Late fall and early winter are traditionally a slow time for ATA’s Certification Program, since no exam sittings are scheduled between ATA’s Annual Conference and the beginning of the new exam year in March. Certification graders take advantage of this respite to select new exam passages, fine-tune grading standards, and tend to other housekeeping tasks.
This period is also a good opportunity for prospective certification candidates to get ready to take the exam in 2017 by exploring ATA’s toolbox of exam preparation resources. Here’s an overview.
It can’t be said enough: completing a practice test and studying the results is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. ATA practice tests are retired exam passages that the candidate translates at home and returns to ATA Headquarters. Practice tests are evaluated by graders in the same way as the actual exams. However, unlike the actual exam, the candidate receives a marked copy, showing each error with a brief explanation as needed. This is a terrific way for prospective candidates to see what sort of text they could encounter, how the grading standards are applied, and what skills they might need to work on to pass the exam. Best of all, practice tests will be available online in 2017.
ATA is committed to employing new media for preparing candidates for the certification exam. The latest example is a webinar given in September by Michèle Hansen and Holly Mikkelson. If you missed it, you can purchase a recording from ATA’s website: www.atanet.org/webinars. Stay tuned for other new media approaches to candidate preparation!
Translators interested in certification often overlook the valuable information readily available on ATA’s website. The Certification Exam Overview and the Frequently Asked Questions are a good place to start. (See links at the end of this column.) If you’re contemplating sitting for the exam, be sure to check out these essential resources.
This year’s Annual Conference in San Francisco included workshops to prepare candidates for the certification exam in four languages: Spanish, French, Japanese, and Italian. These in-depth sessions, moderated by certification graders, are extremely popular and considered highly useful by prospective candidates. Watch for them at next year’s conference in Washington, DC—but also think about asking your local chapter or affiliate to schedule a session at your local or regional conference in 2017.
Into-English Grading Standards
One overlooked and important resource for candidates is the Into-English Grading Standards (IEGS). This document, downloadable from ATA’s website, sets forth standards applied by all ATA graders of foreign-into-English language pairs when assessing a variety of issues, such as proper punctuation, nonparallel constructions, and split infinitives. It’s a must for exam candidates translating into English, and is especially useful at computerized sittings, since candidates can access the searchable PDF version on their computers.
If you don’t translate material on general subjects on a regular basis, and/or you have not done timed tests lately, independent practice should be part of your personal exam preparation toolbox. A simple way to hone both skills—working with expository texts and working quickly—is to search the Internet for texts that resemble the practice test in your language pair. Good sources are articles from online publications written for a general (but educated) audience. Download articles that interest you, copy them into Word files, and set aside time to practice translating parts of them into your target language. If you’re very busy (as most of us are!), just start with one paragraph at a time, minimizing your use of reference tools (print and online dictionaries). After a few practice sessions, you’ll likely see your speed and facility improve.
The final tool is not something candidates can prepare for in advance, but it’s still an important part of the exam: paying close attention to the translation instructions that accompany each passage, specifying the source of the text, the reason it is being translated, the audience addressed by the translation, and the medium in which it will appear. This opening statement, which precedes each exam text and, in fact, should be considered part of the overall passage, gives the candidate important information about how to approach the translation task, especially with regard to style and register, but even in such basic regards as terminology and usage.
So, grab your toolbox and put it to good use!
Links to Information about the Certification Exam
ATA Webinars on Demand
“A Guide to ATA Certification”
Certification Exam Overview
ATA Certification Into-English Grading Standards
ATA Certification Program: Frequently Asked Questions
David Stephenson serves as chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.