Ultimate guide to the DipTrans Exam 2022 — CIOL Diploma in Translation Exam

A woman celebrating because she passed the CIOL DipTrans exam to get the DipTrans qualification.

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer

The DipTrans qualification is the gold-standard professional translation credential. It’s obtained by sitting the DipTrans exam offered by the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The DipTrans is the professional translation qualification to get if you’re working as a translator or thinking of becoming one. Read on for the definitive guide to the CIOL DipTrans exam and find out how to get this professional translation qualification.

Content of this article

What’s the CIOL DipTrans qualification?

What’s the CIOL DipTrans Exam?

Practical information about the DipTrans exam

FAQ about the DipTrans qualification

Free level test

What’s the CIOL DipTrans qualification?

Awarded by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), the DipTrans is a professional qualification, set at Ofqual Level 7 (Master’s level). It’s internationally recognised and accepted by the translation industry. The CIOL says: “the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) is the gold standard for anyone wanting a career as a freelance translator or to work as a translator for international corporations worldwide and meets the need for a high-level professional translating qualification.”

What’s the CIOL DipTrans Exam?

The CIOL DipTrans exam is the three-part exam translators sit to get the CIOL DipTrans qualification issued by the Chartered Institute of Linguists and regulated by Ofqual.

What are the parts (units) of the DipTrans exam?

The three parts (units) of the DipTrans exam have a combined wordcount of about 1,500 words. Unit 1 is a general text of about 600 words. You have three hours to translate it. The content could be a newspaper article or another similar type of journalistic text.

Unit 2 is a semi-specialised text of about 450 words, and you can choose from technology, business or literature. You have two hours to complete this part of the exam.

Unit 3 is also a semi-specialised text, and the options are science, social science or law. Like in unit 2, it’s around 450 words and you have two hours to complete.

You can sit all three papers or just one or two. But to gain the qualification, you must pass all three papers within three years. This is new from 2021, before this year, candidates had five years to pass all papers.

Is the CIOL DipTrans qualification a course?

No, it’s an exam that you must prepare for. The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) says candidates must be competent in both the source and target languages, have good writing skills and the ability to translate at a professional level. According to the CIOL: “it must be stressed that candidates, even those holding a degree in languages, generally require additional experience or training.” Most translators take a course to prepare, even very experienced ones. The Translator’s Studio offers a pre-DipTrans and DipTrans preparatory course to help translators get ready to sit the Diploma in Translation exam.

Is the CIOL DipTrans qualification the same as an MA in Translation Studies?

No. The CIOL Diploma in Translation is a master’s level 7 qualification, but it isn’t a course. Both the DipTrans and an MA are post-graduate level 7 qualifications. However, an MA (Master of Arts) is a course taught by a university that you complete over one or two years. You have to attend lectures and do assignments, as well as a lot of reading and studying. If you complete the work to the appropriate standard, the university awards your MA.

A master’s degree (MA or MSc) isn’t the same as the unofficial and unregulated “master’s” certificates you can get through courses offered by centres in certain European countries like Spain.

The CIOL DipTrans exam also leads to a post-graduate level 7 qualification but it’s an exam, not a course. Unlike an MA, where you learn to translate and if you reach the required standard are awarded the qualification, you must already have the required level when you sit the DipTrans exam. There’s no teaching involved. It’s simply a test of your professional translation skills on the day.

Most translators do a preparatory course before they sit the DipTrans. At the Translators Studio, we can prepare you for the DipTrans. Get your free level test.

For more information about the similarities and differences between an MA in translation studies and the DipTrans, check out this article.

Is the CIOL DipTrans exam the same as the ITI membership exam?

No. The Institute of Translating and Interpreting (ITI) membership exam is one route to joining that professional translators’ association. The ITI exam is a 1,000-word translation produced over a weekend with full access to the Internet and to consultation with other translators. It isn’t a qualification and the only assurance that the translation is the translator’s own work is a signed declaration by them. The CIOL Diploma in Translation or DipTrans is a post-graduate level 7 qualification obtained in an invigilated exam without access to the Internet. It’s equivalent in level to an MA in translation and accredited by Ofqual. It’s the industry gold standard and it proves that you can translate professionally under strict exam conditions.

Is the CIOL DipTrans exam the same as the ATA certification exam?

No. The American Translators’ Association (ATA) certification exam leads to a certificate issued by that professional translators’ association. It’s a three-hour invigilated exam that consists of three passages with a combined total of about 750 words. Translators are permitted paper resources and limited access to the Internet. It’s designed to test the translator’s ability to produce a professional translation. The pass rate at time of writing is less than 20%. The Translator’s Studio courses can help you acquire the skills you need to pass this exam.

