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ATA Certification Exam - Example of a Corrected Passage
Autor de la hebra: Pavel Zalutski

linguist09 (X)
inglés a ruso
+ ...
ATA membership and exam Jul 30, 2009

I find them a complete waste of my time and money.

 

Tomasz Poplawski  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Miembro 2007
inglés a polaco
+ ...
I find them the best source of great jobs Jul 31, 2009

linguist09 wrote:
I find them a complete waste of my time and money.


I don't know about a better marketing tool for a serious professional than having your name on the list of ATA-certified translators.
All my best clients found me there. Several dozens of them.

People who know to look for you at a website of a professional organization tend to be much better clients than average.

While I cannot speak for the ATA Certification Committee, as a long-time ATA grader I happen to know how much work goes into grader training, exam passage selection, exam site booking, and all administrative tasks. It is expensive and time consuming. I would not look for a grand conspiracy there.

Exam prep sessions have been offered at each ATA conference for many years but I also believe many regional chapters organize such training.

I would not recommend review of an English into Spanish practice exam as a way of preparing for an English into Russian exam. Passages are usually chosen for challenges that are geared toward a specific language pair.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 10:17
Miembro 2005
inglés a español
+ ...
A waste of money? Not at all Jul 31, 2009

Let's be honest, folks. No other translator's association I know does more for this craft than the ATA. Their certification scheme costs less than many other certifications I can think of (including DipTrans as far as I can remember) and a low pass rate (in English into Spanish, only 2 people in the last year if I am not mistaken) is guarantee that the certification is meaningful.

ATA's exam costs US$ 300, which is completely in line with, for instance, IOL's DipTrans (which costs a
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Let's be honest, folks. No other translator's association I know does more for this craft than the ATA. Their certification scheme costs less than many other certifications I can think of (including DipTrans as far as I can remember) and a low pass rate (in English into Spanish, only 2 people in the last year if I am not mistaken) is guarantee that the certification is meaningful.

ATA's exam costs US$ 300, which is completely in line with, for instance, IOL's DipTrans (which costs almost US$ 800 but is also longer, with more text to translate in the exam), and a lot more cost effective than other certifications like NAATI's, which costs almost a thousand dollars for overseas translators.

Being an ATA member and being ATA-certified has meant a big change for my work and life, not only because more interesting customers come around who could become very good accounts if I had the time to serve them, but also because my current customers enjoy an additional guarantee of the quality of my everyday work for them. On top of that, I have access to information (via the awfully interesting monthly ATA Chronicle magazine, newsletters, congresses) which is critical for a professional translator.

Investing in my membership and the certification has probably been my best professional investment in 14 years. I sincerely encourage any serious translator out there to join the ATA and do the certification exam.
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Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison
Estados Unidos
Local time: 03:17
inglés a polaco
+ ...
Stressed now Jul 31, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

and a low pass rate


I'm taking the exam on the 15th and, well, now you got me real worried...:o


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Países Bajos
Local time: 10:17
Miembro 2006
inglés a afrikaans
+ ...
Why it's a secret (possibly) Jul 31, 2009

Pavel Zalutski wrote:
What's so proprietary or confidential about the text of the passages or the remarks/notes by the graders?


The South African Translators' Institute has a similar rule, and this question was also asked at one of the meetings. I can only speculate about how similar SATI's tests are to ATA's, but odds are there are similarities in the way they are created and administered.

Translators often complain that clients are clueless about how much translation really costs. People have a warped idea of how little work is involved in making a translation. The same can be said of examiners -- people who are not examiners have this idea that it is easy and inexpensive to set up an examination.

To keep costs down, SATI does not create a new test for each candidate, or even a new test for each sitting. The same tests are taken over and over. This has another advantage, namely that examiners also "learn" from past translations submitted by canidates, which enables them to mark yours even more objectively.

The procedure in creating a SATI translation exam involves the examiners all translating the text a few times under different conditions and then discussing the text in depth at length to ensure that they are aware of most nuances present that may become issues for candidates doing the translation. I'm sure it is obvious that this is a time-consuming process.

Another reason why candidates don't get their papers back is that examiners may not be using standard proofreading marks. The examiners all know the text and if one of them would mark a certain passage with a very cryptic comment, the others would know what he means, even though an outsider (who did not spend as much time discussing the text) might not quite understand the remark or even misinterpret it. With a practice test, the examiner writes clearly so that the candidate understands the comment, but if the only people who are going to see the comment are those from an in-group, the examiner can save time by using telegram style. This point is pure speculation on my part, however.

