About the CertTrans Exam — Ultimate Guide 2024

Last updated Mar 25, 2024
By Gwenydd Jones

The CertTrans is the level 6 (undergraduate) certificate in translation awarded by The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL). This is your indispensable 2024 guide to the CertTrans exam, an official early-career translation qualification.

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What is the CertTrans?

The CertTrans certificate in translation is a level 6 (bachelor’s degree level) translation qualification offered by the CIOL. It’s designed for linguists who want to become professional translators and translators who are starting out.

This professional translation certificate is a stepping-stone towards the challenging post-graduate DipTrans diploma in translation. The DipTrans is the industry gold standard qualification for experienced translators.

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Why is the CertTrans qualification good news for the translation profession?

The CertTrans is an excellent option for linguists and early-career translators who need translator certification. This qualification will help you take your first steps towards getting work as an in-house or freelance translator.

It’s well known in the translation industry that the DipTrans is the gold-standard professional translator qualification. It’s equally well known that it’s a very hard exam to pass.

By first working towards the CertTrans, up-and-coming translators will now have the opportunity start qualifying earlier. You can build up your professional translation skills more steadily and increase your chances of finding work sooner.

Once you have the CertTrans qualification, you’ll be able to work towards proficiency and passing the DipTrans exam. This work will hopefully be more likely to take place on the job because you’ll be more employable.

The CertTrans is also an interesting option for linguists with near-native proficiency in their second language. This qualification will be more attainable than the DipTrans and an opportunity for you to develop your reverse translation skills.

Wondering whether or not you’re ready for the CertTrans? Do our free level test!

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How can you prepare for the CertTrans exam?

The Translator’s Studio offers the CertTrans Examination Trove to help translators prepare for the CertTrans exam. It’s suitable for all language combinations. We also recommend following our Conversion Course before or while sitting the CertTrans and then taking our Advanced Course to prepare for the DipTrans.

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Our online translation courses use a study method that lets you go at your own pace. We ensure our students learn fast by offering extremely detailed feedback at a personal level. The Translator’s Studio is the best choice to support you in developing your practical skills and a working knowledge of translation theory. Get more top tips for CertTrans preparation from our student Amy Bathurst.

The first of two interviews between Gwenydd Jones of The Translator’s Studio and John Worne, CEO of the CIOL, about the CertTrans exam.

What does the CertTrans exam involve?

The CertTrans is made up of two exams (called units) that cover different subject areas. Each unit lasts three hours. In each unit, you have to do a written translation of a text.

The general unit of the CertTrans exam (unit 1, 500 words) is mandatory. The candidate must then choose between sitting either unit 2 or 3.

Unit 2 (300 words) is a semi-specialised text on Business and Commercial Translation Skills.

Unit 3 (300 words) is a semi-specialised translation on Government and Public Service Translation Skills.

You can sit both units or just one of them. To get the qualification, you must pass both units within three years. You have to specify which of the semi-specialist units you’re going to sit when you sign up for the exam.

Does the CIOL offer a preparatory course for the CertTrans?

The CertTrans exam is an online exam to obtain translator certification. It isn’t a course. The CIOL runs the exam but it doesn’t offer CertTrans preparatory courses. We recommend preparing for the exam by taking an online translation course with us.

Our Conversion Course will equip you with the entry-level translation skills you need to work as a translator and present yourself as a candidate for this exam. It’ll also give you a taste of translation theory and hopefully awaken your interest in translation studies, so you’ll want to progress to our Advanced Course and the DipTrans exam.

The second of two interviews between Gwenydd Jones of The Translator’s Studio and John Worne, CEO of the CIOL, about how to pass the CertTrans exam.

Is the CIOL CertTrans qualification the same as a language or translation degree?

The CIOL Certificate in Translation is an undergraduate level 6 qualification in translation. So, it’s an equivalent level to a degree in translation studies (BA or BSc). In terms of the EU language framework, these qualifications reflect a C1 level of linguistic competence in the foreign language.

What’s the difference between the CertTrans and the DipTrans?

The CertTrans is a degree-level translation certificate. The DipTrans is a post-graduate translation certificate. Put simply, the DipTrans exam is harder to pass than the CertTrans exam. Both of these benchmark qualifications are awarded by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) and are suitable for translators worldwide. Get more information about the difference between the DipTrans and the CertTrans.

