Barb DeWitt and Test Analysis

The following is an excerpt from an article by Barb DeWitt

There are two ways to pass a test.  One is to raise your level of competence.  Do that, and eventually you will be a professional.  The other way to pass is to wait until an easy test comes along.  Do that, and you will experience frustration every step of the way.

Waiting for the perfect test is self-defeating.  It is true that some tests are harder than others, but you should prepare yourself to pass any test.  If you somehow do make through school and go for your qualification exam, you will not be fully prepared.  You will still be looking for an easy test.  You will have a rough time passing the state or national exam.  Those tests are not cakewalks.  They are designed to admit only qualified students to the ranks of the professionals.  You will wait a long time for an easy certification test to come along.  They are designed to be passed by those who are writing a nice solid 225.

One student came to me recently and showed me her test.  She had come close, but she was a little bit over the amount of errors allowed.  I analyzed the test for her and discovered that she could have passed it.  There were some sloppy strokes that hurt her score.  There was one time that she carried too much.  I also pointed out that she had a few non-steno errors that she could have avoided.  In the end, I told her that she should take that test as a good sign.  She was close.

She looked at me and said, “Yes, but it will be a whole year before you can give that test to our class again.”

She recognized that she let an opportunity slip by, but she was focused on passing tests rather than improving her skills.  She was disheartened because she felt that it would be a long time before she had another opportunity at that test.

I was happy with the results of that test.  It was the best she had done in a while.  On the other hand, I was thoroughly discouraged that she believed that she was only going to make it to the next class if I gave her another easy test.  I spent a good amount of time explaining what I meant, but I don’t think I reached her.  I expect that next week she will again be waiting for a simple test.

That’s too bad.  She is one of the fastest writers in the school.  She is at least two speeds below where she should be.  With her speed, she could be one of the best in our profession.  Her future is bright if she concentrates on the aspects that need improvement.

But I know that she has considered dropping out of school due to her lack of progress.  I hope she won’t.  I hope that she takes my little talk to heart and begins improving.  I hope she turns things around.

I hope.

Barb by the lake

Paraprosdokian

Paraprosdokian

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The Steno Bunny

“Paraprosdokian” is a figure of speech that surprises the reader/listener.  The beginning of a paraprosdokian leads you to a particular train of thought, but the ending turns the meaning to an entirely new direction.

Here are a couple of classic paraprosdokians:

That’s no lady; that’s my wife.  Rodney Dangerfield

I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night.  Bill Hicks

I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.  Will Rogers

In each instance, the ending is a surprise that makes you completely reevaluate the entire thing.

In a similar way, if steno students hear “ladies and …,” they are likely to pause in anticipation of a common phrase such as “ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”

But there are other possible phrases such as “ladies and gentlemen of the Senate” or “ladies and gentlemen of the prospective jury.”    If you pause on purpose so that you can use a phrase, you will often be wrong; and when you are wrong, pausing will put you needlessly behind.

But what about when you guess correct?  Don’t you get a big benefit from using the phrase?

Naaaah.  That’s rookie thinking.  If you are caught up and you pause to hear a phrase, the best you can hope for is that you can use that phrase to make up for the time you lost when you paused.

For phrase usage, a court reporting student needs only one rule:  Only use phrases if you recall the outline before it is time to begin stroking the phrase.

We play a speed game.  Any pausing for any reason is wrong.

Unless you are the Steno Bunny.

(Pause for effect)

Then  you have four paws.

Brief Families: Words that end in “spect”

Learn a good steno brief such as RPT for “respect,” and you have done well.  You have conquered a common two-stroker with a very easy brief.

But you only learned one word.A good dictionary is a friend indeed.

Learn a good family of briefs such as “words that end in ‘spect'” and you learn a good handful of very popular words with virtually the same amount of memorization.

If you know RPT is “respect,” then you should also know the outlines for “inspect,” “prospect,” “suspect,” and “disrespect.”  Those are the popular ones that can easily be briefed with an initial consonant or two and a final PT.

A bonus to families is that you may learn some of the less popular outlines that don’t deserve attention all by themselves.  So if you want, you could also come up with outlines for words like “circumspect,” “aspect,” and a couple more.

It’s a relatively small and very popular family.  Here are the only ten words that end in “spect” that you are likely to run across:

Respect, suspect, inspect, prospect — brief these very popular terms

Disrespect — brief it if you find DRPT or SDRPT to be easy strokes

Aspect, retrospect, introspect, circumspect, reinspect — brief them if you can find easy strokes and if they don’t take much time to memorize.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that you have to brief everything.  That’s foolish, and it can be quite hurtful.

The court reporting game requires that we learn to write efficiently and accurately.  If you can two-stroke something as quickly as you can brief it, then the brief isn’t giving you any speed benefit, plus it will be harder to read when you misstroke it.

You should know how to stroke all ten of these words with no trouble and you should have very quick outlines for most of them.  If that describes you, then you don’t need more work on words that end in “spect.”  There are plenty more brief families that you can work on.

Steve Shastay

Steno Rebel