Was It My Fault or the Exam’s? Quebec Nursing Students Left Wondering

Was It My Fault or the Exam’s? Quebec Nursing Students Left Wondering

by Translation Guy on December 4, 2014
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It’s a tough question all around: Did you fail because you didn’t know your stuff or because the exam translation was rubbish? But who can tell, and what can be done about it?

A couple weeks ago I blogged about the petition that was signed by 350 nursing students in Quebec who sat for the English-language version of the nursing exam in September. They signed the petition in protest of the exam’s poor French to English translation. Passing that exam means the difference between becoming a licensed nurse and having to choose a different profession.

Now the exam results are out and people aren’t happy. A number have failed.

The goal of an exam translation is harmonization, so that testing results are the same across all languages. As an example, let’s say that when exam takers take Exam X, 60% of them consistently pass the exam. Then let’s say that Exam X was translated into two languages, Language A and Language B. If the percentage of people who passed the translated exams was still about 60%, then harmonization was achieved. On the other hand, if 10% of exam takers consistently passed the Language A version and 90% of the exam takers passed the Language B version, then we could assume that something was very wrong with both translations.
It would be interesting to compare this year’s results for English- and French-speaking exam takers to results for previous years where the exam and its translation were not called into question.

The Quebec Order of Nurses will meet with local English-language nursing schools to look into the issue.
Meanwhile, the nursing students who failed the exam can plan to take it again in March. Will all the exam’s translation kinks be worked out by then? Unfortunately, the nursing students will just have to wait and see.

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