Are You Ready for the CIOL Diploma in Translation Exam?

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Gwenydd Jones

The CIOL Diploma in Translation is a true reflection of professional translation skills. But it’s also a difficult qualification to get. Every year, the majority of translators who sit the exam will fail at least one if not all three papers. So, how can you figure out whether you’re ready to take it on?

Avoid this mistake

If you’re researching how to become a freelance translator, you’ve probably already come across the CIOL Diploma in Translation. For clients, the DipTrans is considered the gold standard among professional translation qualifications. It’s also attractive to translators because you can get this postgraduate diploma (Ofqual level 7) through a single day of exams.

Having now taught our DipTrans preparation course since 2014, I’ve had the opportunity to observe certain patterns. Although no two translators are the same, aspiring translators often make the same big mistake: they sit the DipTrans exam before they’re ready and so they fail it. This article will explain how to assess whether you’re ready for the CIOL DipTrans exam. It’ll help you make sure you save money and heartache by passing first time.

“In their heads, the DipTrans becomes the obstacle between them and their career as successful translators.”

Since translating involves a great deal of study, research and thinking, aspiring translators are likely to be people who have always done well academically. This means they tend to be accustomed to passing exams. Many will go so far as to say that they enjoy exams. They’re also proficient in at least two languages. On that basis, the CIOL Diploma in Translation seems to be a realistic objective. But if it is, why are so many of these translators failing?

Hare syndrome

One of the problems that aspiring translators have is that they’re often in a rush. They’ve decided what they want to do with their lives and they want to qualify instantly. In their heads, the DipTrans becomes the obstacle between them and their career as successful translators. They want to prepare for the exam in a matter of months and then expect to pass it. They expect this even though they’ve never taken the time to properly learn how to translate or accrue a decent amount of experience.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these translators may well pass at least part of the exam. But over the years of working with translators to help them prepare for the DipTrans, I’ve observed that professional experience plays its part. In short, the more professional experience the translator has, the more likely they are to pass all three papers first time.

Have you read about my DipTrans experience? If you have, you’ll know that I passed two papers and failed one on my first try. It was the first exam I’d ever failed and a sobering experience. I didn’t give up, though. I went away and became a professional translator, then I went back and passed.

A popular misconception

That brings me on to another popular misconception among people who want to become professional translators. They think linearly: I have to qualify before I can get a job in the translation industry. Studying translation and qualifying will certainly make you a more competent and confident translator. But you can get in-house and freelance work without the DipTrans on your CV. The rate of pay will probably be lower, but it’s a way to get experience while you’re preparing for the exam. Once you qualify, you move on to better work.

Wondering whether you’re ready for the CIOL Diploma in Translation exam? Read this article to find out. #DipTrans #translation.  By @Gwenydd_Jones Click To Tweet

Get more practice!

This need for more time and practice was the reason why we developed our professional Spanish-to-English translation conversion course. This course aims to help people who haven’t studied translation to build a strong foundation and start thinking about getting translation work. The budding translators that do this course start out by developing good habits. They build up an understanding of the professional translation process and an appreciation of how complex translation is. We’re finding that the translators who slow down and get more practice, with our support, are much better equipped to make informed decisions when it comes to deciding when and if to qualify.

If you want to become a professional translator, getting the CIOL DipTrans is a great goal to set for yourself. But the biggest mistake you can make is to go rushing headlong into it without giving yourself enough time to develop professional translation skills. If you’re realistic and reasonable in the expectations you put on yourself, you’ll get your pass when the time is right.

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Written by Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is a Spanish- and French-to-English translator, an SEO blogger and a course creator. She is the founder of The Translator's Studio and the lead teacher on its courses. Connect with Gwenydd on LinkedIn or contact her through this website.

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