NCRA and state association skills testing information
When you choose to take your test, you want to be able to completely focus on your writing and transcription skills, and not worry about the steps to properly submit your test. This page will help you understand what you need to know to set up a Stenograph writer for testing, and how to submit files from CATalyst (and/or CATalyst VP) software.
A downloadable version of this guide can be found here.
Download the Guardian Browser
Effective January 1, 2024, all online testing monitored by ProctorU will require that the test be accessed via the Guardian Browser. This “no-frills” browser designed specifically for online testing ensures that all settings are correct for secure test conditions. This eliminates the need for you to modify the settings of whatever browser you customarily use for accessing content on the internet.
The Guardian Browser is available at:
Practice the Process on my Realtime Coach
If you are not a regular user of my Realtime Coach, when you purchase/register for your skills test, you will be given login information for the my Realtime Coach site. Once you log in to the my Realtime Coach site, click Tests, then select the association that is sponsoring your test (e.g., NCRA, TCRA,CCRA, CAL DRA, FCRA, etc.).
Next to Step 2, Prepare is a link labeled Detailed Instructions. Click that link for a PDF with the instructions for your test. Some of the instructions may be method (steno or voice) or software-specific: read through the document and determine which steps apply to you. If you’re not sure, contact the association sponsoring the test.
You will see practice sessions for each specific test type, or each leg of a particular test. These practice sessions are to enable you to practice the process of taking the test. Click the one that applies to you and practice the entire process several times; as many times as necessary until the process is clear, simple, and straightforward. What you experience in the practice session is what you’ll experience in the test.
During these practice sessions, you will be asked to perform tasks with your Stenograph products, such as putting your writer into Test Mode, pausing CATalyst Cloud Backup, selecting, and copying file content from your CAT software and pasting it into my Realtime Coach, printing (saving) steno and/or text files as PDF files so they can be attached/ uploaded to my Realtime Coach.
Here are instructions to perform these tasks, along with tips to help you get the best possible results on your test:
STENO REPORTERS: Set Up Test Mode on Your Stenograph Writer
Test Mode was designed specifically for when you are taking a test or writing in a secure location that restricts you from leaving the environment with a copy of the material. Test Mode automatically disables any audio recording and only saves the steno notes to one location. You will be required to use Test Mode when taking your test.
When Test Mode is activated, Stenograph writers with screens will display a red border around the screen. The writer remains in Test Mode until it Test Mode is turned off or the writer is turned off.
Luminex II® & Luminex®
In Test Mode, the Luminex writes only the steno file to the Data SD card. No files are written to memory or the Backup SD card; Reopen and all audio recording features are disabled. To turn Test Mode on, turn on the writer. At the Opening Menu, press Setup, More, Test Mode, On.Delete
In Test Mode, the Diamante writes only the steno file to the Data SD card. No files are written to memory or the Backup SD card, and all audio recording features are disabled. To turn Test Mode on, turn on the writer. At the Opening Menu, press Setup, More, Test Mode, On.Delete
In Test Mode, nothing will be written to memory. Reopen and Audio recording are disabled. To turn Test Mode on, turn on the writer. At the Opening Menu, press Setup, More, Test Mode, On.Delete
élan Mira A3®
In Test Mode, no files are written to memory or the Backup SD card and reopen is disabled. To turn Test Mode on, turn on the writer. At the Opening Menu, press Setup, More, Test Mode, On.Delete
élan Cybra® Professional, élan Cybra Student and Stentura Protégé®
Press the 3rd and 5th gray buttons to enter the Test mode. The file folder and RAM icons on the LCD flash to indicate that the élan Cybra is in Test mode. The memory blocks on the LCD do not display.Delete
élan Mira and élan Mira G2 (Version 3.04 and higher)
In Test Mode, no files are written to memory or the Backup CF card; Reopen is disabled. To turn Test Mode on, turn on the writer. At the Opening Menu, press More, Setup, Test Mode.Delete
TIP: At the end of your test, you will be required to delete any files written to the SD Data Card (or diskette). To keep it simple to know which files to delete, use a new, freshly formatted card in your writer for the test. That way, you can either just delete ALL the files on the card or reformat the card to demonstrate that the files have been deleted.
