In Quebec, 200 nursing graduates signed a petition to complain about the poor English translation of the nursing exam. They are worried about their performance – and their futures – due to the bad quality of the French to English exam translation. “So what was your most hypothesis?” was one of the questionable portions exam takers cited. Other questions, they said, suffered from errors in grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.
Generally speaking, standardized test taking is hard work. You are required to demonstrate your knowledge of a specific subject in a particular way and see how you measure up against predefined standards. It can be nerve wracking, but this is a requirement of formal education and some professions. You study, you adapt and hopefully you succeed.
When successfully passing a test is what stands between you and entering your chosen profession though, test taking takes on an even greater importance. That test becomes a necessary hurdle to be cleared to reach the ultimate goal, like becoming a nurse, a lawyer or a member of any other regulated profession.
But what happens when a bad translation gets in the way, reducing the chances of achieving your dream? Maybe the questions are poorly worded or, even worse, you don’t understand what the questions are asking at all. How likely is it that you are able to demonstrate the knowledge that the exam graders are looking for? Certainly much less than if the exam questions were clear and straightforward. A poor exam translation adds an extra, unnecessary layer of difficulty for test takers, which has nothing to do with the knowledge they have about the subject.
Back in Quebec, the Quebec Order of Nurses says that the exam translation is reviewed by a native English-speaking nurse and proofread by another English-speaking nurse. They said their process works, but they will take another look at the exam.
Hopefully the next students to take the exam will enjoy a more professional – and more equitable – version.