think most people get hung up, plateau, and even drop out. What I used to do is after my school day was done (about 2:00), I would stick around in an empty classroom and work for about 30 min on finger drills (great way to get your fingers back in control), and then do some speed tapes for 30 min, always at a level higher than I was trying to pass. And depending on how much time you have, you can alternate the two. That helped me with both speed and accuracy. I was practicing on my own for about two hours per day at least three days a week, and I was able to get over that hump and started seeing some real results.
Also, I know for me that I would start doing worse right before I felt some kind of breakthrough. Hope that helps. Hang in there!!
Tami, shouldn't you be working? haha!

Tami , you're absolutely right!
I remember hearing of this in school. My thought is that your frustration is exactly the problem. Whatever you tell yourself you can do, you're right. If you tell yourself negative things, you're right. If you tell yourself you're stuck, you're stuck.

I would take a day off and enjoy life and be thankful for life. Go to a quite place and meditate...church if you're christian, and just enjoy peace. You can do this. you just have to get through it and relax. you can either take the test with stress, or take the test with confidence, either way, to advace, you have to take the test.

You're amazing. Keep it up!

Teresa :)
Don't fret! School is frustrating because you are learning! It is difficult to get over the hurdles, especially if you were plunking along just fine and then hit a wall. What's important to remember: PRACTICE!!!!! That is what it takes, plain and simple, and no one likes to do it. Practice daily at your speed of 120 and build to 130, 140 just for the speedbuilding and to hear what those speeds sound like. Then when you end your session, go back to 100 or 110 to build your confidence and reinforce that you CAN do it! I bet when you were just beginning, 100 sounded like a lot too. Though I am a brief and phrase queen, don't incorporate too much that will make you hesitate. Your hesitation is what causes you to drop. Keep up the good work and pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished!! YOU CAN DO IT!


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