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

Benchmarking your Steno Progress

My score on Angry Zombie Bird Farm is always above 1,250,000 on Level One.

My weight has been 165 since high school.

Graph going up

I’m going up, up, up.

My checking account low-balance alarm goes off if the balance drops below $500.

As long as my weight doesn’t rise above 165, my score doesn’t drop below 1.25 million and my checking account remains above $500, I am doing fine.

Those three things are examples of benchmarks.  We can adapt and use them effectively in our stenographic journey to court reporting success.

How?  Well, brown cow, I’ll show you how — now.

Take any drill.  Do it.  Count the errors.  Do it again.

Did your score improve?  If not, why not.  There will rarely be a dramatic increase, but there should be an improvement.

Try something different with the drill.  Do it slower.  Do it faster.  Create a list of terms from the drill and practice them.  Do a different drill to regain clarity, speed, etc.

Then do the first drill once again.  Did your score improve?  Hooray, if it did.  If it did not, then you still have adjustments to make.

Your drills should be helping you.  If you aren’t seeing improvement, then you should adjust the way you practice.

In coming posts, I’ll present different ways to benchmark or assess your progress.

Steve Shastay

The Steno Rebel


Ten Paper Clip Method

I'm a pretty pretty paper clip

I’m a pretty pretty paper clip

For an effective and efficient review of anything you have already learned, I highly recommend my Ten Paper Clip Method.  Let’s see how it works with the ol’ Theory book.

Find ten paper clips.

Take out your Theory book.  (Try the hall closet)

Leaf through it.  As you come upon pages that need review, put a paper clip on the appropriate page.

The idea of the paper clips is for you to identify the ten biggest stroking problems that you have.  Don’t worry about initial placement.  I encourage you to move those paper clips around every day, but always look for the ten biggest problems.

After you have placed your ten paper clips, get out your machine and spend one minute on each page with a paper clip.

That’s it.  One minute per page. 

Do it one time, and the effect is minimal.  It will be a small, but soon forgotten, review.

Do it one time per day, and the results are astounding.  You will be training your brain and your fingers to focus on and solve your hardest steno problems. 

What more can you ask of ten minutes per day?

Brief Families: Words that End in “flict” or “flect”

There's Magic in your Fingers

There’s Magic in your Fingers

Words that end in “flict”:  Afflict, inflict, conflict.  That’s it.  Three words unless you want to count crap from illiterate plagiarists like Shakespeare or those mumbly guys from the ’60s.

Words that end in “flect”:  deflect, inflect, reflect, genuflect.  Four words.

All told there are only seven words in the family.  As small as that family is, it has rained its share of pain on steno students.

Two strokes can put you in the hole unless you are quick, and the second stroke isn’t an easy one.  If you are quick to stroke, you are apt to mis-stroke the rascal.

A good brief is easy to remember and easy to stroke.  Any hesitation, brain or fingers, costs time, and time is the only reason to brief things.

For the most part, use an initial consonant and a final FLT for each word.  That works for everything except “afflict,” “inflict,” and “inflect.”

If AFLT, IFLT, and EFLT are available to you, I would do them for “afflict,” “inflict” and “inflect.”  AFLT is available for me, but the other two are “felt” phrases.

No problem.  For “afflict,” there is still AEFLT, AIFLT, or any of the variations with an asterisk.  You could also simply use -FLT or F-FLT.

Variations for “inflict” and “inflect” include NFLT, NEFLT, N*FLT, N*EFLT, NIFLT, N*IFLT.

Here is the list with suggested outlines, but the true ones are up to you and what conflicts you may find in your personal dictionary.

Afflict  AEFLT

Inflict NIFLT

Conflict KFLT

Deflect DFLT

Inflect NEFLT

Reflect RFLT

Genuflect GFLT

There’s not a hard stroke in the lot.

Steve Shastay

Tripping the Steno Fantastic

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

Inspiration for your Perspiration (and New Year’s Resolutions)

The Man in the Arena

Theodore Roosevelt was visiting Paris in 1910 when he gave his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech

Teddy bears were named after Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy bears were named after Teddy Roosevelt

at the Sorbonne.

A short excerpt from that speech became famous as “The Man in the Arena.”  It speaks of man’s struggle to succeed.  You will recognize your personal steno school trials and tribulations.

We can’t win every battle.  Until we finally pass our tests, we will fail time and again.  But victory will be ours eventually.


The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,

and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,

so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

War Pigs

ElephantBy The Dogs of Words

Imagine that you are a mighty War Elephant.

