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Tests for Court Interpreters

The dates for the first orientation seminar, written test, and oral certification exam have now been set. See below for details. 

Note: You must complete the orientation seminar before you can take the written test, and you must complete the orientation seminar and pass all parts of the written test before you can take the oral certification examination. The dates for the spring orientation seminar, written test, and oral certification exam will be posted at a later date.

Schedule for the written exams for court interpreters during 2017

The Fall 2017 court interpreter written examination will be held on Friday, November 17, 2017. The exam will be given at DMACC Urban Campus, Building 1, Room, 114, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Applications to take the November 17th examination must be received in the Office of Professional Regulation no later than 4:30 p.m. on November 6, 2017. NO exceptions will be made.  The registration forms may be found at:

The registration fee for the two written examinations idenitifed in rule 47.4 (1)(a) is $50 for Iowa residents and $100 for nonresidents. If the applicant has already passed at least one of the two examinations, the registration fee is $25 for Iowa residents and $50 for nonresidents.

The Spring 2018 court interpreter written exam date has not yet been determined and will be announced at a later time.         

Schedule for the Oral Certification Exam during 2017

The Fall 2017 court interpreter oral certification exam will be held on Friday, October 6, 2017, at the Iowa Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa. Applications to take the October 6th exam must be received in the Office of Professional Regulation no later than 4:30 p.m. on September 6, 2017. NO exceptions will be made.
The registration forms may be found at:

The registration fee for the three-part oral interpretation certification examination approved by the NCSC's Language Access Services Division is $250 for Iowa residents and $500 for nonresidents.

The Fall 2017 court interpreter oral certification exam date has not yet been determined and will be announced at a later time.

ALTA - Oral Proficiency Interview

The recent amendments to the court interpreter rules adopted a new requirement for class C interpreters to remain on the roster and for nonroster interpreters to join the roster. 

In addition to the previous requirements for being on the roster (filing the application form and criminal history check waiver form, attending the two-day court interpreter orientation workshop, passing the NCSC’s 135-question multiple choice test on English vocabulary, court terminology, and ethics, and passing the Iowa ethics examination), interpreters must pass the ALTA speaking and listening test (oral proficiency interview) with a score of at least 11 in their other-than-English language.

The office of professional regulation has now entered into its agreement with ALTA and obtained the agreement of district court administrators to help provide testing. 

Class C interpreters on the roster have until January 1, 2016 to pass the examination.  We may look into extending that deadline if we cannot get everyone tested in the interim period.  Because of the deadline, interpreters on the roster will have a preference in testing over nonroster interpreters if there are any conflicts.  Interpreters may retake the exam if they do not pass the first time, but it requires a separate fee and registration form. 

Class A and B interpreters do not have to take the test to remain on the roster. 

Interpreters who wish to take the examination must register with the office of professional regulation and pay the $65 registration fee for residents or the $130 registration fee for nonresidents.  The registration form may be found at:

The fee must be received by OPR with the registration form.  Your test will not be scheduled until after both the registration form and the fee have been received. 

Interpreters will be allowed to indicate their first choice of locations to take the examination (from the list on the registration form) and supply up to 3 proposed times and dates.  We will do everything possible to take these preferences into account.  However, if an arrangement cannot be made to accommodate these preferences, proposed dates and times will be proposed by OPR or the testing district.  If no agreement can be reached, the interpreter will not be permitted to test.

The tests are scheduled in advance for a certain date and time.  District court administrators have asked that they be given two weeks’ notice to ensure space and an exam monitor are available.  Testing at OPR requires one week’s notice.  Interpreters who cannot test on the scheduled date and time must cancel with OPR by noon the business day before the examination.  We will then cancel the test.  If the test is not cancelled in time, the interpreter will forfeit the fee.

IMPORTANT:  Interpreters must be on time for administration of the test.  If you are not in the testing office and the call to ALTA is not made between 5 minutes before the scheduled test time and no later than 10 minutes after the scheduled testing time, you will not be able to test and your fee will be forfeited.  If you miss your test, the fee cannot be transferred to another test as we have to pay ALTA for the missed exam.  Interpreters will be responsible for locating the test site and being ready to test at the appointed date and time.

