Preparation for the Professional Exam

鮑開立, Interpretation Track

  The professional exam sounds intimidating, and I admit the exam itself also freaked me out. Interpreting students are scared of the exam due to, I believe, three main reasons. First, interpreting itself is hard. Learners continuously go through traumatizing experiences and self-questioning. So, literally, nobody is confident in passing the exam. Second, it is held only once a year; students don’t have many chances to take the exam. Third, the way the exam is conducted is very similar to an interrogation. Three judges will be listening to your interpretation very attentively and carefully. Of course, there may be other reasons, but I believe it is fair to say that those reasons also derive from mental pressure. Therefore, for the preparation, I focus on mental preparation. To be mentally prepared, three things need to be done: practice interpreting skills, read, and meditate. With these, I successfully passed the exam this year, and I have to say that during the preparation process, a proper mindset and a supportive group of classmates are the essential elements for you to make it through.

  Skills practicing comes first because this is what I can do and know how to do before anything about the exam is announced. I made interpreting practice into a daily routine starting a month before the exam. During that month, no matter how many classes I had and how much work I had to do, I arranged time for practice. I did deliberate practice in the first two weeks. Sometimes, I practice note-taking, shadowing, and sometimes simply speaking English. After that, I started to practice the whole set of interpreting. Each day, I focused on one language direction and practiced both CI and SI. I took notes of what I found challenging and tried to come up with solutions. My classmates and I also practiced together and gave feedback to one another. This practice allowed me to build muscle memory and ensured that I didn’t make mistakes due to skill issues.

  When the topic of the exam was announced, I started to read. Reading is for acquiring domain knowledge so that there would be less mental burden when processing incoming messages. This year’s topic was AI regulation and governance, so I read relevant articles and listened to speeches. Of course, the speeches were used for interpreting practice as well. Peers also played an important role here because we shared articles and discussed the content together. If we had time, we also took turns to “teach” others what we just learned in both languages. This way, we not only learned new knowledge but also learned how to express it.

  Finally, when the exam was just a few days away, I began meditating. Every night, about half an hour before sleep, I sat at my desk with my eyes closed, listening to Mozart’s music. Surrounded by the melody, I thought about three things. First, “The exam is just for checking my learning progress. It is totally no big deal if I fail it.” Second, “My instructors have trained me very well. I can definitely pass the exam if I do my best.” Third, “The jury is there to be my audience, not to judge me.” I thought about these three things until I was no longer nervous about the exam. Once my heartbeat slowed down and my muscles relaxed, I went to sleep.

  What I did was prepare for the process instead of the result. People easily get frustrated if the results don’t meet their expectations. Therefore, I trained myself to care the least about the outcome of the exam and focus more on how I should go through the whole process. Again, interpreting is not an easy job, nor an easy skill set to master. As students, all we have to do is trust the instructors and follow their guidance, practice and read, and, most importantly, believe in ourselves. Good luck to all who are taking the exam next year. Hope you all enjoy the process.