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Practical information about the DipTrans exam

Where can I do the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) exam?

You can sit the CIOL DipTrans exam online on your own computer with invigilation through your webcam. See our article about the remote option for sitting the DipTrans exam online. There’s also an option to sit it at a registered centre, using a computer or a pen and paper.

The DipTrans exam is suitable for translators in the USA, Canada, Latin America, Australia and anywhere else in the world.

Can I choose when I sit the DipTrans exam?

No. The exam is traditionally only offered once a year, in January. From 2021, there will also be dates in July for the most popular language combinations. This makes it easier for anyone who needs to re-sit a unit. We don’t currently know whether this is a permanent change. From 2021 onwards, the exam is being spread over two days instead of one, with unit 3 on the second day. This is an improvement because it was very tiring to sit seven hours of exam in a single day.

Can I use a dictionary in the DipTrans exam?

The CIOL DipTrans is an open-book exam where paper-based reference materials are permitted. Candidates can use bilingual, monolingual, and specialist dictionaries. You can also use published glossaries and/or personal word banks, as well as reference materials like encyclopaedias.

Can I use the Internet in the DipTrans exam?

You can’t use the Internet in the DipTrans exam. You can’t use electronic dictionaries or devices.

How is the DipTrans graded?

According to the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), candidates are graded under two different aspects of performance:

1. Comprehension, accuracy, transfer of names, dates, figures, etc.

2. Grammar (morphology, syntax, etc.), register, cohesion, coherence and organisation of work, punctuation, orthography, accentuation.

What’s the pass mark of the DipTrans exam?

The overall pass mark to obtain the CIOL DipTrans qualification is 60%. Merits or distinctions may also be awarded.

Is it easy to pass the CIOL DipTrans exam?

The CIOL DipTrans is a challenging exam for professional translators. Depending on the paper, the approximate success rate of candidates is around 25%. It’s therefore very important to be properly prepared. The Spanish-to-English candidates who prepared with the Translator’s Studio had an overall success rate in January 2021 of 54%, including one distinction and four merits. See report.

When will I get the results?

The results of the CIOL DipTrans exam are issued within three months of the exam date.

What happens if I don’t pass all three parts of the DipTrans on my first try?

If you fail one or more parts of the DipTrans exam, you have a total of three years to pass the others. In 2021, the CIOL is offering exam dates in January and July for Spanish to English. At The Translator’s Studio we offer DipTrans Resitter Packs. So, if you have one or more papers still to pass, we can help you.

The DipTrans qualification is the professional translation qualification to get if you’re working as a translator or thinking of becoming one.

FAQ about the DipTrans qualification

Why is the CIOL DipTrans a useful qualification to have?

To stand out in the translation industry and have confidence as a translator, a recognised and respected qualification is essential. The CIOL DipTrans is seen as the industry gold standard and is proof that you can translate at a professional level.

Is it better to have the DipTrans or an MA?

Although they are both post-graduate level 7 qualifications, the DipTrans and an MA are very different. An MA is a course of study and the DipTrans is an exam. The two qualifications share some common challenges but they’re very different. One key difference is that the financial investment is much higher for a university MA in translation studies. Check out this article for the lowdown on the differences between the two.

Can I sit the CIOL DipTrans exam if I don’t have a degree in languages?

Anyone can contact the Chartered Institute of Linguists and sign up to sit the Diploma in Translation exam. But the CIOL warns that even translators with a degree in languages “generally require additional experience or training”. Because it’s such a challenging exam, The Translator’s Studio has developed a set of pre-DipTrans and DipTrans preparatory courses to get you ready to sit the DipTrans exam. If you’re not aiming for the qualification just yet, but want to get started in translation, check out our Conversion Course.

Is the DipTrans qualification only for European translators?

No. In emails exchanged with the CIOL, we have confirmed that you can examine into US English. This means the DipTrans exam is suitable for translators in the USA, Canada, Latin America, Australia and anywhere else in the world.

With the new remote option, the DipTrans qualification is more accessible than ever. Our DipTrans preparatory courses are suitable for translators based in the USA, Canada and Latin America. We have many students from the Americas who take our courses to prepare for the DipTrans, the ATA exam or for professional development.

We do our best to keep all the information on our website up to date, but things change. For the latest information about the CIOL DipTrans exam and to sign up to sit the exam, visit the website of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL).

Did you know you can do a free level test before you sign up for our DipTrans preparatory courses?

Get your free level test from the Translator’s Studio and get ready to sit the CIOL Diploma in Translation!

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