About the program
U.S. Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of the United States.

Program background       

The FCICE program was created and implemented in direct response to the Court Interpreters Act of 1978. Since 1980, the mission of the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination program (FCICE) has been to define criteria for certifying interpreters qualified to interpret in federal courts and to assist the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) in maintaining a list of federally certified court interpreters.

The FCICE program is administered under contract from the AO with the National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185 for Spanish-English language interpreters.

For more information on interpreting for the federal courts, please consult the AO Web site.

Program administration

The FCICE is a two-phase process, involving a Spanish-English Written Examination (Phase One) and an Oral Examination (Phase Two) administered on a biennial basis with Phase One and Phase Two occurring in alternating years. Interpreters must pass the Written Examination with a score of 75 percent or higher in order to be eligible to sit for the Oral Examination.

Written Examination
The Phase One Written Examination serves primarily as a screening test for linguistic competence in English and Spanish and is a prerequisite for the Phase Two Oral Examination. The Written Examination is a four-option, multiple choice examination of job-relevant language ability in English and Spanish. There are 100 items in the English section and 100 items in the Spanish section of the test.  Candidates are allowed three and one-quarter (3 ¼) hours to take the examination.  Each section consist of five parts, and each part involves a task that is considered to be relevant for a court interpreter.  The Written Examination tests comprehension of written text, knowledge of vocabulary, idioms, and grammatically correct expression, and the ability to select an appropriate target language rendering of source language text. 

The English and Spanish sections of the examination are scored separately and the criterion to pass is 75 percent correct answers on each section of the test.

Oral Examination
The Phase Two Oral Examination directly measures interpreting skills.  Because it fulfills the legal mandate for a “criterion-referenced performance examination” the Oral Examination is the basis for certification to interpret in the federal courts. The Oral Exam assesses the ability of the interpreter to adequately perform the kinds of interpretation discourse that reflects both form and content pertinent to authentic interpreter functions encountered in the federal courts. It consists of five parts: Interpreting in the consecutive mode; interpreting a monologue in the simultaneous mode; interpreting a witness examination in the simultaneous mode; sight translation of a document from English into Spanish; and sight translation of a document from Spanish into English. All five parts are simulations of what interpreters do in court.

The language used in the examinations varies widely across speech registers and vocabulary range. Test items include both formal and informal/colloquial language, technical and legal terminology, and other specialized language that is part of the active vocabulary of a highly articulate speaker, both in English and in Spanish. Overall, there are 220 scored items in the test and the examinee must render 80 percent of them correctly to pass the test. In addition, the examinee’s performance is scored holistically on three skills, including interpreting skills, English skills, and Spanish skills.