The above is also why I think a test translation from an agency is something that needs to be created with great care. It can't be just a random text to see if the translator makes a few mistakes. It must be something that was translated by the agency itself (even if only into one or languages) by a number of people who discussed the various ways in which the text could be correctly interpreted.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 10:17
Miembro 2005
inglés a español
+ ...
Do not be! Jul 31, 2009

Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison wrote:
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
and a low pass rate

I'm taking the exam on the 15th and, well, now you got me real worried...:o

From what I see in your profile, you should not have any problems as experience in professional translation is already half of the challenge. However, if you take my advice, I'd recommend the following:

1. Don't take anything for granted. The texts are short but full of little pitfalls (risk of cognates, uncommon spelling situations where you must really know all rules --at least in Spanish--, difficulty in creating a fluent target text...).

2. Take a ton of dictionaries with you. In my sitting I was the one feeling ridiculous carrying the suitcase with about 20 dictionaries (and I carried them all the way from Madrid to Michigan)... but now it does not seem ridiculous at all anymore! If you can also take books about grammar and spelling in your target language it will be a big help (at least it is in Spanish with our rather complex spelling rules). You can also take your own printed glossaries or other printouts (for instance from Wikipedia about units and measurements if you feel like it, although you are not required to convert units).

3. If you are a believer, don't forget to visit your preferred temple near the venue and ask for help and clarity of mind. A little push from a mighty friend is always handy!

Just do not hesitate to email me via Proz in case there is anything you would like to ask!

And GOOD LUCK!!!!! I know you'll make it.


 

Joanna Wachowiak-Finlaison
Estados Unidos
Local time: 03:17
inglés a polaco
+ ...
Keep your fingers crossed! Aug 1, 2009

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Tomás! And all the tips:) Just ordered some more specialized dictionaries, hopefully they'll get here before the exam...

 

ana marmet
Estados Unidos
Local time: 04:17
Can you email me a practice exam please. I could really use it! Thanks in advance. [email protected] Dec 10, 2009

mariana24 wrote:

Hi All,

I took the ATA practice exam for the English>Spanish pair and have the corrected papers.

As far as I know, I can show them to anyone I decide and so I have to others preparing the same exam, and also to translation teachers for their "public" use in class. I would find it ridiculous if they actually asked people not to show them to anyone else after what they charge for them!
I also took a course in order to prepare for the actual exam, and this course was basically the review, by everyone in the group, of past, corrected exams.

Pavel, send me an e-mail through the page and I will scan my corrected papers and send them to you.

Bye now.


Mariana

[Edited at 2007-06-27 02:15]


 

DFoster  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:17
coreano a inglés
+ ...
Consider the purpose of the exam Dec 12, 2009

Right off the bat, I will readily admit that I do not have enough experience in translating to even request a practice exam with confidence, so this is not an arrogant statement directed downwards at those who have not taken the exam yet. Rather, it is an attempt to explain the purpose of the translation exam.

From the perspective of a legitimate organization, I certainly can understand why they would choose not to allow exam preparation through past tests and study guides.
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Right off the bat, I will readily admit that I do not have enough experience in translating to even request a practice exam with confidence, so this is not an arrogant statement directed downwards at those who have not taken the exam yet. Rather, it is an attempt to explain the purpose of the translation exam.

From the perspective of a legitimate organization, I certainly can understand why they would choose not to allow exam preparation through past tests and study guides.

Consider, for a moment, what the exam is, as stated on the ATA website:

"The certification examination is a three-hour, open-book, proctored exam in a specific language pair (i.e., one specific source language and one specific target language). The exam presents three passages of approximately 225-275 words. One is a general passage and is mandatory for everyone. The candidate must also choose one passage from either the domain of science/technology/medicine or the domain of law/business/finance. Both passage translations must meet ATA certification standards for a passing grade"


Basically, it is no type of examination using evaluation methods exterior to the actual art/technique of translating. They give you a passage that will be general, then one that is along the field that you claim specialty in.

The test is not so much like a school exam to allow you certification if you have learned how to take a test (more specifically this test), but rather a chance for you to prove that you already are good enough to take the exam. Notice that the test is open book, and you'll be translating around 450 - 550 words total. It is not a huge passage and you are offered access to direct translating materials. Translating the words themselves is one task, but putting it together in the target language's tone and voice, that requires a clear understanding of the translator's skill, which only comes with plenty of experience.

Now, consider what this means. It is not that there are no study guides. There are study guides in every foreign language item you see. If you're going for a technical certification, download camera manual books in two languages (you can find those basically anywhere), read online articles in the source language on science and technology, buy a textbook in the non-native language and just read it. For legal certification, research public patents (sometimes published on the web). These will come at no cost, except for your time devoted to researching it.