CATalyst Skills that may be required to submit your test:
Pause Cloud Backup
Click the Cloud Backup icon on the Function Bar or click Function, Cloud Backup (Alt+u, k).
Click the Pause (II) button in the Cloud Backup Status dialog box.
From the Windows Taskbar Tray
Right-click the Cloud Backup icon in the Windows System Tray.
Select Pause Cloud Backup, and then select one of the following options:
- 1 Hour
- 2 Hour
- 4 hour
- Until Reboot
How to launch translation for a Test
Follow the directions provided to you to open the Guardian Browser and to login to my Realtime Coach. When testing, this will include using a live proctor from ProctorU, or when using on-demand testing, working with Record+. Be prepared to show government-issued photo identification.
Open CATalyst in your user. Do one of the following to begin Translate and Edit:
Click the Translate button on the Function Bar.
Click Function, Translate & Edit (Alt+u, t).
Click File, Translate & Edit (Alt+f, t).
In the Translate dialog box, ensure that Record Audio is NOT checked/selected.
Check the instructions for your test to see whether the association sponsoring the test wishes you to use a preferred file name (such as a number assigned to you). Select any options you prefer for realtime and type the test’s file name. Click OK to begin translation.
TIP: If you wish to display and submit a session in all upper case, after Translation begins but before you start writing, press Ctrl+Home to move the cursor to the beginning of the file, and then press F4, Shift+v to insert the <All Caps On> format symbol.
Press Alt+Tab to switch back to the my Realtime Coach window to start the test. Press Alt+Tab again to return to the CATalyst Translate & Edit screen.
Write your session to completion.
Before you submit a transcript:
If you have selected EZ Choice, Second Choice, and/or Auto-Conflict options to select conflicts during translation, at the conclusion of translation and/or the conclusion of editing the transcript, click Special Edit, Resolve All Chosen Conflicts (Alt+s, f).
WARNING: If you skip this step, any conflicts that were selected during translation via EZChoice, Second Choice and/or Auto-Conflict and not confirmed in Edit (any conflicts still in the conflict color vs. the text color) will copy and paste as the un-resolved, original conflict entries.
How to print (save) a steno notes file to PDF
When you are finished writing and translating in realtime, do one of the following to close and save the file:
Right-click the file’s tab and select Save and Close.
Press Ctrl+s to save, then press Ctrl+F4 to close the file.
At the Manage Jobs screen in CATalyst, click the Manage Notes button on the Function Bar(or press Alt+u, n). At the Open Existing Document dialog box, browse to and select the name of the saved notes file or translated steno file you want to print to PDF.
If you’ve been instructed not to include timestamps when printing to PDF, do the following:
Click Tools, Options, Manage Notes (Alt+t, o, m).
At Print Timestamps, select No.
Click File, Print (Ctrl+p).
In the Print dialog box, under Printer, select Stenograph PDF Printer and click OK.
In the Print to File dialog box browse to the location where you wish to save the file and click Save. By default, the file will have the same name as when you read or translated the file.
The file will be printed to PDF immediately. This process takes only a few seconds,and no notification is given when the notes are finished printing. The file will be in the location you selected in step 5.
How to print (save) a text file to PDF
Make sure the text file is saved and closed.
In Manage Jobs, select the file to be printed (saved) to PDF.
Click File, Print(Ctrl+p).
In the Print dialog box:
Under Printer select Stenograph PDF Printer.
Click Print Options… If Print Graphics, Print Colors and/or Print Watermark are selected, de-select these options. If you did not translate in all caps but wish to print to PDF in All Caps, you can select that option. Click OK.
Under PDF, de-select any selected PDF options (sign, encrypt, include attachments, PDF/A compliant); they are not required or desired for testing.
At Range, select Entire Document.
