EPSO has just announced the latest annual competitions for translators and interpreters having AD5 and AD7 jobs. This is the first time that new type linguist exams are published, so let's see 10 useful tips and advice on how to best prepare for these competitions!
1. Only prepare step-by-step: When it comes to EPSO competitions, time is precious, so you should not fragment your attention by jumping between preparing for various stages of the exam. Resist the temptation and only concentrate on the current stage: start with verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning tests so you will achieve a high score at the admission test. It does not make sense, for example, to do translation or interpreting practice at this stage - you will have plenty of time to do that once you know you were selected for the Assessment Centre stage.
2. Practice in the exam's language: This year's linguist exams are the first EPSO competitions where the pre-selection (or admission) tests are in the EU career candidates' main language. What's more, verbal reasoning tests will be administered in all three of your selected languages. While numerical reasoning and abstract reasoning tests are quite language-independent and good performance can be achieved in one language even if you prepared for the test in another language, when it comes to verbal reasoning, practicing in the language(s) of the exam is crucial. Each language has its own peculiarities (verb tense, prepositions, conjunctions, etc.) that you need to familiarise yourself with - preparing only in English or French when your test will be in Bulgarian or Italian can seriously compromise your performance at the real exam.
3. Check the language combination carefully: The language options as described in EPSO's Notice of Competition for translators is already quite complex, but it pales in comparison to the interpreter exam. Be very careful when you select your languages - make sure, for example, that the main language you select is actually the one you will wish to translate into. Interpreter candidates must be even more careful, so read through twice the definitions of active and passive languages before you make your choice. Fortunately, EPSO designates each language to be selected with a letter (A, B, C, etc.), so it might be a good idea to write up which languages can be selected for each of these letters.
4. Improve your vocabulary: Even though a dictionary is always at hand when translating in the Assessment Center, for example, this is not the case in the pre-selection test, so the breadth and depth of your vocabulary will be essential. Also remember that this will be the first time you take verbal reasoning in any language other than English, French or German - the experience will be novel enough, so you should not make your life even harder by not knowing what certain expressions mean in the text. Another issue is terminology - this is the EU we are talking about, widely known as having a love affair with technical terms, and these may very well crop up in the tests you will take. While practicing for the verbal reasoning test, collect some to read articles about various topics in all your selected languages - this will refresh your vocabulary even in topics that you otherwise would not read about. For EU-specific texts, RAPID, the EU's press release site is always a good source, and you should also go through this useful list of EU-specific terms.
5. Brush up your language skills: Are you more of the talkative type? Or do you feel that some human interaction would work better to dust off your language skills? These are all valid points, but you may not have time to attend classes or go to a tutor. Why not take some online lessons via Skype? Buddy School or Live Mocha both provide such services!
6. Get familiar with EU jargon: Like any large organisation, the EU also has its own jargon. Thankfully, the EU is also a transparent organisation, and a wealth of information and text is available publicly. A good way to familiarize yourself with the lingo is to read some summaries of legislation - doing this can be immensely useful in getting a feel for 'EU style'.
7. Discover DG Translation/Interpretation's resources: We think it is always a good idea to know a little bit about a future employer - this will allow you to ask insightful questions when it comes time for that. Also, DG Translation and DG Interpretation (SCIC) have some great resources such as online dictionaries, translation guidelines, accepted terminology, and so on.
8. Apply fast, don't procrastinate: So it is deadly hot outside and the last thing on your mind is to open your EPSO account? This may be so, but we still recommend that you get the application done and over with. Do not leave everything to the last minute - you can be sure that there will be plenty of others who will do that, and although the temperature rises, the EPSO server sometimes freezes, as it happened during the last days of this year's CAST selection.
9. Start practicing now: The admission tests will start in September and that may seem really far away. It isn't. Apply and start practicing now so you can pick the best exam date within the periods offered. Also, good preparation is not about being tied to a chair in front of a computer 12 hours a day for a week before the exam - start practicing an hour a day now, and the routine you gain will not let you down at the exam. Our statistics from thousands of users show that candidates who spent at least two months practicing for the exam have three times higher chance in succeeding as those who only practice for two or three weeks.
10. Listen to the same speech in different languages: Are you preparing for the intepreter competition? Although not part of the pre-selection, the Assessment Centre will feature an audio test where you need to listen to a speech and answer questions about it. The European Parliament's online TV allows you to switch languages while viewing, and audio recordings on the Parliament's website are also available in multiple languages - these are both excellent resources for getting a feel for what you will need to eventually interpret.