Interpreter Training: Pre-Test Tips

Tips to Apply Before the Test 

  1. Tips to Apply Before an Interpreter’s Oral Exam 

    1. Get to know the test by heart. Use these link to learn about test conditions, so you can prepare accordingly (pages 33-50).

    Medical Oral Exam:

    Federal Court Oral Exam:

    State Court Exams:

    1. Begin studying at least one month before the test. Consider that your “marathon-training time.” Invest all the necessary time, energy, and resources to achieve your goals. Don’t sell yourself short. These sacrifices won’t last lifetime, but the results will
    2. Pick a comprehensive training program.

    Check out Interpretrain’s Federal Court Oral Exam Prep:

    Check out Interpretrain’s State Court Oral Exam Prep:

    1. Make time to cram. Study at least 1 hour a day, 3-5 times a week. To create extra study time, wake up an hour earlier, 2 to 3 times a week.
    2. Use “The Interpreter’s Companions” to memorize the bilingual terms in the weapons (if you are taking a court interrpeter’s oral exam) and medical illustrations (for court and medical interpreter’s exams).

    Mikkelson, Holly. The Interpreter’s Companion. ACEBO, 2000.

    1. Overcome all obstacles. Make a list of all the impediments to study. Then find a practical solution for each one. (i.e. Obstacle: I can’t study on Saturdays because I have to watch my kids. Solution: Hire a babysitter for 3 hours each weekend for a full month). Ask your loved ones for help with your regular obligations so you can devote yourself to studying.
    2. Write your goals on a sticky note and place them in a visible place (the fridge door, a mirror, etc.), so you are reminded of your objectives daily.
    3. Carry your materials/devices with you, and squeeze in study time any chance you get. Take advantage of weekends, breaks at work, lunchtime, wait time, your commutes (if you don’t drive).
    4. Meet with a study buddy in person, over the phone, or online. A study mate will increase your motivation, your commitment, and will give you useful feedback.
    5. Before each study session, practice breathing techniques. Check out these instructional videos:

    1. Program your brain for success. Practice guided imagery and visualize yourself succeeding on the test. Eliminate negative thoughts or self-talk. Replace them with a positive affirmation (like, “I am prepared for the test and I will ace it.” or, “I am studying thoroughly, I can do this.”)
    2. Use your interpreting practices to do a few mock exams. Replicate the test conditions as closely as possible. Ask a friend to play the role of a distracting proctor. Using a timer, the mock proctor must make a quick, distracting noise or a disapproving gesture every 30 seconds. When the mock exam begins, focus on the interpretation and ignore the proctor.
    3. Make a list of the things that you will need the day of the test. Gather all the items with at least 48 hours in advance. Be prepared to pack layers of clothing (so you can be comfortable in any room temperature).
    4. Plan to have a Zen day. Avoid traveling for more than 30 minutes to get to the test. Make a reservation at a hotel near the test site, if necessary. Map out your commute to arrive 20 to 30 minutes early. Use this link to find out how to change the departure time, so you can get an idea of what to expect (traffic-wise) during your programed arrival time.
    5. The day before the test is all about relaxation. Take the day off before the test and pamper yourself with a massage, a long walk in the woods, a movie-binge day, etc. Do not study. Get a good night’s sleep before the test. If you have sleep or stress issues, ask your doctor about sleeping/relaxation aids well beforehand, and try them out a few days before the test to observe your reactions.

    Tips to Apply on the Day of the Test 

    1. Eat a light, high-protein breakfast.

    2. Take it easy. Clear your day ahead of time so you can have no obligations other than taking the test. Do not study the day of the exam. Trust in the work you’ve put in so far. If you feel like doing some prep work, do an easy warm-up exercise.

    3. Wear comfortable clothes and take layers, so you can adapt to any temperature.

    4. Make a list of everything you’ll need for the test. Make sure you have all the items before you leave for the test.

    5. Arrive to 30-20 minutes early to the test site. Map out your commute to arrive 20 to 30 minutes early. Use this link to find out how to change the departure time, so you can get an idea of what to expect (traffic-wise) during your programed arrival time.

    6. While you wait for the test to begin, practice your guided imagery and breathing techniques. Concentrate on being calm. Scan your body from head to toe to detect any tension. Tighten, then release the muscles in the tense areas and become aware when relaxation occurs during the release. Close your eyes and see yourself in your favorite, most relaxing place – a beach or forest are good examples. Feel everything about this place, including sights, sounds, and smells. Visualize yourself acing the test.

    7. Once the test begins, don’t dwell on what you don’t know. If you draw a blank on a particular term, you have several options: A) Give it your best shot (in other words, “guess/interpret” the term), B) Say the term in the source language, C) Skip it. Either way, don’t stop no matter what, keep it moving and stay calm. That way, you won’t miss the upcoming terms you do

    8. Ignore the proctor, who is not the person who will grade your test.

    9. While interpreting, focus on your diction, on clearly projecting your voice, on sounding confident. If you are nervous, breathe and fake it till you make it.

    10. Once the test is over, give yourself a well-deserved rest.