Sunday morning, September 11, was the first time the DVTA held a computerized sitting of the ATA certification exam. There were three proctors: Vicki Hain Poorman, Linda Pollack-Johnson, and Helge Gunther. We originally expected 10 candidates, but one switched to a sitting later in the month in the D.C. area. Candidates for this sitting still had the option to hand-write the exam, but all chose to use their laptops. They were testing in four language combinations, between English and Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Mandarin.
Things started a bit late due to some confusion with the venue staff about times, but the Vision for Equality folks could not have been more helpful. We really are grateful to them for all they did. They arranged the room so each of the nine candidates had a table to him- or herself, with space for a laptop and dictionaries, all spaced around the perimeter of the room so we proctors could observe from behind them with minimal disturbance. We extended the ending time a little to make sure everyone could use the full three hours allotted.
The candidates brought their own laptops. Several of them were from out of DVTA’s coverage area, including one who came all the way from Oregon! Helge was our Mac expert. Linda and I were particularly grateful she was there, since two of our three Mac users needed a bit of tech help at the start. Otherwise, things went pretty smoothly overall. ATA exam rules allowed the candidates to use limited internet aids, including Linguee and the lookup feature of WordReference, but no forums or chat rooms such as ProZ. And (need I even say it?) NO Google Translate! There was a list of permitted and prohibited sites that was sent to the candidates (and to me as head proctor) beforehand.
As someone who took the exams too many years ago to count, I was interested to see how the process went this time. Fortunately, there was no “drama” to report. No one argued with the rules, or appeared to be trying to use unauthorized assistance. A couple of candidates finished a little earlier than the others and left; we had to stop the rest of them when time was up. All were friendly and cooperative. I learned about several new (to me) internet resources for translators and writers, largely from the list of sites provided. (I mostly work in interpreting these days.)
The only unpleasant surprise was the amount Helge had to pay to park in the lot across the street from the venue, the Cast Iron Building. Warning to attendees at future DVTA events there: The parking seemed outrageous to me! Take public transportation if you can, or carpool and share the cost.
All in all, I enjoyed the experience and hope the DVTA will be able to host future sittings of the ATA exams in which candidates may use computers. There is still, I would say, a minor bug or two in the process, but it makes a lot of sense in terms of reflecting how we really work today. Many, many thanks to my fellow proctors, Linda and Helge, and to the DVTA board for agreeing to give this a try.
Vicki Hain Poorman, M.A., CMI – Spanish