Alphanumeric characters are exactly what they sound like: letters and numbers. When it comes to coding, they’re the letters and numbers you produce with your keyboard. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably been practicing your keyboarding skills since you could reach your parents’ desk. However, hunt-and-peck will only get you so far. Many jobs require a keyboarding speed test. And if you’re going to pass it, you need to be able to find those letters and numbers by touch.

I’ll never forget my interview for my dream job, right after finishing university. The supervisor and I were practically best friends after a few minutes. They even took me around and introduced me to the other employees. All I had to do was fill out the paperwork — and pass the keyboard test. No worries, just a formality. There wasn’t even any typing involved in the job. I will never forget losing that dream job because I couldn’t type fast enough. If only I’d practiced touch-typing those alphanumeric characters.

But you don’t have to make the same mistake. All it takes is practice. Muscle memory will do the rest.

Alphanumeric Characters: Speed and Accuracy

keyboard with hands

A keyboarding test judges your speed and accuracy. This judgment is made in terms of keystrokes per hour, or kph. Some tests will convert keystrokes per hour to words per minute (wpm). A common conversion formula is five keystrokes equals one word. So, for example, 10,000 keystrokes per hour would equal 2,000 words per hour, or 33 words per minute.

Many consider a typing speed of 8,000 keystrokes per hour (or 27 words per minute) to be average. However, a lot of jobs with heavy keyboarding require a speed of 10,000 keystrokes per hour — with 99 percent accuracy. Some employers will allow people with greater speed one or two percentage points latitude in terms of accuracy. This handy chart can show you how many employers classify typing speed.

What Kinds of Jobs Require a Keyboarding Test?

A lot of them, and the number is growing.

Data entry

Data entry is probably the one most people will think of first. What is it? Well, as you might guess, data entry means taking different kinds of information and entering it into forms or databases. Your employer may need you to enter names, addresses, numbers, prices, labels, or other kinds of data. It may sound dull, but the information that a data entry technician enters powers the operations of the rest of the company. The company may use the information to keep track of clients, track inventory, send out mailings and more. For this reason, data entry personnel must be fast and accurate. The average typing speed that data entry employers are looking for is around 7,000 kpm, if you’re entering text, or 10,000 kpm if you’re entering numbers.

Medical coding

One of the fastest-growing jobs today is medical coding. In the healthcare field, every diagnosis, procedure, treatment, injury, etc. has a code made up of alphanumeric characters. The coder’s job is to take medical data, for example, the details of a patient’s visit to the doctor, and record it with the appropriate alphanumeric codes. The patient’s symptoms, any tests performed, and the doctor’s diagnosis will all have their own codes. These codes are used in billing. Generally, coders will need to type 35 words per minute or 10,500 keystrokes per hour.

Medical billing

First, medical coders translate information into codes composed of alphanumeric characters. Then medical billers use these codes to create bills for insurance companies. They first enter this information into a form and then send it to the insurance company. Like medical coders, medical billers also need to type 35 words per minute, or 10,500 keystrokes per hour.

Administrative assistant

Administrative assistant, secretaries, and receptionists also need to have fast and accurate typing skills. In the course of their jobs, these professionals may compose correspondence, type out dictated documents, write training materials, and input information into a computer. Generally, employers will want to hire someone who can type 55 to 80 words per minute, or 16,500 to 24,000 keystrokes per hour.

Transcription and captioning

Transcription means listening to spoken or recorded information, and translating it into alphanumeric characters. Real-time transcription means transcribing information as someone speaks it. This requires a typing speed of 200 to 300 words per minute (60,000 to 90,000 keystrokes per hour). A bit less intimidating is captioning, which means adding written transcriptions to video content. A lot of people enjoy this work, as they can do it from home, or on their own schedule.

Legal secretary

Legal secretaries are highly skilled and paid to match. But if you want this job, your typing speed and accuracy have to be superior. Legal secretaries prepare correspondence and legal documents. They also draft legal correspondence, and may work with billing information. They may also transcribe recordings. Additionally, they create spreadsheets of complex information, index and update existing information — and these are just some of the duties that require excellent typing skills. Legal secretaries must be able to type up to 80 words per minute, or 24,000 keystrokes per hour.

Court reporter

The court reporter must be at the top of their typing speed and accuracy game. Court reporters are responsible for transcribing court proceedings as they happen — and those proceedings happen fast. How fast? Well, many places expect a court reporter to be able to type 225 words per minute, or an astounding 67,500 keystrokes per hour. How do they do it? With a special stenotype machine that allows users to press combinations of keys to produce sounds and syllables. This is quite different from a QWERTY keyboard. However, it still requires extensive practice with alphanumeric characters.

How do you practice?

someone is using laptop

Fortunately for you, there are loads of ways to practice banging out your alphanumeric characters. First, you should test yourself to see your current skill level. Next, if you find you need to improve your speed, you should choose a practice method like the ones below. Finally, test yourself again. The more you practice, the faster and more accurate you’ll get. And soon, you’ll be at the level you need to get that job.

Online tests

There are a number of places online where you can test your typing speed and accuracy.

Typing Test Online has free online typing tests. You can take tests lasting from one to five minutes, using a variety of texts. You can also take a specific scientific typing test. This test is available in nine different languages, including English.

Key Hero has tests in twenty-five different languages. It will also keep track of your accuracy.

Online keyboarding practice

If you really want to crank up your typing skills, these websites have some excellent lessons and exercises. And they’re free!

Typing Club can help you to master touch typing, that is, banging out those alphanumeric characters with amazing speed and accuracy without even looking at the keyboard. You’ll learn proper finger positioning, how to navigate using the home row, and more.

Keybr uses an algorithm to create individualized lessons based on your skill level. Lessons use randomly generated words, which the algorithm creates specifically for you. The neat thing about this website is that it won’t let you get used to certain combinations of keystrokes. It always challenges you by working on your weaknesses and pushes you to overcome them.

You’ve Made Your Target. Now What?

So, you evaluated your typing speed. And then you practiced those alphanumeric characters until your fingers bled. But more importantly, you brought your typing speed up to snuff. Now it’s time to look for a place to apply those skills. If you don’t already have a job in mind, you might check out some of these keyboarding-oriented careers.

How did you learn your typing skills? Do you have any advice for people who want to improve theirs? Tell us about it in the comments!

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