Why Candidates Fail NAATI Translation and Interpreting Exams

Last Updated On: August 29, 2023

inGeneral, Translation Skills

Why Candidates Fail NAATI Translation and Interpreting Exams

The National Accreditation Authority of Translations and Interpreters (NAATI) is the organization in Australia that provides accreditation through sitting an examination.  When a translator passes the NAATI professional translator examination the translator can submit an application to be a member of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) or New Zealand’s Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI).

If the NAATI paraprofessional exam has been passed, it’s possible to obtain affiliate status of AUSIT and NZSTI. Currently, pen and paper are used to take the exam, but soon it’s likely a keyboard test will be implemented. Pre-recording is done for the interpreting tests.


The NAATI CCL exam offers a pathway for multilingual individuals to contribute to the community as language intermediaries. This test focuses on assessing candidates’ language skills in real-world scenarios, where they need to convey conversations accurately between English and their native language. Successful CCL candidates can provide vital language support in various settings, such as medical consultations and legal consultations. The NAATI CCL exam offers a valuable opportunity to secure an additional 5 bonus points for your Australian PR application.


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    How NAATI tests are marked

    Each test is marked by two markers. If any inconsistency is detected between the two markers a 3rd marker is used to check the inconsistencies. The test answers aren’t fixed but are assessed as acceptable, emphasizing accuracy.

    Why do translators fail the NAATI test?

    The pass rate is low, at between 10 and 15%. This is mainly due to candidates not being fully prepared before taking the exam. Many of those who sit the exam think that the exam is easy to pass so they don’t prepare well enough before the exam date. Apart from lacking preparation, candidates tend to fail because:

    • they don’t know their 2ndlanguage well enough so they are not able to do an adequate translation of the text given in the exam so they fail.
    • they don’t have good listening skills so they can’t translate quickly between the 2 languages.
    • poor knowledge of vocabulary is a problem that shows more in the medical and legal translation areas.

    How to get prepared for the NAATI exam

    If a candidate is serious about passing the NAATI exam, preparation has to begin early. This means doing as much practice as possible. To put it simply if you are planning to sit the NAATI translation examination you should begin to prepare early and that means packing in as much practice as you can before the examination date. The key is having good proficiency in the 2nd language so that a good translation can be completed in a specialized area.

    Mistakes candidates frequently make in the NAATI examination

    One of the key reasons for failure is the lack of competency in the person’s second language.  Some candidates will mistakenly try to translate directly into their second language. This often ends up with a poor translation of complex ideas. When translating from the second language from the native language the candidate frequently misunderstands the source text. Some individual candidates often experience problems with their technique, either by translating over-literally or, on occasion paraphrasing when it’s not necessary.

    NAATI Interpreter Exam

    Becoming an NAATI-accredited interpreter opens doors to a diverse range of opportunities. Interpreters facilitate effective communication between individuals who speak different languages. They play a crucial role in ensuring clear understanding during critical situations, like medical appointments and legal proceedings. This exam demands not only language proficiency but also quick thinking, memory recall, and adaptability.

    Problems with the NAATI interpreting test

    Many candidates don’t have good memories or good listening skills. An interpreter needs to translate as quickly as possible in order to be of any use. This often isn’t possible because the candidate doesn’t have enough knowledge of his or her second language. When it comes to interpreting in the medical or legal field the interpreter should be able to express complex ideas.

    Suggestions for taking the NAATI test

    If you aren’t sure of your ability then it is worthwhile taking a NAATI preparation course so you know what to expect when the exam date comes around. You should also ensure you have built up sufficient knowledge in your 2nd language so you don’t let yourself down on the NAATI exam. The NAATI exam fees are pretty steep with a certified translator test costing Aus$550 and an accredited interpreter costing Aus$880. You don’t want to throw this money away because you haven’t prepared yourself properly when your exam date is upon you. NAATI exam fees are subject to change, and candidates should verify the latest fee information on the official NAATI website.

    Important Dates and Exam Updates

    Staying informed about NAATI exam dates and updates is paramount for a successful application process. Keep an eye on the official NAATI website for announcements regarding upcoming exam schedules, application deadlines, and any potential changes in the exam format, such as the transition from pen-and-paper tests to keyboard-based assessments.

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