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ATA Exam Study Groups Organized by OSTI

June 05, 2019 5:19 PM | Anonymous

By: Sarah Symons Glegorio

Are you interested in becoming an ATA Certified Translator? Would you like some guidance and motivation to prepare for the exam? OSTI is organizing groups to practice, study and prepare for the ATA exam, which is offered in the following languages:

Arabic to English
English to Arabic
Chinese to English
English to Chinese
Croatian to English
English to Croatian
Dutch to English
English to Dutch
English to Finnish
French to English
English to French
German to English
English to German
English to Hungarian
Italian to English
English to Italian
Japanese to English
English to Japanese
Polish to English
English to Polish
Portuguese to English
English to Portuguese
Russian to English
English to Russian
Spanish to English
English to Spanish
Swedish to English
English to Swedish
Ukrainian to English
English to Ukrainian

Intrigued? Read on…

These study and practice groups are intended to be self-directed exam preparation groups. OSTI will provide tips and match group members, but you reap what you sow. There are no guarantees of passing, just meeting great colleagues, learning the ins and outs of the ATA exam, and honing your skills. Success depends on a number of factors, including translation and language skills, and effort exerted.

We’ll kick off the groups on May 22nd with a social gathering to meet local colleagues. The goal of the groups is to complete 7-10 practice “mini exams” (even if they aren’t all bona fide ATA practice passages) before the OSTI exam sitting in September 2019. Of course groups can continue or take breaks as they see fit. You don’t need to test at the OSTI sitting (or even have plans to sit for the exam) to participate.

The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Translate. Each week, members of each group will translate the same practice passage or article under exam conditions. We highly recommend starting off with actual ATA practice passages, which are available here ($80 for ATA members and $120 for nonmembers), in order to get feedback from actual ATA graders.
  2. Review. Submit the translations for feedback (if they are the official ATA practice passages) and exchange them for review amongst your group members. Groups can decide what works best for review, but we’d recommend pasting the text into a Word document and marking them up using Track Changes. Then send them back to the author for follow up as a group.
  3. Discuss. Go over the different choices and results amongst the group, either via email or in a live online session via Zoom or Google Hangouts. If group members completed an actual ATA practice passage, it may take a month or so to get your results back, though it would be interesting to have a before-and-after discussion of those passages.
  4. Repeat. Once the official ATA practice passages have been completed, groups are responsible for sourcing their own articles to practice on. It may be possible to determine where the ATA practice passages are from and use other articles from the same publication.

Groups will decide their own frequency and availability, but we recommend 1 practice run every 1-2 weeks, which would be a time commitment of about 1-3 hours per week.

The key is getting used to translating under the exam conditions. For example:

  • 1.5 hour time limit per 250-word passage (on the actual exam, candidates have 3 hours total to translate 2 passages)
  • Restricting yourself to paper and PDF dictionaries for handwritten exams
  • If internet is available at the computerized exam, restricting yourself to the accepted online dictionaries (i.e., no ProZ, no forums or anything considered as interactive, or machine translation; see the full list here), or to paper and PDF dictionaries in the case of the handwritten exam or if internet is unavailable
  • No spell check or grammar check
  • Translating in WordPad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac)
  • Using a source text that’s printed on paper and cannot be copied onto the computer
  • More details from the ATA

OSTI will provide some guidance and recommendations on how to prepare for the ATA exam and will be hosting an exam sitting on September 15, 2019 in Milwaukie, Oregon. Group members are strongly encouraged to read the ATA’s published information on the exam.

Groups are also invited to share resources for their given language pairs. If there are enough people interested, we could see about arranging for a workshop-type class where you can practice your skills and receive bona-fide feedback. (Here’s an example of a similar ATA workshop in Houston.)

The time commitment is estimated at about 1-3 hours per week. The study groups themselves are free and open to all translators seeking certification in one of the aforementioned language pairs. The ATA practice passages cost $80 each and are available here. The ATA exam itself costs $525 and sign-up information is available here.

So, are you in? YES! Sign up here.

Not sure? Leave a comment or email us any questions you have and we’ll compile a list of FAQs for a follow-up email and future blog post.

Additional Resources
“Death by a Thousand Cuts” by Juan Lizama:

“Ergonomics for ATA’s Certification Exam: Unspoken Advice with Untold Benefits” by Emily Safrin:

“Am I Ready for the Exam?” by Nora Favorov:

“How I Passed the ATA Certification Exam on the 1st Attempt” by Sarah Symons Glegorio:

“How I Became a Certified Translator in 10 Hours, from Scratch” by Rony Gao:

“Translation Certification Study Resources” by Helen Eby:

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