Don’t take it personal.  Thick ankles run in our family too.

You are leading an army. In front of you lies a village protected by a huge wooden wall.  The inhabitants are showering you with arrows.  They bounce harmlessly off your heavy iron mail.  You continue to move forward.  As you near the walls, the defenders direct their weapons towards you and you alone.  The rain of arrows is intense.  When you are in range, heavy spears begin hurtling towards you.  Nothing slows your advance.  You are a War Elephant.

You reach the walls.  You put your head down and push.  The walls are made of thick tree trunks.  They give, but just a little.  You have done this before.  The walls will fall.  They always do.

Now the citizens are dropping heavy rocks from the parapets.  They hurt, but they can’t stop you.  You push.  The walls creak.  You push.  They begin to crack.  You push.  You push.  You push.

Suddenly, the most horrible sight appears in front of you.  It makes a terrifying sound.  Fear racks your body.  You have forgotten about the wall.

The defenders have lowered a War Pig.Pig

It is directly in front of your eyes.  Nothing is more terrible.  You are in total panic.  You must flee.  You must.  As you do, you trample and scatter your own men.  The entire assault dissolves into chaos.  The battle is over.  You have lost, and you have lost miserably.

This story actually played out in Edessa around 540 AD.  The attackers had one War Elephant.  The defenders successfully defended their town with one War Pig.

A War Elephant is a well-trained, heavily armored, living, breathing battering ram.  You can stop one, but most likely, you won’t.  They are too big and too strong.   Your walls will lie in ruins long before you do enough damage to stop a War Elephant.

A War Pig has no training and no armor.  A War Pig is nothing more than a frightened squealing pig.  The only advantage of a War Pig is that War Elephants are deathly afraid of them.

You thought they feared mice, didn’t you?  According to written records, War Pigs were used in more than just this one battle.  In 266 BC, the siege of Megara was broken when the War Elephants bolted at the sight of flaming War Pigs running their way.  The Romans used War Pigs (and War Rams) in 275 BC against Pyrrhus.  There are other instances.

What in all that is holy does this have to do with stenography?

You are a steno War Elephant.  You are well trained.  You are heavily-armored with techniques to keep you writing strong and clear.  The walls of your steno class cannot hold you.  You will push until they fall.  Victory will be yours.  Nothing can stop you.  Nothing.

Except a steno War Pig.

What is a steno War Pig?  It is the same thing as a real War Pig.  It is nothing.  It cannot influence your battle.  It is weak.  It is insignificant.  It has no power.

Unless you fear it.

Why do you let your test nerves control you?  You know they detract from your abilities.  You know they keep you from achieving your best score.  You know that your scores would rise without them.

Chill out, steno babies.  You’re doing it to yourselves.

Are you readdy to be a shooting star?

Inspiration for your Perspiration

Are you readdy to be a shooting star?

Are you ready to be a shooting star?

Stenography is a wonderful profession, but you will sweat a little while you climb the ladder to steno success.

Our “Inspiration for your Perspiration” page is a sure-fire way to pick up your spirits.

An uplifting quote here, a heartwarming story there, and before you know it you are re-energized and ready to kick some steno butt.


Suppose you are doing great on a dictation.  You are writing clean.  You are only a few words behind and feeling comfortable.  You are doing wonderful.

Now suppose the dictator begins to say the phrase “ladies and gentlemen.”

You are caught up.  You haven’t heard the full phrase yet.  You can’t be sure that the phrase will be said.  What do you do?

Choice One is to stop stroking and hope that the phrase will be said.  If it is said, then you have lost nothing but your rhythm.  If it isn’t said, then you have put yourself in a deep hole for no good reason.

Choice Two is to do what you were taught from Day One and stroke the words that are in front of you at that moment.  If the phrase is said, then you have lost nothing by stroking out the words individually.  If the phrase isn’t said, then you have avoided a nasty trap.

Everybody in the stenographic world loves the “ladies and gentlemen” phrase.  It’s wonderful.   It’s an easy way to get credit for three words with one stroke.

“Ladies and gentlemen” is the poster boy for how to misuse phrases.  Everyone knows the phrase, but not everyone knows the briefs for the individual words.  When this phrase is dictated, especially in the beginning of a dictation, too many of us pause and wait to hear the phrase.  That’s bad news all around.

Here are two basic rules that everyone should follow:

1  Learn the briefs for the individual words before you learn the phrases.

2 Never pause or hesitate.  Either write the outline in front of you, or drop the word and write the next one.

Barb DeWitt

Kennewick, Washington