COVID-19 and Certification

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on ATA’s Certification Program has been and remains profound. Although the situation continues to unfold, here are how things stand at this writing (early May).

  • All exam sittings scheduled for March, April, and May have been cancelled. Registration for future sittings is on hold while ATA Headquarters and the Certification Committee assess the situation. Moreover, ATA is not accepting requests from chapters and local groups to schedule sittings later in 2020. This shutdown will continue to be evaluated week-by-week.
  • The Certification Committee meeting and the Language Chairs meeting scheduled for mid-April in Alexandria, Virginia, were cancelled. The committee held a Zoom meeting instead.
  • ATA is refunding registration fees for those whose sittings were cancelled, and will apply a liberal refund policy to existing registrants for the rest of the year. Even if sittings resume later in 2020, registrants can receive a full refund if they prefer not to risk traveling or sitting in a room with other candidates.

The Certification Program is stepping up efforts to offer candidate preparation sessions online. Besides the obvious benefit of allowing high-quality instructional content to be disseminated safely, offering sessions remotely and thus free of geographic constraints also opens the door to workshops for language pairs other than Spanish.

Speaking of online offerings, conferences and other events that have been moved online are still eligible for continuing education points (CEPs). If it’s a live online event (conference or webinar), it counts for CEPs under Category A, with the same points awarded and the same restrictions as a live, in-person event. Anything recorded and reviewed at one’s own leisure can also count, but under Category B. An example of this would be the ATA58 recording recently made available for free to the membership (https://bit.ly/ATA58-virtual). For
more information about CEPs, visit https://bit.ly/ATA-CE-points.

One aspect of the program that remains unaffected is the practice test. In the absence of exam activities, this is a great time to take one or more practice tests. These are retired exam passages that the candidate purchases online, translates, and returns for grading and feedback. For more details, visit http://bit.ly/ATA-practice-test.

As in so many other areas of life, the realities of social distancing and stay-at-home orders are motivating the Certification Program to think about ways to alleviate similar situations in the future. One obvious focus is on ways to administer the exam remotely (i.e., allow candidates to take the exam from home). It has been five years since ATA last considered options in that regard, which at the time were found lacking from the standpoint of logistics and, most of all, security. But five years is a long time, and the pandemic is no doubt spurring the development of all sorts of new solutions for functioning remotely. The Certification Committee intends to keep a close eye on possibilities in this area.


David Stephenson, CT is the chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. An ATA-certified German>English, Dutch>English, and Croatian>English translator, he has been an independent translator for over 30 years, specializing in civil litigation and creative nonfiction. Contact: david@stephensontranslations.com.

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