ATA Certification Program
Practice Test for the ATA Certification Exam
The practice test process is made available as an aid to preparation for the Certification Exam. The test consists of one passage and unless you request otherwise, the subject matter will be general. The other two subject categories are science/technology/medicine and law/business/finance. You may request more than one passage provided you pay a fee of $50.00 (members) or $90.00 (non-members) for each additional passage.
The practice test has some features in common with the certification exam.
- The passage is of the same level of difficulty as a passage in the certification exam.
- The person who grades your test is a regular certification exam grader who will grade your work anonymously and apply the same quality criteria to your translation as to a certification exam passage. (See Introduction to the ATA Certification Exam, Rubric for Grading, Framework for Standardized Error Marking).
- As in the case of the certification exam, the test must be written by hand on the lined paper provided. ATA is working to make keyboarded examinations possible, but no certain date has been set at which this change from handwritten examinations will take place. For the time being, no electronic equipment of any kind is permitted in the examination room. At the certification exam sitting, an exception is made for disabled persons, who may write their examination on a non-memory typewriter at an individual sitting that has been approved by Headquarters.
The practice test is taken under different conditions than the certification examination.
- No time limit is imposed on the practice test. In contrast, the certification exam is strictly limited to three hours, during which you must complete the translation of two passages. If you are seriously preparing to take the certification exam, you may want to adhere to the same time limits and complete a passage in 1-1/2 hours.
- The certification examination is an open book exam, but you must bring the books with you; you are not permitted to share with another candidate. Your preparation for the certification exam will be more effective if you limit yourself to the number of dictionaries you would reasonably bring with you to an exam site and if you do not use the Internet.
- The greatest difference between the practice test and the certification examination, and the one that is very advantageous to you, is the fact that whereas a certification examination is not returned to the candidate, the practice test is a learning opportunity; it is returned with error markings clearly visible and classified as to type and seriousness. This feedback should give a reasonable idea of whether you are ready to take the examination and, if not, where you need more work. (See How the Exam Is Graded: Explanation of Error Categories).
Please keep in mind that if you pass the practice test, you will not necessarily pass the certification examination, but if you do not pass the practice test, the chances are high that you will fail the exam.
Please be sure to read carefully and follow the instructions you receive in the packet together with the practice test and the paper on which you are to write.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do people fail the practice test?
Important causes of failure are: major omissions, major mistranslations where the meaning of the original is lost, or an accumulation of target-language writing errors. Tests taken from the candidate’s mother tongue into a second language account for a high percentage of failures.
Why should members take the practice test before applying for the certification exam?
From a purely practical standpoint, at $50/$90 a passage, the practice test is a good investment to see whether the candidate is sufficiently prepared to take the examination, which costs $300.
How does one apply to take a practice test?
Anyone may take a practice test. Send your payment of $50 per passage if you’re an ATA member ($90 per passage if you’re a non-member) to ATA Headquarters along with a practice test request form, which you will find on this website. Practice test registrations may be submitted along with membership applications. You should receive the test packet within a few weeks after you apply. Return the original passage and your translation as requested in the accompanying instructions. You may want to keep a photocopy of your translation for your records. The graders are not staff members but active translators around the country and overseas, so please allow 6-8 weeks for receipt of the evaluation.
How can I get further information about the practice test or the certification exam?
For additional information about the nature of the certification exam, please follow the links in this section or consult other pages at this website. You may also call ATA Headquarters at (703) 683-6100.