In January this year I took the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) set by the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the MITI exam to become a qualified member of the Institute of Translating & Interpreting. This post is an account of my experience of the two exams.
Why did I take these exams?
My path into translation came from a career switch from nursing. I completed a one-year course on translation in Madrid when I made the change, but I didn’t have a formal translation qualification as such. This hasn’t been a problem when marketing my services; most new clients are more interested in my medical background and years of experience. But I felt ready for a new challenge and so in 2012 I decided to make the DipTrans my goal. At the same time, I’d been looking at becoming a member of the ITI for some time because qualified membership is something else that potential clients may be looking for.
Facts and figures
|Requirements:||None specified||All other requirements for membership have to be accepted.|
|Cost:||£548 for 3 papers (plus exam venue fees – €300 at the British Council in Madrid)||£210 for the exam (membership application and fees are charged separately)|
|Date:||Exams are held once a year in January.||Any weekend by previous arrangement with the admissions officer.|
|Place:||Big choice of centres worldwide.||Home!|
|Exam length:||600 words for the general paper; 400 words for each semi-specialised paper.||1000 words plus a 500-1000 word commentary.|
|Time:||3 hours for the general paper, 2 hours each for the two semi-specialised papers.||From Friday midday until the following Monday midday.|
|Choice of subject:||A single text for the general paper; technology, business or literature for the first semi-specialised paper; science, social science or law for the second. You see all the options in the exam and make your choice on the spot.||A range of subject fields to choose from in advance.|
|Resources:||Pen and paper or a computer, depending on the centre. No Internet connection. As many paper dictionaries as you can fit on a 2-metre desk.||All that you use under normal working conditions: Internet, CAT tools, your own TMs, consultation with colleagues for specific terminology.|
|Results:||14 weeks, by post||Normally 6-8 weeks, by email|
|Pass rate:||About 30-40%||About 60-70%|
|Feedback:||No automatic feedback. A re-mark costs £70 and provides detailed feedback.||Two-page feedback listing excellent, good, acceptable points and errors, with examples. Detailed report: £60|
To prepare for the DipTrans exam I signed up for the Susanne James online course and worked my way through six past papers, as well as reading the DipTrans Handbook and Examiners’ Comments. I subscribed to New Scientist and The Economist to make sure I was up to date with the latest scientific advances and current affairs. I also had to invest in more recent editions of some of my dictionaries – my dog-eared Collins Concise English dictionary dated back to 1992.
To be eligible for the MITI exam, you must first be accepted as a suitable candidate for ITI membership. Requirements are:
- A degree in any subject or a minimum of 6 years’ experience.
- 3 years’ experience. A minimum word count per year is no longer required.
- Two professional references and one character reference.
- Signed Code of Professional Conduct.
Since I could choose the subject of the MITI exam I thought there was little I could do to prepare for the exam itself.
The DipTrans is a 7-hour, open-book, cut-off-from-the-world ordeal. The MITI exam is a pseudo-translation job with a decent deadline and a chance to explain all your decisions in a commentary (i.e., your ideal client). Need I say more?
I waited for 13-14 weeks to receive the results of both exams. That is a looong wait. In the case of the DipTrans at least it was announced, but the ITI said it would take 6-8 weeks, so that did try my patience. Also, the DipTrans results are sent by post, which seems very last century, and particularly frustrating for people who live outside Europe and are faced with an extra two or three weeks’ wait.
DipTrans: I passed the two semi-specialised papers but failed the general paper at the January 2012 sitting. Actually, this was a surprise because I thought I did better in the general paper than in the other ones. The science paper was about astronomy and since I know next to nothing about this topic I had to opt for the social-science paper, which was on international community development. The technical paper was a set of instructions for an industrial printer, so that wasn’t really up my street either. Strangely enough, I passed these two papers and failed the general one on tourism and Machu Picchu.
Last January I re-sat the general paper and was pleased to see the subject was health tourism in the EU. It was still quite challenging so I was very relieved to hear I’d passed it.
MITI: I chose medicine and pharmaceuticals for the MITI exam and was told I’d still be able to ask for a different text if I felt the one I was sent was not one that I would accept as a job from a client. I can’t give any details about this text as we were asked not to discuss it in public and I had to destroy the source text on delivery of my exam. However, I felt it was a good reflection of the type of work I translate on a daily basis, with terminology to research, ambiguities to solve and a register that had to fit this particular text. Despite feeling fairly confident that I had passed, I was delighted to get the email confirmation because those long weeks of waiting make you doubt just about every sentence you’ve translated!
DipTrans or MITI?
I think the MITI exam is an excellent reflection of what a professional translator can produce under normal working conditions. The DipTrans exam is a tougher test; it proves you can tackle (almost) anything that is thrown your way, even under adverse circumstances (read: no Internet). DipTrans is a standalone qualification and is accredited as postgraduate Level 7 by Ofqual. The MITI exam provides qualified entrance to the ITI and carries all the advantages of belonging to a professional association.
- If you already have an MA in translation then DipTrans is probably overkill for you, but if you haven’t got a translation qualification then this is the way to go.
- If you want to show potential clients that you are endorsed by a prestigious translators’ association and you like networking with colleagues of high professional standing, then the MITI exam is the right one for you.
- If, like me, you want that extra challenge, then go for both!