Pass or Fail, Never Give Up: BEI Sign Language Interpreting Test Preparation Advice
~ Authored by Anna Pitchford
When you decide to attend an Interpreting Training Program (ITP) you may be full of emotions: anticipation, nervousness, determination, and excitement. You go through all of your classes and put countless hours into socializing with the Deaf Community, networking with interpreters, and volunteering at events. You take practicum and get your feet wet in the interpreting experience as well as get lots of BEI sign language interpreting test preparation advice. Then graduation day arrives. It’s an amazing feeling with mixed emotions. After graduation, reality hits. You think, “What do I do now?” This is exactly what happened to me.
Sign Language Interpreter Test Requirements in MO
Missouri requires interpreters to pass a certification test called the BEI. That is a two-part test: the Test of English Proficiency (TEP) and a Performance Evaluation. The TEP must be completed before taking the Performance Evaluation. I first took the TEP in August of 2015, beginning of my third year in the program, because someone told me to give it a try; and that is exactly what I did. I did not pass my first attempt. So I waited the required six months and took it again. The second time I did not pass. Graduation came, and I was ready to take the Performance Evaluation but still had not passed the TEP. My third attempt was in December of 2016 and again did not get the results for which I had hoped.
After I graduated, I asked myself what I was going to do to make sure my skills did not deteriorate while trying to pass the TEP. Students face this dilemma after graduation when they are either not ready to test or have tested and have not passed. Let me give you some BEI sign language interpreting test preparation advice I used that may help you when the time comes.
BEI Sign Language Interpreting Test Preparation Advice
- Give yourself some grace. We don’t do that enough. If you notice your skills are not what they were during practicum or school, I promise it’s okay! It happens to everyone.
- If you are able, think about continuing your education. That’s what I did. One goal I have for myself is to become Nationally Certified which requires a Bachelors degree. So why not get your Bachelors in interpreting from your school of choice? Continuing your education ensures that you will “keep your hands up,” as we say, and allows you to keep practicing in an academic setting. Or consider taking a practicum class again or auditing repeat classes.
- Set up a study group. I was at the Missouri Interpreters Conference in the fall of 2016 and was talking to a dear friend of mine who had failed the BEI Performance Evaluation. She knew of my TEP struggles and we decided to meet up once a week to get our butts in gear. We met at a Panera every Thursday for over a month, two and a half hours at a time. We would work on TEP material and would practice interpreting. We watched videos and took turns voicing. We would pick apart what was being said or signed. Analyzing videos was extremely beneficial! We also had an ITP teacher come to our meeting and gave us some pointers on the BEI. My friend and I had a great time. I know we both agree that dedicating time, even as little as once a week, to study allowed us to continue moving closer to our goal.
- Stay involved as when you were a student. Just because you aren’t in an ITP anymore does not mean you cannot be involved. Go to events that provide interpreters and watch them work. We learn so much by watching and taking notes. When you watch the interpreters pick a specific language feature to watch. It could be anything from use of space, controls for demands of the situation, interpreting for a person speaking slow or fast, and the list goes on. There is always something we can learn from watching others work.
Continue going to Deaf and interpreting events and keep signing! Be around Deaf people as much as you can. Also, study at home. Take what you did at school and implement it at home. Review text books. Focus on ASL expansion techniques or record yourself interpreting. Analyze your recordings using the Marty M. Taylor books as a guide. Dedicate the time you would have been at school working on improving your skills at home or, my personal favorite, a coffee shop.
- Attend workshops, training, and/or mentorships. I will admit that I am a total nerd when it comes to workshops. Attend any and all the workshops you can no matter the topic. Legal interpreting may not interest you, but legal workshops can still be applied to you work in other settings. It will never be a waste of your time. Plus, if you go, you are networking with others in the community.
SIDE NOTE: When I was feeling depressed about not passing my test, I would go to a workshop. This helped realign my focus on the future so I could remember my goals. When people asked if I was working yet, it was hard to tell them my situation. But it also inspired me to continue trying to pass the BEI. Then I could show up to the next workshop and give them the exciting update that I had passed.
Don’t Give Up!
There are many other BEI sign language interpreting test preparation advice tools you can use, but it is critical that you do something. My journey took longer than I would have liked. It took me two years to pass my TEP, but I am proud to say I am a certified interpreter. I had a goal and refused to let anything get in my way. Yes, my journey was hard, I felt depressed, I went to counseling, I had nights where I would wake up and cry, and it was hard to be around peers who had passed. But the journey taught me a lot about myself. Any dream is worth it!
I kept this photo in my room and as my screensaver on my phone. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me through BEI sign language interpreting test preparation advice.