The objective of any test is to accurately assess the knowledge, skills and abilities of the test taker in their chosen field – not to test their English language skills. There’s a growing demand from test takers who don’t speak English as a first language for the option to take a test in a different language. And there’s a growing requirement from test providers, across both certifying organizations and US state licensing authorities, to cater to the diverse linguistic backgrounds of test takers.
We covered the reasons for exam and test translation in a blog last year. Now we’d like to go into PSI’s translation processes in a bit more detail and highlight some of the key considerations for test translations in certification and licensure exams.
Test translation process
Our clients value the rigorous processes we apply whenever we translate test content into a different language. The best method of translation involves a two-stage process, with an executor and a verifier. We help to understand the importance of taking this additional step and getting a second pair of expert eyes to review test translations.
What’s more, the translation partners we work with aren’t just experts in the field of translation. Wherever possible, we involve linguists who are also Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the test content. It’s worth the investment to get this level of expertise and understanding of industry terms.
The quality of our translations and the thorough process we use really shows in the outputs – and the small number of challenges we receive from test takers about our translated test content. Here’s how it works:
- Client requests a quote for test translation. PSI exports test content, in English, into a standard template. This is securely shared with one of our translation partners to get a quote. Any sharing of proprietary information is done securely and safely to protect the integrity of the test content.
- Costs and project timeline are outlined clearly to our client. Nothing goes ahead without client approval at any stage of the process.
- First translation. When costs and project plan are agreed, we notify our first translation partner to proceed. We receive the translated test content back within the agreed timescale.
- Second translation costs and timeline. We follow the same process with a second translation partner, to confirm costs and timescale. A second translations is always completed for licensure exams and offered as an option for certification tests.
- Second translation. Following client approval of the quote, the verifying translation partner is notified to proceed. Any notes or queries about the first translation are marked up clearly.
- Queries resolved. The marked-up translation is sent back to the first translation partner and any discrepancies or questions are addressed and resolved.
- Final version. When a final version is agreed, the test content goes back to the client or the PSI team to build the test or exam.
Test translations for certification programs
In certification testing, the programs we work with are seeing the opportunities that lie within test translations. Their current test takers are advocating for different language versions of tests, and they want to show they are listening and responding. Tests in different languages are also a good way to appeal to a greater number of future test takers and grow your testing program.
We also know that the ability to offer tests in different languages is important to many certification programs on the ground of fairness and reliability. Tests in different languages reduce barriers to testing and allow test takers to demonstrate their true abilities, all while providing more accurate, valid, and reliable test outcomes for the testing program.
Language translations for licensure exams
The demand for test translations in state licensure is driven by different factors to certification testing. State licensure is a regulatory environment. Test translations are necessary when state law or a licensing authority demands them, and this varies from state to state. In some states it is mandated that licensure tests be offered in different languages, while in other states it is not.
For example, Spanish is one of the most requested test translations. These requests tend to come from states with a large Spanish speaking population, such as Florida, New Mexico, and Texas. The need for a Spanish translation will be included from the outset in the Request for Proposal (RFP), when licensing bodies are contracting a test provider. Or in some cases, a client will request a translation when laws or statutes change. New Jersey is an example of the latter, where the statute recently changed to require Spanish translations of Real Estate licensure exams – in addition to the original RFP for Insurance licensure exams in Spanish.
One area we work with across both certification test and licensure exam translations is different dialects. The translation of tests in languages such as Chinese, which have a lot of different dialects, has the potential to get very complex. Wherever possible, we use the simplified dialect, for example Simplified Chinese. However, when a client has a particular request, we will always try to accommodate where we can, within the limits of the systems we work in.
Different item formats
As well as written translations of test content into different languages, we are also involved in the process of having translated content prepared for audio files. This essentially involves the same steps as translating written test items.
We receive the audio content and send it out for translation. While we are waiting for our translation partner to complete the translation, we audition several options for voiceover artists. We listen to each audition recording and select that right person, who then creates MP3 audio files in their language from the completed translations. Once we receive the final translation and audio files, we hand them over to our client.
Flexibility, fairness and reliability
If a certification client isn’t sure whether there’s value in offering translated tests, we often translate one test to find out whether the demand is there. And we also do bespoke projects.
Offering tests in different languages holds the potential to improve your test taker experience and make your tests more accessible and inclusive. However, there’s a risk to both fairness and reliability if test translations aren’t done well.
Our rigorous and streamlined processes have taken many years to develop and they demonstrate how much we care about this. Our clients appreciate this thorough approach. While it can take time to get the test translation process right, we aim to go above and beyond industry standards for all our certification and licensure clients.