ATA recently launched its second year of offering the certification exam online. In 2021, we began partnering with ExamRoom.AI, an international remote testing platform, to allow candidates to take the exam from home. After some initial hiccups, this proved to be a successful and popular collaboration. In all, 150 candidates took the online exam, whereas fewer than 100 attended in-person sittings. In both cases, capacity bottlenecks forced us to turn away a number of people interested in becoming certified. The plan this year is to greatly expand the availability of the online exam, which entails a few key changes.
Last year, ATA scheduled virtual sittings (i.e., set times at which a limited number of candidates took the exam remotely). They were monitored by proctors from ExamRoom—who provided technical support and also watched for obvious prohibited behavior, such as cell phone use or talking to someone off-camera—as well as ATA proctors, who watched for unauthorized internet use.1
This year, candidates will do initial registration via ATA, selecting their language pair and making payment, and then be passed on to ExamRoom to schedule the exam at a time of the candidate’s choosing. This means that for the first time ever, candidates will be able to schedule their own exam sitting. Moreover, there’s virtually no limit2 on the number of candidates who can take the exam.
The second key change is that instead of allowing candidates to access all of the internet apart from specifically prohibited sites (such as DeepL or sites with chat or forums), this year we’re flipping that around and allowing candidates to use only a long list of allowed resource sites. Everything else will be blocked automatically—and thus there’s no longer any need for ATA proctors to monitor internet usage. (These two approaches to internet access used to be known by the implicitly racist terms “blacklist” and “whitelist.”)
The new “Allow List”3 for 2022 has been carefully selected by graders with outside input. It includes monolingual English and non-English resources, bilingual dictionary sites, and some multilingual sites. We believe this will be much less confusing for candidates, as they’ll know in advance and during the exam exactly which sites they can use. It will also even out expectations, as both graders and candidates can be confident that qualified candidates, by applying their knowledge and skills and using the allowed list of resources, can successfully address the challenges present in the exam.
In addition to the on-demand online exam, we’re still allowing local groups to organize in-person sittings. Be advised that candidates taking the in-person exam will also be limited to the same Allow List of internet resources as other candidates. And finally, all print resources continue to be permitted for both the online and in-person exam, and candidates are also free to use glossaries stored on their computer/laptop, as long as they aren’t contained within a computer-assisted translation program.
There are sure to be some additional sites that individuals would like to see on the Allow List. The Certification Committee is open to suggestions,4 but it remains the final arbiter of what makes it onto the list. Before you send in a suggestion for an additional site, bear in mind that the exam is not a vocabulary drill, and that the passages are of general subject matter. Gone are the days when we had semi-technical texts that might have necessitated an array of specialized dictionaries. My advice to candidates regarding the Allow List is to consider the sites already permitted very carefully and focus on the ones that provide the most practical assistance. If there’s a site missing that you think should absolutely be permitted, we’ll consider adding it to the list, but any changes will not take effect until 2023.
Everyone in the Certification Program is excited by this new prospect of unlimited access to the exam. Getting to this point has required a huge effort by current and former members of the Certification Committee, graders, proctors, and especially Certification Program Manager Caron Bailey and the late Michèle Hansen, Certification Committee Chair from 2020 to 2021. Kudos to everyone involved!
- Besides live monitoring, all sessions are recorded for later review if necessary.
- Subject to grader capacity for processing completed exams.
- ATA Computerized Exam Online Resource List: What’s Permitted and What’s Not, tinyurl.com/ATAExamResources.
- Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Stephenson, CT is chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. An ATA-certified German>English, Dutch>English, and Croatian>English translator, he has been an independent translator for over 30 years, specializing in civil litigation and creative nonfiction. email@example.com.