Preparing For The Department of State Exams

A few weeks ago I decided to fill out an online application (update-this is no longer available on their website) to be a consultant interpreter and translator for the Department of State. I mailed it thinking that I would never hear back and that I had just wasted a stamp.

Well, much to my surprise, I did hear back. I got a call from an interpreter who wanted to schedule a phone screening/small interpreting test for later on in the afternoon. It was consecutive interpreting and even though I was nervous and it was hard, I somehow managed to pass which meant that I received an invitation to go take the interpreting exam in DC, at my own expense.

The interpreting exam consists of two 10-15mn passages: one consecutive and one simultaneous. I will be working English-French, off of a DVD. After that, I have to take the “Americana” section of the exam which consists of US history, geography, economy etc. Finally they will ask me an “on-the-job” question: what would I do if…

In the meantime, I also found out that my application qualified me to take the French-English translation test. It will consist of three passages: one general, one business, administrative or legal, and one technical or scientific. I will have four hours to translate all three passages using paper dictionaries for reference but a computer to input my work.

I have no idea what to expect or how hard this will be as I have yet to speak with someone who has already taken it, so I’m studying and practicing as much as I can.

For the translation portion, I have been using this page  a lot to practice. It contains articles in French that I can translate into English. Once I’m done I can just click on “English” to see what the official translation is, and compare.

For the interpreting portion, I have been using the Department of State’s you tube channel.

For the Americana potion of the test, they suggested I go through this website. Even though it’s for kids, it’s pretty good and covers the basics. Works for me!

I made myself a glossary (6 pages long!) and it covers a ton of NGO, economy, and governmental jargon. I also added a bunch of the most common false cognates from this handy UN page.

Wish me luck next Tuesday!

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6 thoughts on “Preparing For The Department of State Exams

  1. “For the translation portion, I have been using THIS page a lot to practice.”—- Would you happen to know if there are any similar pages like that one in Spanish? Keep on practicing! 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this, dear Jen! I am sure you will do wonderful on the exam; best of luck to you. Can’t wait to hear how it was. This is a great summary for others who might want to take the exam (perhaps I will take it too). What was the subject matter of the consecutive portion you took over the phone? Diplomacy or general? Would love to know more.

  3. Thanks Judy! Since I posted this, I found out that I passed the consecutive portion of the exam but not the simultaneous. The topic for the consecutive portion was pretty generic: it was a simulation of a guided city visit. The simultaneous portion was about the US justice system.

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