On the testing date, you will show up at the test facility on time and ready to test.  The test monitor will initiate the phone call and you will then take the test.  The test takes approximately 20 minutes.  Test scores will be reported to OPR and not the districts or the applicants.  We will notify you by email of your test results. 

Nonroster interpreters must file the application to be an oral interpreter, application fee, and background check waiver with OPR, and must be notified their application is approved, before they can register for the ALTA OPI.  You do not have to take the orientation workshop or pass the written exams before taking this test, but you will not be placed on the official roster until all roster requirements have been met.

Tests for Iowa Court Interpreters

A. Overview 

 Being bilingual is not sufficient to be a qualified court interpreter. Court interpreters should have college-level vocabularies in two languages - including slang, legal, and technical terms; excellent memory skills and mental acuity; and substantial mental stamina. The best way for a person to demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to be a competent court interpreter is perform well on exams constructed to evaluate the knowledge and skills required to be a court interpreter.   

Before taking any of the written exams in Iowa, an interpreter must attend a two-day court interpreter orientation program. See "Training Programs" link at the side of this page.

Each year the Office of Professional Regulation conducts the following interpreter exams: 


1)     Two written exams. These exams assess whether an interpreter can demonstrate knowledge characteristic of a minimally qualified court interpreter. Two of the exams are multiple-choice and entirely in English. Interpreters must pass the two multiple-choice exams to be listed on the Roster of Court Interpreters. The written translation exam will no longer be given.

2)     Oral interpretation exam, or "certification exam." This difficult three-part oral interpretation exam, developed by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), assesses an interpreter's competence in three types of oral interpretation: sight interpretation of documents, consecutive interpretation, and simultaneous interpretation. In Iowa, interpreters must pass all three parts of the certification exam in a single test session to "pass" the exam. Interpreters who take one of the Consortium's certification exams in another state will be recognized as certified in Iowa only if they pass all three parts of the exam (i.e., at least 70 percent correct on each part) in a single test session. Passing this exam is the final step toward achieving the status of "certified" oral language court interpreter in Iowa. (See section F., below, for information on certification requirements for sign language court interpreters.) 

NOTE: If you have questions after reading all the materials on this website, you may email

B. Written Exams for Court Interpreters


1)     Description of the written exams 

All noncertified interpreters must pass two multiple-choice exams (Exams 1 and 2 below) to be listed on Iowa's Roster of Court Interpreters. To qualify to take the oral interpretation exam for court interpreter certification, interpreters must also pass a written translation test (Exam 3 below). All three written exams are offered each time the written exams are conducted in Iowa.

Overview of the Written Exam


ü Exam 1 - The Consortium's standard multiple-choice exam  

 This is the standard written exam developed by the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts (Consortium). It includes 135 multiple-choice questions; all of them are in English. It tests an interpreter's knowledge in two general areas that are essential for minimally qualified court interpreters: 


                   A. Knowledge of the English language (total of 75 questions): 

                            a. General vocabulary (50)  

                            b. Slang (25) 


                   B. Court-related knowledge (total of 60 questions): 

                            a. Legal terms (36)  

                            b. Court-related issues and procedures (14)  

                            c. Interpreter ethics (10) 


To pass Exam 1, interpreters must correctly answer at least 80 percent (108) of the 135 questions.


ü Exam 2 - Iowa's multiple-choice exam on the Code of Professional Conduct for Judicial Branch Interpreters (Chapter 48 of the Iowa Court Rules)  


The Iowa Court Rules require interpreters to pass a separate exam on the Code of Professional Conduct to be included on the Roster of Court Interpreters. Exam 2 includes 15 additional questions on court interpreter ethics. For purposes of scoring, these 15 questions will be combined with the last 10 questions on ethics in Exam 1 for a total of 25 questions on ethics.  

To pass Exam 2, examinees must correctly answer at least 75 percent (19) of the 25 questions on interpreter ethics (10 questions from Exam 1 and 15 questions from Exam 2).


ü Exam 3 - Written translation exam

The written translation exam will no longer be given.


2)     Re-taking the written exams

Interpreters who pass only one of the two written exams must re-take only the exam they did not pass in the first test session. According to the NCSC guidelines, an interpreter can take the same version of a written exam only one time in a 12-month period and should never be allowed to take the same version more than twice. 

