How to Prepare for the Oral Exam

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How to Prepare for the Oral Court Interpreter Exam


Court interpreting is a profession that demands a high level of knowledge, skills and abilities. Many people do not realize that being bilingual is not sufficient. To pass the oral court interpreter exam, interpreters must possess a mastery of the English language and the target language equivalent to a highly educated native speaker, and have a thorough understanding of legal concepts in both languages. In addition, interpreters must be highly proficient in specialized cognitive skills required to perform in the three modes of interpreting: sight translation, consecutive interpreting, and simultaneous interpreting. They must also be able to convey messages accurately, completely, and promptly.

Many interpreters just starting out in the profession do not possess all of these skills and qualifications.

An interpreter should prepare for the exam through observation, study, and practice over time. Do not rush into the exam and do not try to “cram” for it. While building your foundation of legal/technical terminology and idioms is important, this is not a test of knowledge only, but also of skills and abilities. These take time to develop and should be worked on over many months or even years prior to sitting for this type of exam.

A summary of oral court interpreter exam information is available on the Oral Court Interpreter Exam Information page. Please see Court Interpreter Oral Court Interpreter Exam Overview published by the National Center for State Courts.

Your first step in determining if you are ready for this exam may be to use a self-assessment tool such as the one available here.

Based on your training, experience, and/or your analysis of the self-assessment tool above, you may decide that you are ready to take the oral court interpreter exam. If so, you may find registration information on the Registration Process page. Make sure you have satisfied all requirements of the Tier 1 Credential.

If you decide that you are not ready for the exam, you may visit the Resources for Interpreters page for a list of some training and education resources and organizations.

Some common skill-building exercises are detailed in the Skill Building Exercises for Interpreters document. Other materials will be provided as part of the  Online Ethics class.

Registration and Beyond

Once all prerequisites have been satisfied and you are ready to register, submit the Oral Court Interpreter Exam Registration Request Form by the appropriate deadline and follow all subsequent instructions. For the exam schedule calendar, visit the Schedule and Calendar page.

Once registered, simply continue your exam preparation routine as normal. Remember, practice makes perfect. Continue studying, building your memory retention abilities, and developing your skills in the three modes of interpreting.

Several Days before the Exam

In the final days leading up to the exam it’s best to give yourself a break from studying. As mentioned above, there is no cramming for this type of exam. Make sure any necessary logistical arrangements for your exam date, time, and location are in order. Double check your exam confirmation e-mail and resolve any doubts you may have about logistics, procedures to follow, etc.

The Day Before the Exam
On the day before the exam you should already have everything in order. Finalize any lingering details but otherwise take your mind off of the exam. Go to a movie, spend time with friends and family, read a book, etc. Get a good night’s sleep so you don’t feel tired during the exam.

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Exam Day

At the exam site, you will be registered and taken into the exam room at the appointed time. There will be a table and chairs for you and the proctor, as well as the equipment required to administer the exam. The proctor will provide clear instructions on what you are to do. There will be paper, pens, and water which you will be free to use.

Upon entering the exam room, the test protocol will begin. Keep in mind that you are being recorded for the exam. After signing-in, you will read and sign the Oath indicating you will not share information about the exam. You will then answer some preliminary questions and, upon stating you are ready to begin, the exam will commence.

The test will begin with the sight translation from English into the target language, and then the sight translation from the target language into English. Next, you will perform the consecutive interpreting exercise. Lastly, you will perform the simultaneous interpreting exercise. All segments of the exam are recorded. Upon completion of the exam, you will be read some final information and verify your voice on the recording. You will then be excused from the exam room and will be free to exit the testing site.

No visitors are permitted in the exam room, other than approved observers. Anyone accompanying you to the exam site will have to wait in a designated area. Seating may be limited or unavailable.

You should expect to be at the test location for at least an hour-and-a-half to complete your registration, the exam, and any post-exam tasks.

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Dos and Don'ts

The following are some dos and don’ts to follow for the exam.


  • Do have something to eat and drink before the exam.
  • Do use the restroom before testing begins to avoid having to stop the exam.
  • Do arrive early. Give yourself extra time to travel, find the location, park, clear security, and walk to the exam room. If you arrive late, the proctors will not be able to administer your exam to you. You will lose your scheduled time slot and your exam fee will not be refunded.
  • Do bring an acceptable form of identification for registration purposes. If your identity cannot be verified when you arrive, you will not be admitted to the testing room. You will lose your scheduled time slot and your exam fee will not be refunded.
  • Do relax. You’ve prepared for this. The proctor will not be evaluating you or scoring your exam.
  • Do expect to receive your exam results within 8 -10 weeks after your exam.


  • Do not bring any of the following items to the exam site. They are prohibited and will not be allowed in the exam room. You should only bring in your car keys and identification. All of the items listed below and other unapproved items should be left at home or in your vehicle. There will be no secure place to leave them at the exam site. Neither the Program nor the location hosting the exam assume any responsibility for lost, stolen, or damaged personal items.
    •  Food and beverage. Water will be provided.
    •  Personal pens and paper. These items will be provided to you.
    •  Dictionaries and reference materials are not allowed and may not be consulted during the exam.
    •  Electronic devices including, but not limited to: cell phones, computers, tablets, mp3 players, Bluetooth devices, smart watches, smart glasses, and any other device capable of taking pictures, making audio/video recordings and/or sending/receiving wireless communications are strictly prohibited.1
  • Do not engage the exam proctor in unnecessary conversation. The proctor is there to administer your exam and is following a strict schedule and protocol.
  • Do not worry about the proctor’s opinions or impressions of your performance. The proctor is there only to administer the exam and does not score it. In many instances, the proctor will not even speak the language you are interpreting. Focus on your performance only.
  • Do not remove any materials from the exam room, other than your own items. 
  • Do not share any information about the exam with others. This is to protect the integrity of the test and to make it fair to everyone who takes it. Remember the oath you will have read and signed at the beginning of the exam.

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1  Any candidate found to be cheating on or recording the exam and/or its procedures will be ejected from the testing site, said candidate’s exam will not be scored, the registration fee will not be refunded, and said candidate may be barred from future testing under the Arizona Court Interpreter Credentialing Program. Report of the incident will be made to the National Center for State Courts. Return