Dear Alesa: Demystifying Acceptable Variations

Medical TranscriptionNo Comments

acceptable variationsDear Alesa,

I’m working through the practicum portion of the medical transcription editor program and I’m just devastated. All of my report submissions look like someone splashed orange and blue paint all over them! I’m so confused about what highlights are actually errors and what highlights are acceptable variations. Help!



Dear Mystified,

It’s very common to feel overwhelmed with the practicum comparison grader until you understand the difference between acceptable variation and true error. Once you get that down, grading your reports and progressing through the course will become easier.

The first, most important thing to remember is that the computer is not grading you as correct or incorrect. All it is doing is taking your report, comparing it to the key and highlighting any variations in orange and blue. It’s up to you to determine which highlights are acceptable variations and which are true errors. The easiest way to do that is to use this handy-dandy 3-question test:

1. Does it change the meaning?
2. Does it affect patient care?
3. Does it create a glaring grammatical issue (like a run-on sentence, comma splice, non-sense sentence fragment, etc.)?

If you can answer no to all 3 of those questions, the highlight is simply acceptable variation and you don’t need to worry about deducting for it.  If you can answer yes to one or more of those questions, the highlight is an actual error and requires application of the grading scale.

Another important thing to discuss when talking about acceptable variations is comma placement. You will notice that as you compare your reports, you may not punctuate sentences exactly the same as the original MT. That’s okay! Commas are often largely subjective as long as you don’t change the meaning, affect patient care, or create a glaring grammatical issue.

Hyphen placement is also a question many students have when it comes to acceptable variation. Hyphenation is largely style. We have a saying in the office: “A patient’s health never hinges on a hyphen.” Please keep that in mind. Again, as long as you don’t change the meaning, affect patient care, or create a glaring grammatical issue, you are fine!

I hope this information helps clarify. Please don’t hesitate to contact us in Student Support if you ever have any questions about whether something is acceptable variation or true error. We are happy to assist!


Alesa Little, MTE
Medical Transcription Editor Instructor

Leave a comment below »

  1. Tori Roth October 01, 2015

    I am actually just reading now about deducting and grading and became completely overwhelmed. I was confused about the orange and blue highlights. I haven’t even started the actual transcribing part of the program. I became so terrified of failing this course just reading all the errors I could make. Thank you for sharing this information. I feel a little bit better now.

  2. Jack F. October 01, 2015

    Hi Tori,

    I’ve been where you are and believe me, I know how the fear factor can hold you back. But I recommend you take your time, go as slow as you need, build up confidence, and you will get it right. It is like learning a musical instrument.

    Best to you.

  3. Ashley L. November 05, 2015

    This has been very reassuring! I have been transcribing Clinic Notes forever it seems, and I can’t help but feel discouraged when I think that I’ve finally got it, and then it looks like I’m not even close! I’m just so worried of messing up someone’s report. But it is helpful to know that I can relax a little and know that I’m not doing as bad as I thought! smile



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