DipTrans Exam 2017 Report

Man doing the DipTrans exam by hand

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Translator, translator trainer and copywriter

The 2017 Diploma in Translation exams took place on 17 and 18 January. Two attendees from my Advanced Spanish-to-English translation course sat the exam. One did all three papers for the first time, while the other re-sat unit 2. They had plenty to say about it. And kindly let me share the information with you.

DipTrans exam 2017 papers (Spanish-to-English)

The Diploma in Translation exam papers always come from the ‘real world’. This year, there seemed to be a lot from El País around May/June 2016. The articles are often quite long. So, the Chartered Institute edits them down for the exam. Thanks to Jessie Forbes for sharing the following notes on what she remembers from the exam.

DipTrans 2017, General paper, Unit 01. From El País June 2016 on Cuban dancers defecting. Read the unedited version here.

DipTrans 2017, Semi-specialised paper, Unit 02.

Technology: an article from El País June 2016 on Building shelters for future colonies on the Moon and Mars. Read the unedited version here.

Literature: Part of a short story called ‘Food and Drink’ (I think the story title was in English).

Business: El País June 2016, La morosidad en España.

DipTrans 2017, Semi-specialised paper, Unit 02.

Science: Catástrofes acopladas y teoría matemática. From a blog belonging to a maths professor from Universidad Carlos III.

Social Science: La falta de transparencia en la política española.

Legal: Dealt with women’s rights law in Columbia.

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Strategies attendees on our DipTrans course used to deal with their main issues in the DipTrans exam 2017

The next Diploma in Translation exam sessions will be in January 2018. Below are some of the issues the trainees on my exam preparation course faced in the DipTrans exam 2017. See what strategies we came up with to deal with them. Perhaps they will help you if you sit the exam in 2018.

There isn’t time to waste on being a perfectionist.

Is it best to do the DipTrans exam on a computer or writing by hand?

Both candidates from my course opted to use a computer. It makes it so much easier to edit the translation. You also have the added bonus of being able to use spellcheck. My advice to you is to find a centre where they’ll let you use a computer.

Time pressure, a big worry

While preparing for the DipTrans 2017, both trainees ran out of time while doing exam papers. If you’re planning to sit the DipTrans in 2018, it’s very important to develop a timing plan. My Diploma in Translation preparation course covers this in detail.

We agreed they would be very careful about spending too long on terminology research. To make sure they left enough time for proper editing and proofreading. Afterwards, Jessie wrote “I was REALLY STRICT with myself on timing. Not adding extra stress where none is needed. That made me feel more peaceful”.

Translator’s notes

This is a grey area in the exam. Having seen an examiner penalise a candidate for using translator’s notes, my advice was to avoid them. Discussing paper 2, Jessie wrote “There was one place where I thought about adding a translator’s note. But, in the end I didn’t. Because there wasn’t a clear enough reason to do so”. By planning for this beforehand, she was able to think clearly under pressure.


I spoke to both trainees a few days before they went into sit the DipTrans. Another final reminder before going in was to stick with what they knew. To avoid experimenting with phrasing or punctuation, unless they were 100% sure.

The trainee who was resitting shared one of her main exam problems: she would choose a term, then change it, then change it back, and so on. This happens to everyone. The pressure of the exam situation makes you start second guessing yourself. You suddenly start doubting everything you do. Another important exam strategy is to be decisive. And to judge where a term or phrase is satisfactory and where it needs editing. There isn’t time to waste on being a perfectionist.

There is no substitute for being accountable to someone else.

DipTrans exam terminology strategy

Both trainees were keen on the technical specialisations. One difficulty with these papers is the concentration of tough terminology. Dictionary work consumes precious editing and proofreading time. We talked about this problem at length in the Skype tutorials. While working on past papers, both translators had found they ran out of time because of spending too long looking up terms.

One strategy I recommended was, if in doubt, try to come up with a more general alternative, e.g. a ‘lag screw’ is a ‘screw’. This strategy can work as a last resort if the term isn’t particularly important in the text as a whole.

In the end, better to mess up one difficult term than fail to proofread properly and end up with silly mistakes.

Exam energy

If you’re sitting all three papers in one day, don’t forget the power bar. “On paper three, the room got hot and that, combined with my blood sugar, left me a bit fuzzy. But, I had a snack, so situation resolved”. I remember feeling the way Jessie did when I sat the exam. It isn’t a day for dieting.

Extra exam practice, with a friend

You can’t get enough translation practice before you sit the Diploma in Translation exam. I encourage course trainees to take on volunteer or professional translation projects. This year, both trainees were keen to sit the technology paper. So, I created some mock exam papers for them.

They did the translations under exam conditions. Then swopped and did feedback for each other, using my templates. I then edited their work to create a final translation, which they were able to compare with their own texts. As Jessie put it “this was a challenging but very worthwhile exercise. There is no substitute for being accountable to someone else”. You can download one of our mock DipTrans technology papers, with translation, at the end of my article How to get DipTrans past papers for the Diploma in Translation exam.

DipTrans preparatory course

If you’re planning to sit the DipTrans 2018 then check out our online exam preparation course. It’s designed for Spanish-to-English translators. You can do a free test before you sign up and there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. You won’t find more personalised support anywhere else.

Visit my LinkedIn profile to read reviews past trainees have posted.

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