In the Save PDF file dialog box, the Look In field tells you where the file will be saved. By default, the PDF file will be saved in the same folder as the native CATalyst text and steno notes files. Click Browse if you wish to select a different location. When the preferred location is displayed at Look in:, click Save.
How to copy and paste a file to my Realtime Coach
Review the instructions provided by your association as to which files need to be copied or pasted.
To copy the text from a translated text file, press Ctrl+Home to move the cursor to the beginning of the file, press Ctrl+Shift+End to select the entire file, press Ctrl+c to Copy, click in the my Realtime Coach window where the notes should be pasted, then press Ctrl+v to paste.
NOTE: Although you can write directly to the my Realtime Coach window via Output to StenoKeys, you will be required to select, copy, and paste text to that window at the conclusion of your realtime or transcription text, and any previous text in the my Realtime Coach window would be deleted.
Note to Voice Reporters: Read the test instructions from the association sponsoring the test to determine whether you are required to upload the .DRA file from Dragon® in addition to any files from CATalyst VP. The .DRA files will be located in the same folder as the .SGNGL text file from CATalyst VP.
How to locate a file that should be attached and uploaded
All of your CATalyst or CATalyst VP files are located on your computer’s internal hard drive in a folder named for your user that is stored inside a folder called USR. The path is noted as C:\CAT4\USR\YourUser. If your user is named Melissa, your files would be located in C:\CAT4\USR\MELISSA.
If you are looking for your files in Windows Explorer, you will find them in this structure:
- This PC
- Windows (C:)
- Your User
- System Files
- Any cases you’ve created
- Any files at the main level of Manage Jobs
- Your User
- Windows (C:)
CATalyst steno files have the extension .SGSTN.
CATalyst text files have the extension .SGNGL.
PDF files have the extension .PDF
Dragon dictation files have the extension .DRA
How to delete the test files from your writer and computer:
At the end of your test, after you have successfully copied & pasted your files to my Realtime Coach and uploaded any requested files, the test examiner, designee, proctor, or the recorded proctoring will require you to delete the test files from your computer and from your writer (if your writer has an Data SD Card).
To delete files from your computer:
In Manage Jobs, select the name of the text file.
Do one of the following:
Press the Delete key on your keyboard.
Right-click the selected file and click Delete.
Click the Delete icon on the toolbar.
Click Tools, Delete(or press Alt+t, d).
In the Delete dialog box, click OK.
At the Are you sure you want to send 1 file to the Recycle Bin? prompt, click Yes.
To delete the test file from the Windows Recycle Bin:
In the Windows Search field, type Recycle, and then select to Open the Recycle Bin or double click the Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop.
If the files are sorted in Date Deleted order, the test file you just deleted will be at the top of the list. If you do not see your test files at the top of the list of files in the Recycle Bin, click View, Details, then click the Date Deleted column heading to organize the files with the most recently deleted files at the top.
Select the test file(s) and press Delete. Windows will prompt you: Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file? Click Yes.
To delete the steno file from your writer’s SD Card
NOTE: Make sure your writer is off before completing these steps.
Remove the SD Card from the writer and place it in the computer’s SD Card slot, or in an SD Card reader connected to your computer.
Open Windows Explorer.
Double-click the drive letter assigned to your SD Card reader.
Double-click the folder named for the current month and year. For example, files written in January 2024 are contained in a folder named 202401.
Select (single click) the first file for that date. Then, hold down the Shift key and select the last file for that date.
When prompted Are you sure you want to permanently delete these x items?, click Yes.
Testing for some certifications may be offered at an in-person testing center. Many of the same skills that are detailed for online testing will be utilized for in-person testing (e.g. knowing where your files are located on your computer and writer, being able to print (save) to PDF. However, rather than copy and paste text to my Realtime Coach or upload PDF files when prompted, you may be required to copy/paste files to external media.
Stenograph recommends that you review the instructions provided prior to your test, and to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if there are requirements for processes involving the CATalyst software or your writer with which you need assistance not included in this document.