The exam is a three-hour, open-book, proctored exam held throughout the U.S. and around the world. Exams are offered in a computerized format using your own laptop. A handwritten option is also available in most cases.
The exam consists of three passages of 225 to 275 words each. Two of these passages must be translated. Passages are typically written at a university reading level but avoid highly specialized terminology requiring research. While they include terminology challenges, these can be met with a good general dictionary.
In addition to the text to be translated, each exam passage includes Translation Instructions (TIs), specifying the context within which the translation is to be performed (text source and translation purpose, audience, and medium). TIs can be thought of as reflecting the client's expectations, as if the exam was a real-life translation assignment.
The exam is not returned to you, and no feedback is provided. ATA exam results are pass or fail only. This is the prevailing practice of many high-stakes credentialing exams.
The current pass rate is less than 20%.
Fewer than 2,000 ATA members are certified.
Language Combinations Available
Translators are certified by ATA in a specific language pair and direction (from or into English). Certification is currently available in the following language combinations:
English into Arabic
English into Croatian
English into Dutch
English into Finnish
English into French
English into German
English into Hungarian
English into Italian
English into Japanese
English into Polish
English into Portuguese
English into Russian
English into Spanish
English into Swedish
English into Ukrainian
Arabic into English
Chinese into English
Croatian into English
Dutch into English
French into English
German into English
Italian into English
Japanese into English
Polish into English
Portuguese into English
Russian into English
Spanish into English
Swedish into English
Ukrainian into English
What skills does the exam test for?
The exam tests for professional translation skills. It is designed to determine whether a candidate is able to produce a translation that is professionally usable within the framework provided by the Translation Instructions (TIs).
The skills in question are defined by the positive answers to these four questions:
Certification Exam FAQs
Can I bring reference books to the exam?
Yes. You may bring as many books as you would like. However, each exam passage is selected to avoid highly specialized terminology that would require research. While they include terminology challenges, these can be met with a good general dictionary.
Can I bring a laptop?
Yes. If you are taking the computerized exam, you must bring your laptop.
Can I bring a tablet or smartphone?
No. Electronic equipment and digital resources are not permitted. Exceptions may be made for individuals with disabilities who may use a non-memory typewriter for the exam. Contact the ATA Certification Program Manager for pre-approval.
Is Internet access available?
All computerized sittings have internet access. See details here.
Do I need to bring a calculator to convert measures, distances, currencies, etc.?
No. You are not expected to make mathematical conversions. You will not be penalized if you choose to do the conversions, but incorrect conversions will be marked as errors and result in a lower score.
Because exam passages may be used again, candidates are bound by a confidentiality agreement not to discuss or reveal the contents of the examination. Violation of this agreement may be grounds for loss of certification.
Register for an Exam
See the schedule of upcoming exams and learn how to register.