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I'm taking the ATA certification exam next month. Any tips?
Thread poster: Laura Tridico

Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:58
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
May 20, 2007

Hi all! For any ATA certified translators, I'm taking the exam for the first time next month and I'd love some advice on what to expect. I've only been translating for about 6 months but I'm a former lawyer with a fair amount of experience and have been working steadily since I started. I assume that passing will be a bit of a gamble since I've not been in the business very long, but its one I'm happy to take. BTW, I'm taking the French to English exam, and I'm a native English speaker...

Laura

[Edited at 2007-05-20 03:41]


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mariana24  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 07:58
Spanish
+ ...
Good luck! May 20, 2007

Hi Laura,

I don't think, honestly, that the gamble here is that you are probably out of practice. The gamble is the correction of the exam itself.

I attended a short course to take the ATA certification exam where we were shown many past, corrected papers. I saw incredible things there. I saw two identical renditions of the same phrase marked as an error in one paper and left as correct in the other. I saw a complete paper translated literally word by word, which resulted in a totally incomprehensible final text in the target language (Spanish), marked as passed. I knew of a person who took the exam four times and failed. At the fourth time she paid for a review...and passed.
So...what can I say. This was useful to me. It was not an opinion from someone, they were facts, I saw the exams. I spoke to the person who payed.

I don´t mean to say that it is not worth taking the exam. In fact I am of the opinion that certification is quite important and I know many ATA certified translators that have passed and are excellent translators. But I honestly think ATA should review their correction procedures and the qualifications of their correcting staff.

In any case...I really wish you good luck in the exam!


Mariana



[Edited at 2007-05-20 05:27]


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Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:58
English to Dutch
+ ...
Right May 20, 2007

As far as I understand, the decision of the "judges" is final and you don't get your test back.

I think that shows the "judges" know that they are not on very solid ground.


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mariana24  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 07:58
Spanish
+ ...
Hi May 20, 2007

Hi Benno,

The decision of the "judges" is final...until you pay. The review process is clearly explained in the ATA website.

If you do not pass the exam, you have the possibility (by paying US$ 250 if you took the exam in 2007) of asking for a review. The review takes place the year after -2008 in this case- and a board of examiners discusses your exam.

If they decide that you deserve a "Pass", they return the money and give you the certification diploma showing the original date of the exam. If they decide to keep the "Fail" mark, they must send you the corrected paper, which you can then appeal, if you still have the energy...


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Buy a rolling suitcase :) May 20, 2007

In other words, bring lots of dictionaries -- a mix of general and subject-specific volumes -- to the exam. You never know in advance what the subject matter will be, so be prepared. Bring, borrow or buy medical, legal, and business dictionaries in your language pair, and any other subject-specific dictionaries you can think of. If you're lucky, you'll be at a test site where there's room to spread them out on the table in front of you. Otherwise, you may have to pile them on the floor next to or behind you. At these exams, I always feel sorry for the one poor schnook who shows up with nothing but a small, ancient-looking paperback dictionary.

Read the instructions at the top of each source text. Sometimes there will be a sentence or two in the header telling you who the target audience is. It's easy to miss this.

Bring a watch, since you'll have to turn off your cell phone and there may or may not be a clock visible in the test room.

Be sure to work slowly enough that you're being careful, but fast enough so you'll have time for editing and proofreading at the end. If you finish before the end of the test period, spend the extra time comparing your text against the original and then checking your text for spelling, punctuation, grammar, missing or repeated words, etc.

If the punctuation rules in your target language are different from those in the source language, be sure to follow the target-language rules. (E.g., follow the U.S. English norm of putting periods and commas inside quotation marks.)

Be sure the tone and register of your translation reflects the tone and register of the original.

Bonne chance!

[Edited at 2007-05-20 13:22]


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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:58
English to Russian
+ ...
And that is why.. May 20, 2007

I decided not to waste my time and money (and lots of it!). There was only once when a potential client wanted me to have an ATA certification.

Mariana24, thank you so much for sharing your experience with the papers and paper grading procedures. We all understand why everything is so secretive and takes so much time. Every single cough and sneeze would cost you a separate amount to pay.

I once attended a seminar for getting the required annual education grades, just out of curiosity. Total waste of time. I fully understand that any professional association has to somehow support itself, but ATA even charges you to see the texts used at the previous year exam - instead of placing them on the website for the members' access. One would think that the ultimate goal of any professional association is to improve the members' professional knowledge and skills. Apparently, not in this case.

BTW, the vast majority of clients (except for agencies of course) would not understand the difference between an association member and a certified association member. And speaking of liability, if an interpreter/translator screws up, will the association bear the responsibility or legal costs, for issuing a certification? We all know the answer.

