What to Bring

  • You must use your own laptop to take the exam, unless you opt to handwrite your exam. To see what software is required and which resources are prohibited, review these guidelines.
  • Because you will be working without a spell or grammar checker, consider bringing a monolingual dictionary in your target language, grammar book for your source language, and stylebook for your target language.
  • All printed resources are allowed, but keep in mind that table or desk space is limited.

Before You Begin Translating

  • Read all of the passages before you decide which to translate. Do the dictionaries you brought cover the subject matter? Are there complicated sentences that will take time to untangle?
  • Carefully read the Translation Instructions (TIs) at the top of each passage and choose the correct register (language level, degree of formality) based on the specified target audience. The TIs set the context for the translation. Failure to follow the TIs will be penalized when the translation is graded.
  • The TIs also instruct you to “Translate everything below the horizontal line.” This is a reminder that any headings or subheads are considered part of the passage and must be translated. Follow the conventions of your language combination with regard to words or terms that remain in the source language. Be sure not to add or omit information. Additions and/or omissions can change the meaning. Qualifiers are also important.

While You Are Translating

  • Observe the formatting of the original. If paragraphs are separated by a line, do the same in the translation.
  • Remember that you will be graded on your ability to render the entire message of the original in the target language, not on your ability to rewrite or improve upon it.
  • Don’t add clarifications unless you’re certain that readers from the target-language culture will miss the meaning without them.
  • Pay attention to spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Conventions vary from one language to another, and failure to follow target-language rules can change or obscure the meaning.
  • Be careful where you place qualifiers and modifiers. Remember that word order is not the same in all languages and that careless placement can completely change the meaning.
  • Alternative translations will be considered errors. It is up to you to select a viable translation. The graders will not choose for you.
  • Unwieldy sentences can be broken into shorter ones, provided nothing is added or omitted to change the meaning. Use particular caution in this regard when translating legal passages.
  • If you find a typographical error in the exam passage, please write us a note at the end of your translation. Do not write on the exam passage itself.
  • Avoid regionalisms wherever possible, using instead more standard words.
  • It is especially dangerous to translate idiomatic expressions literally. Try to find an equivalent expression in the target language. For example, in the phrase “... hanging around the house,” “hanging around” conveys the idea that one is relaxing, being lazy. Don’t omit an idiom just because you can’t find an exact translation.
  • You are not expected to make mathematical conversions of measures, distances, money, and the like. You will not be penalized if you convert correctly, but you will be penalized if the conversion is wrong.

After You Finish Translating

  • Read your translated passage to yourself. Does it sound both grammatically correct and natural? Following the syntax of the source text too closely may be penalized if the resulting sentence is unidiomatic/awkward in the target language. Use the proofreading checklist below.
  • Check for omissions. The most common avoidable mistake is an omission. Make sure you have not omitted a title, a heading, an item in a bulleted list, a sentence, or an entire paragraph.
  • Proofreading Checklist:
    • Spelling and capitalization
    • Proper names
    • Numerals and dates
    • Placement of punctuation and diacritical marks
    • Placement of qualifiers and modifiers
    • Repetition (a bird in the the hand)
    • Subject/verb agreement
    • Prepositions
    • Verb tenses
    • Syntax (Is it too close to the source text?)

Language variants and special rules

  • For all into-English exams: Candidates are expected to use standard American English spelling style and usage. Refer to these Into-English Grading Standards.
  • For the English into Spanish exam: Candidates are expected to use the latest spelling rules (introduced by the Real Academia Española in 2010) or errors will be marked. Read more special tips for the English into Spanish exam.
  • For the English into German exam: Candidates are expected to use the latest German spelling rules (introduced in 1996/97) or errors will be marked.

Additional tips for dictionary use

  • Use dictionaries judiciously and be sure your word choices are correct in context. If a dictionary offers more than one translation for a word, don’t assume you can use any of them interchangeably. It sometimes helps to cross check an unfamiliar term you have tentatively selected by looking it up in the other direction.
  • If a word or phrase is not in your dictionaries, apply your translation skills. Perhaps it is a compound whose parts are in the dictionary, a derivative of a word that is listed, or a cognate you can look up in the target language. In other cases, you are expected to determine the meaning from the context and determine the correct term/phrase in accordance with the translation instructions. Texts selected as exam passages are modified to avoid obscure terms, and you will be penalized if you simply note “not in dictionary.”

Take a Practice Test

The practice test is an excellent and affordable way to measure your readiness for the exam. It consists of an exam passage from a previous year and is designed to provide a practical introduction to the nature of the exam and how errors are marked.