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Some privacy, please

Ashley Stokes taking down the investiture ceremony of the newest U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana. She is assigned to the Hon. Judge Van Bokkelen, who is administering the oath.

By Ashley Stokes

Testing can be stressful, even under the most ideal circumstances.

I graduated from the College of Court Reporting, Valparaiso, Ind., as an onsite student in 2008, and all of my testing was administered in person. Once I passed my speeds in school, I set my sights on the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) exam and the Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) exam, all in-person tests at that time. After passing those certifications, I set out as a freelance reporter in hopes of gaining as much experience as possible. And there I was, almost 10 years later as a federal official reporter for the Northern District of Indiana, and I found myself in desperate need of obtaining the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) certification. 

Having never taken an online test, the fear of the unknown had held me back long enough. What better way to force myself into taking the plunge of online testing than by registering for the test? 

To say this time in my life was a little crazy might be an understatement. My husband and I were in the middle of a major home renovation; so our family of five moved in with my parents while our house was under construction. At the time, we had three very active boys ages six, three, and just over a year old. Since my parents lived in a small Cape Cod-style house, there wasn’t much room for peace and quiet. But I was determined to take the CRR test, and I didn’t want to let an insignificant issue like a quiet testing place stand in my way. 

After surveying my options, I decided the best course of action would be for me to take the test in the bathroom. It’s the one room in the house where I get the most privacy, it’s fairly quiet, and I can lock the door. I also scheduled the test for 10 p.m., a time when most everyone should be sleeping. 

When the time to take the test finally came, my setup was complete. I brought in a little TV tray from the living room to use as my desk, and I sat on the toilet as my chair. Once connected, the proctor asked me to pan the room with my video camera.

I heard chuckles as she asked, “Is that your bathroom?”

I sheepishly confirmed her suspicions, and we both had a good laugh. One final request before I could begin: “Ma’am, can you please pull back the shower curtain to confirm that the tub is empty?” 

I complied with her requests, and then we moved on to testing. Having that little laugh with the proctor helped to calm my nerves. I’d love to say that I nailed the test, it was easy-peasy, and my notes were near perfection. That’s definitely not the case. However, one thing I did learn is that once I gave the test a try, it wasn’t quite as scary as imagined in my mind. I came out of that testing experience with even more determination and a solid understanding of how online testing works. I was much more confident on my next attempt at the CRR – a passing score!

Certifications are important to me because it encourages me to be a better writer, a better reporter, and to always challenge myself. Having certifications has also been a benefit to my career, and I plan to continue practicing for that next test. Although the bathroom proved to be a quiet testing atmosphere, our home renovations are completed, and I’m happy to say that I’ll be taking the next certification test in my newly renovated office.

I encourage all my fellow reporters to just register! The hardest part is making the commitment.  Once you’re registered, follow through and take the test, even if it seems daunting. Each attempt moves you one step closer to your newest certification. And in between tests, your writing will improve from the practicing. And clean, fast writing is something we all can appreciate. 

Ashley Stokes, RPR, CRR, is an official court reporter from Valparaiso, Ind. She can be reached at