Last week, Judy finally took the oral portion of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE). We have written about this exam before: have a look here and here. Please read on for Judy's account of the exam day. This post will not focus on her preparation, which we have addressed in other posts (here and here) and will also discuss in future posts.
|Final countdown to the exam.|
After much back and forth, I chose to take the exam in Denver (one can list a first, second and third choice when you register), and a full four weeks or so before the exam, the organizers finally confirmed the date and the location: July 16 at 10:30 in a Denver suburb (Aurora, infamous because of the movie theater shootings). Of course, there's much room for improvement within the registration process, but for now, let me focus on the exam. After months of worrying, agonizing, spending lots of money on courses and scolding myself for not studying enough, I can finally say: it's over. In summary, I'd also say that this exam is quite fair. I won't tell you, but in very general terms, what's on the exam, and it's hard to tell how I did, as only certain words (called scoring units) are actually scored. Now the waiting game beings -- 13 weeks, according to the FCICE website, up to six months according to colleagues who did not get their results until mid-December in 2011. The oral examination is offered every two years. The written examination is offered in even years.
- Exam location. This varies between cities, but as far as I know, the exams are usually held at a local hotel, and in Denver, it was at the Embassy Suites in Aurora, so I chose to spend the night right there to minimize any possible adverse factors. I flew in from Vegas (direct flight) the previous day and rented a car so I could get around. I really like Embassy Suites in general, and this location only had one exam room, which was easy to find. It wasn't a large or intimidating conference room at all. rather, the suite looked just like the one I stayed in, except that it had a conference table that sat six people instead of a coffee table, sofa, and TV. The ambiance was nice and relaxing and did not feel stressful at all. There will just be one proctor in the room with you. Her or his job is to press the buttons so you can hear the recorded exams and to record your rendition. My proctor was very nice, and didn't even speak Spanish -- they have nothing to do with the grading of the exam. Right before I went into an exam, a volunteer from the National Center for State Courts politely asked to be an observer during my exam. I politely declined, as I had not been prepared for more than one person in the room. I hesitated a bit, as he looked disappointed, but I managed to put my needs ahead of his. If I had known this ahead of time, I would have considered it. The proctor escorted me to the second floor from the first floor, where the registration desk was located. It was all quite low-key and relaxed.
- Pre-exam. I was lucky to get a randomly assigned time that worked for me, as I am not too much of an early morning person. Plus, it's our mom's birthday, so I chose to take that as a good sign. I got a good night's sleep after a lovely dinner with friends, got up at 8 am, had a hearty breakfast of fruit, oatmeal and some mint tea for my voice, and reviewed a few notes. I did 220 sit-ups, one for each scoring units, and a few powerful yoga poses that I can actually do without hurting myself or my ego (Warrior, Tree, etc.) I also warmed up my voice and did 15 minutes of interpreting using my Android. I dressed in layers, including a very soft cotton scarf in one of my favorite colors (yellow) that was a present from my hubby. And yes, I had brought several good luck charms, but I did not take them into the exam room (I wasn't allowed to).
Silly self-portrait before the exam.
- Pens, paper, and other stuff. I had heard from previous test-takers that it's probably not a good idea to get too attached to your favorite note-taking pen, as you won't be allowed to bring it into the room. This is quite a bummer, as I actually do have a favorite gel-based pen, which I buy by the dozens at Costco. It is completely true that you can't bring anything in but your ID, your admission letter, and perhaps a few other small items (I also had my room key). You can't bring in a water bottle, but they have water for you, in a nice traditional glass, in my case (my hand shook slightly as I poured it). During my exam, the proctor gave me both a legal pad and a smaller notepad to use (my choice). There were at least four pens and five pencils, and while they were certainly not high-end, they did the trick (think hotel pens and basic pencils). The headphones are only used during the two simultaneous portions, and while the equipment was certainly not Bang & Olufsen, they worked fine and did not hurt my ears at all.
- Instructions. If you have prepared a bit and have read the examinee handbook, then the instructions you will be read will be very straightforward, and I wasn't too focused when the proctor read them to me, as I was going my yoga breathing exercises. I wasn't too terribly nervous, but I figured the breathing exercises wouldn't hurt. The sequence of the exam was: sight translation into Spanish, sight translation into English, simultaneous (monologue), consecutive, simultaneous (expert witness). I finished in roughly 35 minutes, and I did take advantage of my two repetitions during the consecutive portion. While I certainly made plenty of unforced and silly errors, I felt that the exam was quite fair and there were certainly no trick passages. Exam conditions are ideal, too: the room is quite, no one interrupts you, and people don't talk at the same time. Quite nice if you think about it, actually.
- Anti-climactic. Many colleagues have asked me how I felt during and after the exam, and as a former competitive tennis player, I do think it's true that the pre-match, err, pre-exam anxiety and preparation tend to be worse than the actual event/exam. It did feel a bit anti-climactic, and I'd say that the texts that I had to do might have been a bit easier than those I'd done in practice. That said, this was, without doubt, one of the most challenging exams I've taken. I think I may have a shot at passing it, but this was my first try, so it certainly is a long shot.
Relaxing in a park.
- Post-exam. I made a few phone calls to my hubby, my twin, and my parents to tell them that I survived and then coordinated with my good translator friends, who insisted on treating me to lunch at a fantastic downtown Denver restaurant, Le Central, where I toasted to the fact that I'd made it to the other side of this interpreting exam. I then took a nap in a gorgeous park before meeting another friend for dinner in a suburb. I drove myself to the airport, caught a 9 p.m. flight to Vegas, and was at home by midnight.
And just like that -- it's done and over with. I can't wait to get the results! It will be a long few months for sure. If you also took the exam, please do share your experiences!