Currently, there are two versions of Exam 1, the NCSC standard 135-question multiple-choice test, and two versions of Exam 2 (Iowa ethics test). 

 3)     Registration for the written exam   

 To register for the exam you must submit the following to the Office of Professional Regulation:


ü Exam registration form  

ü Registration fee ($50 for Iowa residents; $25 for re-taking an exam)  

ü Registration fee ($100 for Nonresidents; $50 for re-taking an exam)  

ü Application to be a Court Interpreter (if you haven't already submitted one)  and fee of $25

ü Release/Waiver form - to authorize a criminal background check

C. Oral Interpretation Exam for Court Interpreter Certification

Before interpreters can register to take the oral interpretation exams, they must:


1)     Pass a criminal history check (no felonies or other crimes of dishonesty or moral turpitude unless the conviction is waived by OPR); and


2)     Qualify to be on the Roster of Court Interpreters (attend a two-day court interpreter orientation program and pass the multi-choice exams (Exams 1 and 2); see section B., above;

 Registration forms and information are available on this website by clicking on the "Forms" link above. 

 1)     Description of the oral language certification exam

The Iowa judicial branch is a member of the Language Access services section LASS of the NCSC and will offer the NCSC's oral interpretation exams for court interpreter certification. Through the use of recorded court testimony, other recorded in-court statements, and legal documents, the certification exam assesses an interpreter's ability to completely and accurately perform three types of oral interpreting:


ü Simultaneous interpreting

ü Consecutive interpreting  

ü Oral interpretation of written documents  

 For more detailed information about the oral interpretation exam review the Overview of the Oral Exam for Court Interpreter Certification.

 Also see material available on the Consortium's website:

To pass the oral (certification) exams in Iowa, an examinee must achieve a score of at least 70 percent on each of the three parts in a single test session. 


2)     Oral languages for which there are court interpreter certification exams 


The Office of Professional Regulation offers the Consortium's court interpreter certification exams.

For a list of those languages for which a certification examination is currently available, please see:

 D. Other Certification Exams for Oral Language Court Interpreters 

Interpreters who pass the court interpreter certification exams developed and offered by the following organizations will also meet Iowa's oral exam requirements for court interpreter certification: 


ü The Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination

ü The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators 

E. Practice Kit for Spanish Court Interpreters Preparing for the Certification Exam 

The Consortium for Language Access in the Courts has developed a Spanish Practice Oral Examination Kit. The Practice Examination Kit includes the following: 


ü Instruction Manual 

ü CD with audio files containing the practice exam and a passing performance on the examination 

ü Hard copies of the test scripts  

  The Kit is designed to provide purchasers with a step-by-step process to increase their understanding of four basic things:


ü What a real Consortium performance examination looks like, including the "scoring units." Practicing with the kit before taking an operational examination will give the individual an opportunity to take a practice examination and score it in much the same way that trained raters do for the actual examinations.


ü The scoring methodology used by the Consortium to score oral examinations in a fair and consistent way.   Purchasers will create their own scoring dictionaries and in the process, learn how to research words and phrases like the trained raters do and make decisions about what should be acceptable or not and why.


ü What a passing performance is really like. The Consortium recorded the performance of a certified court interpreter on this practice oral exam. Listening to the part of the CD will give the purchaser a feel for the pace and quality of a passing performance on the exam.


ü Self-assessment of one's own level of skill and readiness to take a Consortium exam. The purchaser will have the opportunity to take the practice examination in a way that closely replicates the actual test environment and to fairly and objectively assess his or her current level of skill. Candidates should be able to recognize strengths, identify weaknesses, and learn what additional training or practice is needed to improve performance.  

 If an interpreter completes all of the assignments in a step-by-step manner and in the order provided, users should gain a better understanding of what a real exam is like. More importantly, users should gain a more realistic view of their own level of performance. 

 F. Certification Exams for Sign Language Court Interpreters 

To be classified as a "certified" court interpreter, sign language interpreters must pass a specialized exam in court interpreting and obtain a Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L) from the National Testing System of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (NTSRID). For more information on the requirements for sign language interpreters in Iowa, visit the website of the Deaf Services Commission of the Iowa Department of Human Rights.

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