How much does the CertTrans exam cost?

The approximate cost of sitting both units of the CertTrans is £600 including the exam fees and virtual centre fees. You can sit each unit separately at a higher price. For the latest exam fees see the CertTrans page on the CIOL website.

What language combinations are available in the CertTrans exam?

The CertTrans is currently available in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish to English. The same languages are available in the reverse direction, except Russian.

Can I sit the CertTrans Certificate in Translation at an exam centre?

No, this is an online translation exam that you sit from home. You’ll be invigilated through your webcam and microphone. This is good because it means the exam is open to translators all over the world.

What are the CertTrans exam dates?

The CertTrans takes place each year in March, July and November. You have to sign up a couple of months before the exam. It then takes about three months to get your results. This is different to the dates for the DipTrans exam, which has exam sittings in January and July. You can see the exact CertTrans dates on the CIOL website.

Can I use a dictionary in the CertTrans exam?

You can use paper-based reference materials in the CIOL CertTrans. This includes bilingual, monolingual and specialist dictionaries (see recommendations for Spanish to English and French to English). You can also use your own glossaries and word banks. General reference materials like encyclopaedias are also allowed. Here are our recommended thesauruses and style guides.

Can I use the Internet in the CertTrans exam?

No, you can’t use the Internet or electronic dictionaries or devices.

How is the CertTrans marked?

Candidates are given a score out of 120 under two different aspects of performance:

  1. Ability to produce a translation that shows accurate transfer of information.
  2. Ability to produce a translation that is grammatically sound, cohesive and coherent in the target language.

What’s the pass mark of the CertTrans exam?

The overall pass mark to get the CIOL CertTrans certificate in translation is 60% in both units. Merits or distinctions are also on the table for the best translators.

When do the CertTrans results come out?

The CertTrans results dates are always two to three months after the examination sitting.

What happens if I fail a unit?

If you fail a unit, you have a total of three years to re-sit and get your pass. The Translator’s Studio offers Resitter Packs and Translation Workshops. So, if you want extra practice, we have your back.

FAQ about the CertTrans certificate in translation

Are there any requirements to sign up for the exam? 

You don’t need any specific qualifications but you should have an advanced level in the source language. Your target language competence should be native or very near native. Based on what we know about the DipTrans, it’s likely that you’ll have to become an IoLET affiliate member to sit the exam. This is the lowest membership grade and it costs just £26 for 12 months. At time of writing, the CIOL hasn’t confirmed this requirement.

While following online translation courses isn’t required, our experience with the DipTrans shows that doing one is a very good idea. Check out our courses.

Why is it a good idea to get the CIOL CertTrans?

Certified translators get more job opportunities. While the older generation of translators may have been able to enter the translation profession without translation qualifications, getting accredited is the way forward. If you want to offer translation services, do our excellent online translation courses and get this entry-level qualification. We’ll give you the confidence to go out into the world and proudly tell everyone that you’re a real translator.

Can I sit the CIOL CertTrans exam without a language degree?

Yes, as long as you’re competent in the source language (language you read in) and have a native or very near native level in the target language (language you write in).

Is the CertTrans qualification suitable for translators outside Europe?

Absolutely. The CIOL has confirmed that they’ll accept US English in the exam. Now it’s possible to sit the CertTrans and DipTrans online, these benchmark qualifications are more accessible than ever. Our CertTrans preparatory course is suitable for translators based in the USA, Canada and Latin America.

Numerous translators from the Americas become our students, to improve their skills and prepare for translation exams. In fact, the ATA exam is on a very similar level to the CertTrans.

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 CertTrans exam and to sign up to sit the exam, visit the website of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL).

Do your free level test or sign up for our CertTrans preparatory course

Get your free level test and join our online translation courses. Let’s get started on preparing you to sit the CIOL CertTrans so you can become a freelance translator or work in house for an international organisation or LSP. Our CertTrans Examination Trove is a self-study course for all language combinations with English. The Conversion Course is recommended for translators working with French and Spanish into English.

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Free Translation Level Test

Unsure whether you're ready for the CertTrans, ATA exam or DipTrans?

Do our free translation level test and find out.

Available for Spanish- and French-to-English translators.

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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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