Why Candidates Fail NAATI Translation and Interpreting Exams

Last Updated On: June 4, 2020


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.

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 with the emphasis on accuracy.


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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 which 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 occasions paraphrasing when it’s not necessary.

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 certain 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 when it comes to the NAATI exam. The NAATI exam fees are quite steep with a certified translator test costing Aus$550 and a certified 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.

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