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Translation test... in order to qualify for yet another test ?!?!?
Thread poster: Neil Coffey

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:13
French to English
+ ...
Jun 21, 2011

[Apologies for not posting in "Translation agencies", but the system says I'm not worthy to post in that forum for some reason.]

I just wanted to sound people's opinions on this. I've been contacted by an agency-- a reasonably big one as I understand-- that I sent my CV to a few weeks ago, responding with a test for me to perform at my leisure. Nothing unusual so far.

But then the part that I thought was slightly unusual to my ears: this test apparently serves to qualify me for yet another test, this time a *timed* one of a more technical nature. Now, although it feels a bit like somebody's trying to send me back to school, I suppose that I don't mind *that* much if the reason is that they have high standards and are able to offer more interesting projects and pay better than other agencies.

But... I just wondered what people's opinions/experiences were with this kind of procedure: have other people been through such a convoluted selection process; is it a sign of a more "serious" client and has it actually led to more interesting, better-paid work, or is it just a waste of time?

[Edited at 2011-06-21 11:35 GMT]


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xxxValerie35
Local time: 14:13
German to English
One or the other Jun 21, 2011

Usually companies have lots of tests and administrative classifications and subordinate classifications of your skill areas and other hoops and bells and whistles ... and not much work.

Other companies have work, and they have to find people for it now.

I don't even take tests anymore. I have long-term clients, but I don't think I'd even take tests now if I were starting out.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:13
English to Croatian
+ ...
Double testing, what's next? Jun 21, 2011

No, I've never heard of such procedure and certainly wouldn't accept it.

It doesn't sound professional at all, a professional way to test you would be with two small paid projects, providing you had already been qualified by a certified university board. Can they prove they have a certification body more authoritative than the university board?

What a load of nonsense.

And more importantly, the testing goes two ways, therefore a small paid project is best for both parties to be tested. You can't get that with free translation test.

[Edited at 2011-06-21 10:08 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:13
English to Croatian
+ ...
Tests under controlled and transparent conditions Jun 21, 2011

Test are fine, there are written tests that make you qualified to take oral examination, for instance, in some serious organizations. You need to pass both of course, to become qualified.

However, with such tests, everything is very transparent, they are taken in real life environment, and you see the board people with their full names and titles transparently shown. And you awe and respect these people.

These tests make sense, surely.

On the other hand, bizarre tests taken in the darkness of the Internet don't even deserve a comment.


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SBlack
French to English
+ ...
Agency website encouraging unpaid tests Jun 21, 2011

This morning I discovered an agency website inviting potential direct clients to submit a small 300-word text to test the agency's translation skills.

So now I no longer believe the "work will follow" argument. These tests may actually go straight to the direct clients so they decide whether or not to work with the agency.


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Hazel Underwood  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:13
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
It depends Jun 21, 2011

If you are just starting out and need the work and additional clients, then I would go ahead. But I don't think you are so would suggest to the client that you do one or the other. Either test should be sufficient for them to judge your competence.

Why should you waste your time (and money) doing both?

I got asked to do a two texts of 500 words each for a client once, but refused as said I was only willing to do one or the other for free. That's one of the benefits of being in a position where you are constantly turning down work and dont' need new clients.

Hope that helps!

Hazel


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:13
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thoughts... Jun 21, 2011

Thanks for your input so far. It sounds like, as I suspected, this isn't so usual even for the "more serious" agencies -- will be interested to see if I get a few more opinions too.

@Lingua 5B - I think the other condition of the type of tests you mention which makes them more legitimate is that there's usually a concrete, well-paid job at the end of it. In this case, it's merely a process to "get on the books of" the agency, as far as I'm aware.

Hazel -- yes, I'm established enough that I don't need to "scrape around" for mediocre clients, but like all of us I always welcome a high-quality client and was trying to guage if this kind of process is really typical of a "top of the pile" agency or simply of a mediocre one that's "trying it on". (For similar reasons, I actually work more with direct clients as well, so am not quite so familiar as some other colleagues with just what amount of testing is typical, which is another reason I was keen to see people's opinions.)


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:13
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Blood test? Jun 21, 2011

I reckon a blood test and a copy of a clean criminal record comes next...

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Neil Jun 21, 2011

Neil Coffey wrote:
Apologies for not posting in "Translation agencies", but the system says I'm not worthy to post in that forum for some reason.


The "translation agencies" forum is not ABOUT translation agencies but FOR translation agencies. If you're not a translation agency, then that forum is not for you, and it has nothing to do with worthiness... in the same way that a forum for students may be reserved for students (even if non-students may want to discuss the same things that students typically discuss).

But... I just wondered what people's opinions/experiences were with this kind of procedure...


If the second test is paid, then it would be okay. If not, then I would regard it as deceitful, unless the agency had made it clear from the start that there would be two tests.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:13
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Make sure you get a clear commitment re date by which you will receive feedback Jun 21, 2011

In one case, I did a test that took about an hour, waited a couple of weeks, contacted the agency, and was assured that I would hear from them soon. I never did hear from them again (and I could not be bothered sending them even a snarky reminder re their broken promise).

So in the future, I will: 1.) not do any test that takes more than half an hour; 2.) Get a firm commitment that I will receive feedback within two weeks.

If these two conditions are not met...then no deal!

[Edited at 2011-06-21 13:02 GMT]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:13
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Multiple language pairs Jun 21, 2011

On the subject of tests, an agency recently sent me five tests to complete (one for each of my language pairs). If the target language is the same, do you believe it is necessary for them to test each language pair?

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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:13
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Jeff Jun 21, 2011

Of course, since your skill-level with respect to your comprehension of each source language you work with cannot be assumed to be equivalent.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What are they offering in exchange? Jun 21, 2011

Neil Coffey wrote:
I suppose that I don't mind *that* much if the reason is that they have high standards and are able to offer more interesting projects and pay better than other agencies.


Have you actually discussed whether they are willing to pay your rates and meet the requirements of your payment conditions? Or is it possible that after you have taken and passed two tests, they will send you work for half your normal rate, to be paid by cheque after 60 days?

Personally, I would never do a free test without having written confirmation that they would accept my terms if/when work was offered. I doubt whether I would ever do a second free test.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:13
English to Spanish
+ ...
Tests and more tests Jun 21, 2011

Neil, I would also feel apprehensive about being asked to do a translation test to qualify for a "timed" test. I have done timed tests but only for in-house positions (which makes sense). If a translation agency offers a convoluted and baroque system of tests, I prefer to walk away, no matter how much I need the work.

Some testing procedures are detailed and measured but arbitrary. For example, you may get a vague comment in the way of feedback or a long form where other translators (anonymous to you) have measured and counted every little typo or error they could find.

Most translation companies worth working for try to keep it simple and offer explanations for their sometimes tortuous procedures. It pays to ask nicely, but ask and ask again.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:13
Chinese to English
They're no hassle, so... Jun 21, 2011

I never mind doing tests, so long as they're reasonably short. 300 words of a general nature - I spend an hour on it at most, and try to have some fun with it.
In my language pair there is an awful lot of achingly bad translation, so a test can actually filter both ways. If an agency comes back to me saying, your test is wrong, or with lots of "incorrection", then I know the agency is dud.
Plus, just occasionally, you run into really good tests. I've passed and failed some rock-hard technical tests that high quality clients put out there to sort the sheep from the goats. Those have really helped me to measure my own progress.
In general, I think we should all be open to tests. The way our industry is set up, it's one of the reasonable methods an agency/client can use to sort through applicants. I'm a bit bemused by commenters here who seem offended by the notion of doing a test. It's just part of the job, isn't it?


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