Let me start by saying I failed the certification exam twice before succeeding. It is a blow when you come out of the exam feeling pretty good and thinking you got it made, and then get your results and go “Oh, [you know the rest of this phrase]”.

I won’t say it’s not you, because it is in part you. It’s not a flawed system, it’s not vindictive markers, and it certainly isn’t markers who are protecting their turf. The CTTIC certification exam is a complex process that involves many people. The markers get a numbered exam. Your exam paper contains no personally identifiable information. There are two markers who work independently and then confer and discuss any discrepancies in their evaluation. They have no idea who you are.

CTTIC markers are from everywhere in Canada. Although you take the exam in Ontario, the markers could be from any of the provinces or territories. They usually are certified translators but not necessarily, some of them will be scholars in your language pairs. They also follow standardized rules. The process is designed to be as objective as possible. You may disagree with the way your exam was marked and appeal. But unless there are only a few points between your result and the passing grade, an appeal could be costly and time-consuming, since your paper is marked again by a third marker. There is, however, one tool given to you with your results – the Characterization Sheet filled out by the markers.

Use this sheet to assess what you could have done better. And practice, practice, practice. If you haven’t already translated hundreds of thousands of words, you have room to improve. Translate a few hundred thousand more. Read papers and magazines in your target language. Improve your knowledge of your source language. Take courses, too. You might pick up tricks along the way. Network with other translators. These are all good professional practices that will help your business and improve your skills. And if you feel the exam is not the best way of judging your translation ability, you can request certification on dossier, where you provide samples of your work and letters from peers attesting to their authenticity. (You can get the details from the ATIO).

And a last word of advice: don’t give up. There are factors you can control when you take your exam. Learn to manage your stress. Relax, it’s only an exam. When I took the exam in my second language pair, I aced it the first time. You never know!

Mark Jessop, C. Tran. (ATIO)
Director, Independent translators
Director, Salaried translators