The pass rate as they claim is
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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 10:17
Miembro 2005
inglés a español
+ ...
Thank you, and one opinion Dec 12, 2009

DFoster wrote:
The grand irony is that ATA Certified have huge recognition and can get the jobs easier than non certified, so it is hard to get experience in order to actually take the exam. This is where strong self-motivation is required. Again, read everything you can in the source language, and with the internet, there are volumes at your fingertips.

I must say that I entirely agree with your whole posting. And I must thank you for such a clear explanation.

Now, I only wanted to express that it is not true that ATA-certified translators "get all the jobs." I'd say the goal of most ATA-certified people is to try to work reasonable hours and still make a fair income by protecting an adequate rate. So it is not true that we will grab all work out there, but instead I'd say (I can only speak for myself of course) most certified people do struggle to get the jobs with higher pay. There is plenty of work out there without being ATA-certified. Proof of that is that I worked full time --literally-- for 13 years before being ATA-certified.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
Estados Unidos
Local time: 03:17
Miembro 2008
croata a inglés
+ ...
Cost of practice test not at all excessive Dec 12, 2009

The practice passages cost $50 each. Considering the grader's time and expertise, as well as administrative costs, the fee is perfectly reasonable.

Bear in mind that the practice passages are best regarded as a indication of whether you have a reasonable chance of passing the exam. Obviously, the passage you will get on the exam itself, though selected using the same process and standards, will be different, and may contain its own difficulties and pitfalls.


 

tina49  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:17
francés a inglés
+ ...
request for ATA Cerfication test corrected passage Dec 13, 2009

Hi Mariana,
I too am preparing for the ATA Test to become a Spanish translator. Could I get on the list of those that you are sending your corrected copy to? Thank you very much for your generosity in this. Sincerely, Tina Schaefer Tampa, FL. [email protected]


 
ATA a total waste Jul 7, 2011

I would never take that exam again, I found them to be utterly unprofessional. "I flew for this?" were my thoughts as I entered the exam room. A ton of us crammed in a tiny room, with no air and worse no room to work. I had no place to set out my books, I had them sprawled on the floor and I was lucky I had floor space, others less lucky had their books one piled over another and kept dropping them or I would accidentally tip them with my elbow. That's how crammed we were. In order to look somet... See more
I would never take that exam again, I found them to be utterly unprofessional. "I flew for this?" were my thoughts as I entered the exam room. A ton of us crammed in a tiny room, with no air and worse no room to work. I had no place to set out my books, I had them sprawled on the floor and I was lucky I had floor space, others less lucky had their books one piled over another and kept dropping them or I would accidentally tip them with my elbow. That's how crammed we were. In order to look something up I had to crawl under the table everytime. I wasted at least an extra half hour doing this, which caused me to run out of time, I couldn't edit my work at all.
I have taken the Federal and State Court interpreters exam, which I have passed, so I'm pretty familiar with exam structure and protocol, I have never seen anything so unprofessional. I regret spending the $1000 which is what it all came to after fees, transportation and hotel stays.
To make matters worse. The unheard of, after I get the worst fail grade in my life (I have passed the Federal Exam so though I may expect to flunk I certainly can't imagine getting the worst score possible) I call the Assoc. to at least know my score breakdown, to know what went wrong, was it illegible in parts? or am I a bad speller? whatever, I just want to know. Something along the lines of x points taken out for this, x points for that. ATA tells me I have to pay close to $400.00 and that still won't get me the entire breakdown, mind you but just a mention of a few of my mistakes. Unbelievable. I won't go into the details of why my request of a breakdown costs $400.00 but they're outrageous. One of the reasons is that they require I renew my membership for the following year. I find that abusive, I just paid for my membership, I just took the exam. Why do I need renew my membership which costs $175? And for the following year!
What I shall do is get a proper certification from a proper college 'como dios manda', to wit NYU has an online certification program as well as University of Chicago, Graham School or University of Toronto. Yes, they are more expensive and take a bit longer to acquire. You cannot take a single exam and expect to pass.They are generally year long courses, but as the saying goes,"If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is". I thought I could just take a single $300.00 exam and be certified! weee! Then you find that you've spent $1000.00 to take an exam, that you have not recieved materials that may help you prepare and assure your success. You're completely left in the dark. For example the Federal Court exams and State exams have the Acebo materials without which I would have never passed. Knowledge of the subject in question is only part of passing any exam. You also need to prepare and study for what is expected of you for the exam otherwise you will fail. Next, if you fail as you surely will given the lack of guidance, you are left entirely in the dark as far as what are your weaknesses and have no idea what you could do to not fail again. Of course if you do pass you are required to pay dues for life or else you lose your accreditation. Good bye ATA, hello NYU! I hope this helps someone.

