DipTrans Exam January 2021 Report and Our Candidates’ Results

Written by Helen Gräwert

Helen Gräwert is a web copywriter, editor and translator based in Mallorca, Spain. She writes original, engaging web content in plain English for clients across Europe. Visit her website.

This was the year that the Chartered Institute of Linguists introduced a remote option to enable candidates to sit the DipTrans exam in the safety and comfort of their own homes.

The Spanish-to-English combination of the 2021 CIOL Diploma in Translation was held on Tuesday 19 January. This article by Helen Gräwert has been updated by Gwenydd Jones to include a summary of our candidates’ results. Scroll to the end to view the summary.

About the remotely delivered DipTrans exam

In 2021, the big news was that candidates could take the exam as an online assessment. The CIOL confirmed this option at a fairly late stage on 1 September 2020, which also meant the exam application deadline (usually the end of August) was extended by a month.

It’s clear that the current situation forced the CIOL to make this decision, due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and how this may affect exam centres. The CIOL said it wanted to make sure the DipTrans exam went ahead for the benefit of candidates, who welcomed the news as a progressive step in the right direction.

Since the option to sit the DipTrans exam online looks like it’s here to stay, we’ll be publishing a follow-up article next month with all the details straight from our candidates’ mouths.

Spanish-to-English CIOL DipTrans exam papers 2021

So, what exactly did the three CIOL DipTrans Spanish-to-English exam units cover in 2021? Let’s find out!

Check out The Translator Studio's DipTrans exam 2021 report for the lowdown on the new online option and the Spanish-to-English papers. Click To Tweet

DipTrans 2021, Paper 1 (General). An extract from an opinion piece: “Los huevos de Colón” by Héctor Abad Faciolince from the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. It was about movements to tear down monuments to controversial historical figures such as Christopher Columbus.

The rubric, while always important, was different to others seen before because it specified that the article, first published in July 2020, was going to be published as a translation in a 2020 annual review. This meant that some phrases in the Spanish text, such as “hace una semana” (last week), had to be adapted to the publication date of the English article.

Other challenges that our candidates faced included having to translate (and punctuate) lots of quotations of differing lengths, the need to switch tense, tricky idioms and problematic sentence structures.

DipTrans 2021, Paper 2 (Technology). We think this paper was about the production of eco-friendly or recycled plastic packaging. Let us know if you can confirm or deny this.

DipTrans 2021, Paper 2 (Business). The piece was about the Argentinian government’s social and fiscal policies in response to COVID-19. It was taken from an unnamed website and published in May 2020.

The main challenges included terminology and transferring names and numbers.

DipTrans 2021, Paper 2 (Literature). An extract from La Metáfora Inacabada by Antonio Prieto, in which the main character is talking to an elderly friend. It starts on about page 54 and the first paragraph contains the wording “mientras se acercaba pausado mi despertar”. The last sentence of the extract is: “ ‘No, nada,’ le sonreí.”

Our candidates felt that this year’s text was on the harder side. They said that the verb tenses were particularly challenging because the narrator is having a conversation in the present while remembering his earlier life. There was also some tricky vocabulary, a lot of dialogue and complex sentence structures to contend with.

DipTrans 2021, Paper 3 (Science). An extract from a news item: “Los insectos que propagan la bacteria ‘Xylella fastidiosa’ recorren distancias mayores de lo que se pensaba“, published in July 2020 on the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) website.

Some of the trickier parts included figuring out how to translate proper nouns (remember to check the rubric for help as CSIC was translated there). There were also lots of long sentences to unravel but, according to our candidates, the terminology wasn’t too bad.

DipTrans 2021, Paper 3 (Social Science). This paper was about education in Chile and made reference to an incident at a school in Santiago. It had lots of long sentences that included lists and some of the trickier terminology related to legislation.

DipTrans 2021, Paper 3 (Law). A 2019 article from Economist & Jurist magazine by Javier Izaguirre Fernández on whether Spanish law requires a driving licence to use an electric scooter. The text included quotes from the court judgment it was reviewing, which often appeared as stray phrases or half sentences that candidates had to work into idiomatic English.

In conclusion

To sum up, the DipTrans exam 2021 included texts from a wide range of Spanish-speaking countries, which is a continuation of the trend that the CIOL has followed in recent years to include more content from Latin America.

Candidates must make sure they’re prepared to deal with quotes and dialogue, know how to unravel tricky Spanish syntax and produce equivalent cohesive and idiomatic English sentences. They should also be ready to face up to some pretty challenging terminology, including proper nouns whose translations they may not be familiar with.

Addition by Gwenydd Jones: a summary of our candidates’ results from the DipTrans exam January 2021

A total of 14 DipTrans candidates worked with The Translator’s Studio to prepare for the DipTrans exam in January 2021. In 2021 or in previous years, 11 of them had completed the advanced course, with some of that group also having taken resitter packs. Three of them came to us for last-minute preparation through resitter packs.

Of the 11, one of our candidates encountered technical problems. The CIOL accepted responsibility and will allow that person to re-sit all three papers in July. That person is discarded from our statistics here. One of them initially passed one paper and appealed the exam result. That translator was awarded a pass for all three papers in June 2021 and we updated this post accordingly.

The 10 candidates sat a total of 24 papers and obtained 15 passes or higher. This gives candidates who have completed our advanced course a success rate of 63% in January 2021, which is well above the usual success rate of about 25%. Three of our students passed all three papers on their first attempt. Among our candidates, there was one distinction and four merits.

Regarding the resitters, they sat a total of four papers between them, with a pass rate of 50%. One of our resitters kindly told us: “I don’t think I would have had a chance without your preparation course and all the great feedback and advice. I can’t thank you enough!”

Following the good news that the CIOL is adding a July date to its DipTrans exam sessions this year, four of our resitters have already signed up for our resitter packs to help them prepare.

We’d like to congratulate all our candidates on their efforts and successes.

 DipTrans preparation course

There’s no need to do it alone. The Translator’s Studio supported 14 candidates in their preparation for the DipTrans exam 2021. We’d love you to come and join us to prepare for the next CIOL DipTrans exam, which will be in July 2021.


This article was authored by Helen Gräwert with contributions from Niamh Ní Chonaill, Elizabeth Hancock, Jessica Forbes, Andrew Wilson, Helen Jones and Sarah Bowyer. Edited by Gwenydd Jones.

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