What is a Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR)

An organization called the National Court Reporter’s Association (NCRA) is the professional organization at the national level that handles credentialing for stenographic court reporting and serves as a general resource for the field. This association offers a series of certification exams and designations that certify stenographic court reporters in various areas and at various skill levels.

The Certified Realtime Reporter exam and certification is an entry level but important exam that certifies the ability of an individual to use a stenotype machine in real time and to manipulate the transcribed results using the Computer Aided Transcription method.

Stenotype Machines and Computer Aided Transcription

Stenotype machines are finger keyed machines on which court reporters transcribe speech and other information in real time. The user presses combinations of the keys to represent letters, phrases, or abbreviations. These are later either displayed or transcribed (often both).

Computer Aided Transcription (CAT), is software that is used as an interface with modern stenotype machines. It allows the reporter to do such things as translate the stenographic shorthand into full English text, easily manipulate and store files, display the typed material quickly and overhead screens, send pages of transcribed speech through the internet, edit the material in real time, and so on.

The CRR Certification Exam

The CRR certification exam consists of three basic steps. In the first, the individual sets up their stenotype machine and CAT equipment. This shows that they are familiar with the technology and are efficient at getting it set up and ready for use. The second set is a five minute real time transcription session from recorded literary material spoken at 180 words per minute. The student must accurately transcribe this spoken content using the stenotype machine and CAT technology. When the transcription is done, the student must convert their file to an ASCII text file. It is this final file that yields the grade for the exam.

Those successfully completing the exam are sent a certificate that they can display on their wall, and are recognized in The Journal of Court Reporting, a journal published by the NCRA, as well as in the Court Reporter Source Book and on the NCRA web site.


There are some prerequisites for taking the CRR exam. First of all, students must already hold the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, which is also given by the NCRA. This certification designation is gained by successfully passing a 90 minute, 105 question multiple choice test that covers reporting, transcript production, operating practices, and professional issues and continuing education.

Individuals seeking CRR certification must also be members of the NCRA in good standing. The organization offers three levels of membership – Participating Memberships, Associate Memberships, and Student Memberships. All three have different yearly membership dues.

Registration and Scheduling For Exam

Once the RPR designation has been secured, an individual is ready to register for the exam. This can either be done online at the website or sent in with the January and July issues of The Journal of Court Reporting. The exam is offered three times a year.

Advantages of CRR Certification

The basic advantage of CRR certification is that it is helpful in showing employers and clients that you can handle real time stenotype machine operation. This is a performance based test. It emphasizes real time practical ability rather than factual background knowledge. Therefore it gives potential employers and clients literal proof of your stenotype and CAT ability. This can be invaluable on a resume. It attests to both practical transcription skill and the digital storage and manipulation processes involved in CAT usage.

Stenography vs. Voice Writing

There’s a bit of a debate within the field of court reporting as to which system, stenography or voice writing is most effective. The NCRA generally endorses stenography (which is also what the CRR exam tests) while another national organization called The National Verbatim Reporter’s Association (NVRA) emphasizes voice writing (verbatim reporting) as the method of choice. There really is no right answer to the question of which method is the best – a court reporter should select the method which feels most comfortable to him or her as the method to use. CRR certification shows anyone who is interested that you have mastered both the stenographic technique and that you can also use CAT. Seeing as verbatim reporters also use CAT, it wouldn’t hurt to get the CRR certification even if you’ve decided that voice writing is your main transcription method. It also doesn’t hurt to be familiar with both of the most common techniques in the industry and to prove your abilities with each.

The CRR exam is a down to earth demonstration of your stenographic ability that will stand you in good stead with employers. Information and scheduling for this and the other NCRA exams can be found on their website at: http://ncraonline.org/