[Edited at 2011-07-07 02:22 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-07-07 02:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-07-07 02:30 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-07-07 03:18 GMT]
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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
España
Local time: 10:17
Miembro 2005
inglés a español
+ ...
Failing is frustrating... but we should not blame others Jul 7, 2011

inesventu wrote:
A ton of us crammed in a tiny room, with no air and worse no room to work. I had no place to set out my books, I had them sprawled on the floor and I was lucky I had floor space, others less lucky had their books one piled over another and kept dropping them or I would accidentally tip them with my elbow. That's how crammed we were.

This is certainly something you might want to report to the exams manager at ATA, so that they next time make sure that there is enough space for all people enlisted to the venue. In my exam we were some 15 people and had about 1,5 meters of table space, so indeed I had to leave most of my dictionaries on the floor. But this was also the case in other exams I have made, so I reckon it is quite normal. If you dislike it, it's best that you complain about it to ATA.

inesventu wrote:
I wasted at least an extra half hour doing this, which caused me to run out of time, I couldn't edit my work at all.

I think that the need to use the dictionaries is sometimes a measure of the difficulty the text is posing to you. Some very experienced and good translators I have met needed to take the exam several times. The fact that you passed the interpreters exam does not mean you are immediately prepared for an exacting translation exam such as ATA's.

inesventu wrote:
To make matters worse. The unheard of, after I get the worst fail grade in my life (I have passed the Federal Exam so though I may expect to flunk I certainly can't imagine getting the worst score possible)

As explained, each exam has a different level of expectations. Maybe it was a bit naïve to expect to pass one exam becaused you passed a different one. I reckon this experience will help you prepare better for your next try.

inesventu wrote:
I call the Assoc. to at least know my score breakdown, to know what went wrong, was it illegible in parts? or am I a bad speller? whatever, I just want to know. Something along the lines of x points taken out for this, x points for that. ATA tells me I have to pay close to $400.00 and that still won't get me the entire breakdown, mind you but just a mention of a few of my mistakes. Unbelievable.

But you knew this already when you took the exam, right? ATA declares very clearly that they don't report about the mistakes and that you need to pay extra for that. You must be aware (I hope you are at least) that any review work is done by peer translators who must be paid for that work. ATA is not a corporation, and pays trustworthy translators to act as graders. I think it is not fair to complain about something every candidate is informed about (or should be informed if you read through the information about the exam). Also, the fees for the review are US$ 250. Why would it be US$ 400 in your case?

inesventu wrote:
What I shall do is get a proper certification from a proper college 'como dios manda', to wit NYU has an online certification program as well as University of Chicago, Graham School or University of Toronto. Yes, they are more expensive and take a bit longer to acquire. You cannot take a single exam and expect to pass.They are generally year long courses, but as the saying goes,"If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is". I thought I could just take a single $300.00 exam and be certified! weee!

But you surely agree with me that the ATA is not liable for the fact that you don't live in the same city of your exam? You want to take the exam, then you travel. Your decision, your responsibility, your expenses. Not the ATA's fault. If you had passed the exam, you would not be complaining about this, or would you?

inesventu wrote:
Then you find that you've spent $1000.00 to take an exam, that you have not recieved materials that may help you prepare and assure your success. You're completely left in the dark. For example the Federal Court exams and State exams have the Acebo materials without which I would have never passed.

This is false. You can take the practice tests, which cost US$ 50 each, and you will get feedback from the graders. And... you are not claiming that the Acebo materials cost you nothing, right?

inesventu wrote:
Good bye ATA, hello NYU! I hope this helps someone.

Personally I think this is just a rant. It has happened to me: I could not believe I did not pass the IOL's DipTrans exam in the first go and had to take it twice. It was frustrating, but my attitude was different. I knew I needed to prepare better and be more careful about the exam.

It is quite futile to blame the conditions of the venue, lack of feedback, the travel expenses... I think that this situation takes a more humble approach: maybe this is a good opportunity to do the practice exams, learn from them, and be more prepared next time.

Good luck!


 
My just opinion Jul 7, 2011

Tomas, "a rant" really? All I can tell you is that I gave a detailed description of what was my experience of the exam and certification process. I will not enter into any further discussions. People can decide for themselves. I did it with the hopes it might help someone and as much as you may disagree I am sure you would agree that everyone has a right to their just opinion.

 
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ATA Certification Exam - Example of a Corrected Passage

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