We know that exams can be very stressful. With the amount of knowledge that you are required to go through ahead of your exam session, it might become a bit difficult to separate most important points from the rest. Below, you will find a quick summary of the key things you need to think about and prepare ahead of your Level 3 exam.
- Technology. You will need two devices for the exam, ideally a laptop and a mobile phone. If you don’t have a laptop, then you can use a tablet. We need you to have two devices to ensure we can watch you (invigilate you) fairly. Therefore, this is essential and without two devices, your exam will not be able to go ahead.
- Back to basics – pen and paper. You will need to take notes to make sure you don’t forget any important information such as dates or longer sentences. Therefore, please have a pen and paper ready.
- Printed glossaries and dictionaries. No matter how nicely you ask, you will not be permitted to use online dictionaries or online translation software. We recommend that you buy a good, comprehensive dictionary that you can leaf through, the old-fashioned way.
- Omissions and additions. You need to interpret everything that is being said, without leaving any parts out or adding your own context. You must not make the decision as to whether something is important or not. If the service user is repeating themselves, you need to repeat yourself. If the professional is listing a long list of side effects of a medicine, you need to list them all. You are the ‘mirror’ in the conversation, so do not change what is being said in any way.
- Speaking in first person. Similar to above – as a mirror, you take on the persona of the professional and the service user. If the doctor says: ‘How are you, Mr. Smith’, you will say: ‘How are you, Mr. Smith’, and not: ‘The doctor is asking how you are’. This is really important and must always be adhered to.
- Asking for clarification and repetition. If you have misheard what someone has said, or the sentence was long and you need them to repeat it, or even if the speaker used a word that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Do not guess, or leave it out, or leave it in English/the other language. Asking for clarification is permitted, both in the exam and in real life. However, make sure that when you ask for clarification, you use the third person – ‘The interpreter would like to ask you to repeat the question’ or ‘The interpreter is not familiar with that term, can you please rephrase’ and then repeat the same message in the other language to keep the other participant informed of what is happening.
- Using English terms. Do not, under any circumstances, use English words when speaking to the non-English speaker. You might think that they will understand, or you might feel that in your language, there is no equivalent and everyone who lives here knows what this means anyway. Even if you might already encounter this in your day-to-day life or work, this is an incorrect technique and will inevitably be marked down during the exam. You need to assume your non-English speaker does not understand a single word of English. Therefore, if there is no direct translation (for example Universal Credit or Child Benefit), use the equivalent term in your language or describe it. You are allowed to mention it in English too, but the explanation/translation must also be present.
- Paraphrasing. If you are unsure of the exact equivalent in your language, or if one does not exist in your language, paraphrase it or describe it. This is allowed in the exam, as long as you don’t do it too much, as that would indicate that your language skills are not at the level they should be.
- Sight translation skills. You will be shown a short text on the screen (2-3 paragraphs) and given some time to prepare. In that time, read the text once in full so you understand what it’s saying. Then look up any words you are unsure of in the dictionary and write them down on your notepad. Then, you will need to ‘speak’ the text in your language. Avoid summarising or paraphrasing, for example saying: ‘Basically, this text tells you about the types of flu vaccines that you can get and the various side effects’. Instead, you need to deliver it as it is written, but in the other language. Try to make it sound smooth and natural, and don’t leave anything out or add anything in. Finally, do not use English terms.
- Practice, practice, practice. The best way to grow your skills and confidence (and increase your chances of passing the exam) is by practicing. You will find some practice exam papers on the VLE portal on your course page. If you have a friend who can practice with you, then great, but if not, don’t worry. You can record yourself interpreting and play it back. It might feel strange at the beginning, but this is one of the best ways to assess yourself and pick up on any bad habits you might have. You practice with literally anything – TV news, YouTube videos, leaflets in the waiting room – the more you do it, the more you will train your brain to do it as second nature.
The list above might look daunting but trust us – interpreting is fun! Once you get past the initial nerves, you will find that you will be looking forward to every new interpreting assignment. Just stick to the tips above and you’ll be a qualified professional interpreter in no time!