Good luck at the exam.


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:58
English to French
+ ...
The ATA practice test may be useful... May 20, 2007

ATA proposes a test, which may be a good way to train + you will get back your annotated copy... but it may be too late in your case.
This test can show you which mistakes you are making, but also it's a hand-written test, and in limited time.
I took the test, and it proved very useful; my grade was good, but I knew that it took me somewhat longer than stated. I realized that I had no time for a draft. I trained to write on the official forms (not so easy to stay in the limits of the lines, and to remember to put all the mandatory info on EACH page), and to write directly a version where I would make minimal amendments. Really a different experience compared to working with a computer, especially when you have not taken any exam for years!
Altogether, it worked for me (although I was short of time to proofread...), but I guess that without the test I would not have finished in time...
By the way: I am a computer engineer, and had only been translating for a rather short time when I took the certification. Having an excellent command of your target language (no misspellings, punctuation errors, etc.) is very important. So, good luck!


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:58
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Handwritten May 20, 2007

On the rare occasions when I do translation drafts by hand instead of at the computer, I feel myself working in quite a different gear or mode of thinking. If you haven't already done so, I expect it would be very useful to do some practice translations under similar conditions to the actual test; i.e. completely handwritten, and using as references only the books and other paper references that you plan to bring with you.

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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:58
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all these great comments... May 20, 2007

I am concerned about the subjective nature of the correction, though I guess that's the nature of the business. I'm interested in trying for a credential since I don't have a degree in translation (or even in French, for that matter). Not that it's kept me from finding plenty of clients, but I still think a credential could be useful at some point.

Sitting down to practice on a couple of handwritten translations is a great idea. I do all my work on the computer, so I need to think about how to translate and proof without creating an illegible mess.

I also like the idea of bringing in a lot of reference materials. I do so much on-line (which I know I can't use), but I have a few good dictionaries. I could also print out some of my good on-line glossaries. I'll definitely do that.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to help me out!

Laura


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 02:58
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Practice test May 20, 2007

Hi, Laura!

I know it's a little bit too late for this, but you could have considered taking a Practice Test. Yes, you have to pay about $40 for each article you wish to translate, but at least you get it back corrected, so you can have an idea of what your strong / weak points are.

However, as some of our colleagues pointed out, it's still kind of a gamble because there are several different people (all ATA-certified translators) available to correct passages for any given language pair. Even though they're supposedly trained in the ATA grading system, you may end up with a weaker corrector, which means he/she may not correct it well or just fail you for a number of subjective reasons.

Anyway, I believe you have as much of a chance as anybody else. Many experienced translators may end up failing the test or have problems with it being handwritten. I, for example, haven't been writing on paper on a regular basis for the last five years, so my hand and shoulder really hurt after I took the test last April... Make sure you have someone back home to give you a nice massage!

On a related topic, I'd recommend that you use the back of a passage sheet to write your draft. You'll have texts A, B, and C to choose from, so if you choose A and B, write the A draft on the back of the B text and vice-versa. It makes it easier for you to keep everything organized and clean when it's time to write the final translation on their exam paper. Can you see now why my hand and shoulder hurt so bad??? Twice the work, but it's for a good cause.

Also, you must definitely find a nice rolling suitcase, or one of those collapsible filing boxes that have wheels a handle. Take everything and the kitchen sink to the test, 'cause chances are you'll need that one little dictionary you decided to leave home.

Well, let us know what your experience was like. I hope in about four months you can come back here and tell us that you have passed!

Good luck!

[Edited at 2007-05-20 23:27]

[Edited at 2007-05-20 23:28]


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:58
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Do not rush it May 21, 2007

Take your time to select the optional text you must translate besides the compulsory one. Once you translate the texts, take your time, up to the last minute, to review your translation as many times as possible.

As for the dictionaries, I took the exam twice. The first time I took everything but the kitchen sink, except I left my bilingual dictionary. I always felt that was the reason why I failed that first time. The second time I took a very good bilingual dictionary, one legal, one business, one scientific, one medical. That was it. And I passed.

Remember, review, read, erase, and rewrite to the last minute.

For me, being certified made the difference.


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Pavel Zalutski  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:58
English to Russian
+ ...
Sample of a Corrected Passage Jun 26, 2007

Hi everyone,

I'm preparing for the ATA certification exam (En>Ru). I couldn't find anywhere on the Internet a sample of a corrected/graded passage. Not even just an untranslated/uncorrected passage.

If anyone ever took the ATA exam in En>Ru, Ru>En, En>Spanish or Spanish>English pairs and had the results returned to you, can you share?


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