There is general agreement that adequate entrance selection to conference interpreting courses is key to ensuring successful outcomes, as well as to guaranteeing a wise use of limited resources and satisfactory class dynamics. Indeed, entrance selection is one of the key quality assessment criteria for membership to the European Masters in Conference Interpreting (EMCI).
Conference interpreter training programmes (CITPs) in Europe use a range of written and oral exercises to identify suitable candidates at entrance. The core test procedure is usually a series of “gist” or recall exercises, in which candidates are required to re-express in another language the ideas conveyed in a short presentation.
Prior to 2020 these exercises were for the most part held with a panel of assessors and the candidates in an interview room at the host university. The COVID-19-related restrictions introduced in Europe since March 2020 in effect led to an enforced experiment with a new mode of test delivery, as stringent travel and meeting restrictions forced many programmes to switch to remote selection. This was initially seen as an unfortunate temporary expedient, but we would suggest that it might be an opportunity to take a fresh look at aptitude testing procedures. Despite the lifting of restrictions, a number of programmes continue to conduct their entrance tests in remote mode.
It would be premature at this stage to draw conclusions about student outcomes, but it is worth considering trainer, student, and course coordinators’ perceptions of and experience with the new procedures.
The article focuses on the CITPs in the EMCI, a consortium of 15 members at time of the outbreak of the pandemic. The data examined have been collected through a series of questionnaires and interviews. Student questionnaires have been collected mainly from the two Paris-based programmes, ISIT and ESIT; panellist questionnaires and interviews from ISIT, ESIT and Herzen in St Petersburg. 15 course coordinators in the EMCI have been consulted and 11 interviewed. The viewpoints of each of these three groups differ. The likely reasons for these differences are presented and discussed.
The views and experience compiled and analysed are intended to feed into a broader discussion about aptitude testing.
conference interpreter training programmes, EMCI, remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI), conference interpreting (CI), aptitude testing