Friday, November 11, 2011

Skills Test Nerves

***I'm posting this now and not the week before the next NCRA skills exam, because the time to prepare isn't a week before the test.  The time to prepare is NOW.***

complete nervous breakdown in 3....2....1....

So it took me nine total goes to finally get the CCP skills this May, and here are a couple things that made the difference this last time.

(Note: The last five times I took it, I actually COULD write 180 for accuracy.  So these tips only apply if you've GOT the CHOPS.  The first four times I wasn't ready. The tip there is DON'T TAKE IT IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE CHOPS YET.)

1. Instead of taking the test 30 minutes away from home where I always took it, and seeing familiar faces, and getting swept up in all the bitching ABOUT the test before the test*, I drove 250 miles to the next closest testing site where I didn't know anyone.
1.1: Therefore it was much easier to not get swept up in the negativity.
1.2: I spent money on a (cheap) hotel, gas, meals, and another phone charger since I forgot mine, so you BET I was going to be sure I was prepared this time!!

2. To be SURE I was prepared for the test, I realtimed various literaries with the specific goal of practicing pulling out of tailspins caused by nerves/trailing/thinking too much. What killed me the previous few times was: I'd write along just fine, la dee dah, and make a mistakw -- asterisk -- mistake, and thenn starrt to freeze up adn gt nervus because of ithenasvnskegf;dsjn;asdg;lns;lkasldfalsd.

Like that.

I practiced getting nervous.  Specifically.  If I was writing along at the target speed and felt myself start to slip, GOOD! It's an opportunity to get better at pulling out of a tailspin.

See, I always realized that if I'm writing depos while mentally in la-la land and an atty asked, "Could you read back the last question?" and I had NO CLUE what the question was, I knew I'd NAILED the question perfectly -- punctuation, hyphenation, homophones, everything.

I trained myself to look at a picture of one of my wrestling crushes so I'd slip back into la-la land and stop thinking about the words or my fingers.  As I wrote a practice take, I'd feel myself slipping or thinking -- and then look at him.  Soon it became almost a hypnotic suggestion (heck, I probably DID technically hypnotize myself, but I'm not an expert).  I'd start to slip, look at my picture, and my fingers would take back over the writing.  Just like that.  He's not my current crush anymore, but it still works.

Trust your fingers.

I did take after take, starting with my 180 literaries and working my way up.  I wrote each take imagining this was THE TEST, and I graded them afterwards with extreme prejudice.  I got to where I could do 200 wpm for a couple minutes at accuracy, so I knew I had a cushion.  I finished my 200 wpm takes and thereafter practiced literary at speeds not under 220 wpm.

I brought the picture to the CRR test.  Set up just as if I was doing a regular job.  Didn't visit with others beyond exchanging pleasantries; practiced a few -- just a few, as I tend to test better cold -- minutes of Magnum Steno's 220+ wpm dictation.

The warm-up minute was finished, and the hands started to tremble -- but I took a deep breath and looked at my picture.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could DO THIS.

Ready? Begin.

*My fellow test-takers, I love you all, but we do get to bitching when we get together. Just sayin'.