After three months of waiting, Judy knows the result of the oral portion of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE), which she took in Denver in mid-July. Read below for her take on it.
I will make this short and sweet: I did not pass. It was close, but I still failed, and it's certainly very disappointing. I scored a 76%, and I needed 80% to pass. This was my first time taking this notoriously difficult exam, and here are my thoughts on the results and on the exam in general:
- Contrary to the rumors that constantly circulate about this exam, it's quite fair -- at least it felt like it. I'd heard from many other people that they'd leave the exam feeling quite confident, but when they results come in, they get 60%. I'd say the same was true for me. I blogged about my actual exam experience here, and I felt quite relaxed and good about my performance. Obviously, I was wrong.
- There have been many, many administrative challenges with the FCICE, and getting the results was no exception. The website crashed under the weight of candidates trying to access their scores, although I don't think it's more than 500 people or so. What kind of website cannot handle 500 people logging into it? It's a but puzzling.
- The FCICE goes to great lengths to make the process transparent, and they issue a detailed examinee handbook (see picture), which is quite helpful. However, some parts of the process are entirely opaque. For instance, candidates have no idea who the graders are. The exam is graded based on scoring units, which seems quite fair. On the other hand, when you get the result letter (online), there's a little disclaimer saying that the "test is not meant to be a diagnostic tool." What is it, then? In addition, examinees do not get a breakdown of their scores by sections (the exam has several different components), making it impossible to identify one's area of weakness. I find this truly incomprehensible -- if each individual section was scored, why wouldn't the committee tell the candidate those individual scores so they can improve on their weakest area?
- Many friends and colleagues have asked me if I plan on taking the exam again in 2015 (that's a long time away), and I've considered it. However, since I don't really know where things went wrong for me, it's a challenge to change my study plan. While I will certainly admit that I could have studied much more than I did, I took several courses, including one at the venerable Monterey Institute of International Studies and a useful online class at the Southern California School of Interpretation. I passed four mock exams, and never scored below 90 on the mocks that gave me an actual numerical score (I was honestly surprised by the high scores).
- I really don't want to join the legion of exam takers who have long alleged that the exam is ________ (fill in the blank: unbiased, unfair, etc.), but the experience does give me some food for thought indeed. I have no way of knowing where I did poorly, and clearly, my strong performance in mock exams was no indicator of future performance. So were the mock exams at MIIS and SCSI completely off? Or did I just have a bad day at the actual exam? I didn't really think that I had a bad day. Quite the contrary: I felt well prepared, calm, collected, and ready to take the exam, so I did. And I failed it. It's humbling indeed.
- For better or for worse, state-certified court interpreters (I am certified in both California and in Nevada, at the master level in the latter) don't really need the federal certification to interpret in federal court, which also seems a bit off. Why go to all this exam trouble if the federal courts are full of state-certified interpreters? Of course this means that I might very well have the chance to interpret in federal court as well with my current certifications, but I'd still like to have USCCI (United States Certified Court Interpreter) after my name.
- Of all the people I know, which includes my MIIS colleagues, friends from Google Groups, and my study group in Vegas, I only know of three people who passed the exam. I am very, very happy for them, and the pass rate for the exam is indeed is very low (as far as we know). No data about pass rates is ever released, so I truly have no idea how many people have taken the exam and how many passed it.
In summary: I thoroughly enjoyed the study process, the challenge, and meeting many fantastic new colleagues and friends along the way. It's a pity that I didn't pass, but I bet I will try again. However, I have heard from several very talented colleagues that their scores actually do down rather than up after multiple attempts, which doesn't quite make sense. I am humbled by my result, and somewhat motivated to try again - although I am not sure how to change my study plan, but I will figure it out.
How did you do on the exam, dear colleagues? Are you willing to share your score and your experiences? I decided long ago to make this process very public