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ASL: "Interpreting in Texas"

Melissa Meyer
November 12, 2002


The certification process to become an interpreter for the deaf in Texas, involves testing and evaluation to attain the five levels required to interpret for the deaf in real life situations which include medical, legal, psychiatric and educational situations.  The evaluation process can be a perplexing experience the perseverance, training; experience will lead to success and certification.

How to become an Interpreter for the Deaf in Texas

    An Interpreter for the deaf, in Texas, must be certified by the Commission for The Deaf and Hard of Hearing in order to interpret for deaf individuals in situations where the deaf need to communicate with hearing individuals.  There are five levels of certification each level requires special training to deal with specific situations, such as ordinary communication, education, medical and legal proceedings.

Qualifications and Procedures
The minimum qualifications to become an interpreter for the deaf in Texas are: one must be at least 18 years of age, a high school graduate or complete a GED program before applying for certification. All applicants must acquire a Level I certification before proceeding to the next level (Texas, 2001).  There are certain procedures that one must complete to become a Level 1 interpreter. First one must submit a request for an application to the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The Commission will send the appropriate forms then after the Commission receives the forms and required fees shown at the end of the application form. The applicant will receive an information packet in the mail which will show the closest evaluation center to the applicant’s location. An additional evaluation fee is required before scheduling an appointment to be evaluated. Then the appropriate level
evaluation test is administered. The candidate becomes a Level 1 interpreter after successfully completing the Level 1 evaluation. An interpreter’s certification is valid for five years when the maintenance fees are paid,
after five years the interpreter must take the same test again or apply for the next level of certification (Texas, 2001). After certification the interpreter must pay a maintenance fee by October 1 of every year to keep their certification valid (Texas, 1993). An interpreter that has been certified for the first time or one renewing after five years certification, they are not required to pay the annual maintenance fee until the following year (Texas 2001).

Evaluation Testing
The evaluation process is very similar to all standardized testing. The candidates must pass all parts of the evaluation. The Level 1 and 3 tests for certification have four parts that make up the evaluation. The first part is
a written test over interpreting ethics and standards. The second part of the evaluation is an expressive test, interpreting from visual and audio recordings. The third part is an interactive test; the candidate must sign
what is heard from the audio and voice what is signed on the video. For example, when a teacher is giving a lecture the interpreter must sign the lecture and if the student asks a question the interpreter must ask the
teacher the question. The last part of the evaluation is a receptive test, where the candidate must voice what is seen on a video tape. The Level 5’s certification test consists of three parts: a written test, expressive test,
receptive test (Texas 1993). All certification evaluations are video recorded for the Commission to refer to, if necessary, for discrepancies in scoring.

Level 1 Evaluation test scores
The Level 1 test consists of written test with twenty multiple choice questions. The candidate must make at least a seventy percent score to pass. The candidate must make at least a seventy percent on the audio portion and a
seventy percent on the transliterating portion of the expressive test. The candidate must make at least a seventy percent on the interactive portion of the evaluation to pass. The candidate must make at least a seventy percent on
the receptive portion of the test to pass. All of the non-written portions of the evaluation are evaluated by at least two evaluators, where one may be deaf. Three evaluators may be assigned; the third is to resolve any conflicts
in scoring of the two other evaluators (Texas, 1993). However, in the 1990 edition of procedures, the third evaluator must be deaf for Level 1certification.

Level 3 Evaluation test scores
There is not a Level 2 test. A candidate who is evaluated for Level 3 certification and receives less than a seventy-five on any portion of the Level 3 test is certified as a Level 2 interpreter (Texas, 1993). However,
the Certificate Levels Awarded by the Commission (2001) edition states, the candidate receives at least a seventy on all portions of the Level 3 test to receive Level 2 certification. The Level 3 certification evaluation begins
with a written test with twenty-six multiple choice questions, and the candidate must make at least a seventy-five on this portion. There are two tests for the expressive portion of the evaluation. One test is on interpreting and the other is on transliterating. The candidate must interpret or transliterate from audio clips. The candidate must score a
seventy-five on both tests to pass. The interactive portion has two videos, one interpreting and one transliterating, the candidate must voice the signed portion and sign the voiced portion, and score a seventy-five on both to pass.
The receptive portion consists of two videos, interpreting and transliterating, the candidate must voice a signed message, and must score a seventy-five on both portions. The non-written portions of the evaluation must be evaluated by three evaluators and one must be deaf (Texas, 1993).

Level 5 Evaluation test scores
There is not a Level 4 test. A candidate who is evaluated for Level 5 certification and receives less than a ninety percent on all non-written portions results in Level 4 or even Level 3 certification (Texas, 1993).  However, in the 2001 edition of the interpreter procedures the Level 4 evaluation passing scores have changed. Now if the candidate makes at least an eighty on all test areas they receive Level 4 certification (Texas, 2001).  The Level 5 candidate must receive an eighty-four on the twenty-six multiple choice question written test to pass. The expressive test consists of interpreting two audio clips and transliterating two audio clips from a video recording. These four clips are based on the Level 5 material: legal terms, doctor office procedures, and medical references. The candidate must score an average of a ninety on the interpreting portion and an average of a ninety on the transliterating portion. The receptive portion of the Level 5 evaluation is voicing three signed messages; the messages are based on the same materials as in the expressive test. The candidate must score a ninety on all three
segments to pass and become a Level 5 interpreter. The non-written portions of the evaluation is evaluated by three evaluators and one or more must be deaf (Texas, 1993). In a previous edition the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (1990) stated the Level 5 receptive portion may be evaluated by two hearing individuals or one hearing and one deaf individual.

Evaluation Results and Retesting:
The candidates will be notified after sixty days of tests date to receive their evaluation scores. If a candidate fails a certain portion of the evaluation the candidate does not have to retake the entire evaluation just the failed portions. The candidate must wait six months after the original test date before retaking any failed portions. If the candidate fails the
portion again the candidate is advised to take additional training to help with their weaknesses (Texas, 2001). Interpreter workshops are given by the Texas School for the Deaf to aide in improving their interpreting and certification skills.

After completing the evaluation the scores are figured up and the Commission awards the candidates their certification after the approval of the BEI (Board for Evaluation of Interpreters) chairperson (Texas, 2001).

The renewal process is simple. The candidate must provide a copy of their valid certificate to the agency annually. The candidate must also file certification renewal forms and pay their annual maintenance fees by October 1
of each year.

Table 1
Level of Interpreter Skills

Level 1- Beginning Level  
The interpreter must have a limited sign vocabulary and must be able to communicate on a one to one basis. The interpreter must be able to have success in both expressive and receptive fingerspelling.

Level 1- Morphemic Sign System  
Must be able to take an English worded sentence, put into ASL and take an ASL worded sentence and put it into a
grammatically correct spoken sentence.

Level 2- Limited Interpreting and or Transliterating Skills  
The interpreter must be able to show acceptable expressive or receptive skills in transliterating or interpreting.

Level 3- The Minimum Level Accepted for Comprehensive Interpreting  
The interpreter must have a wide range of language, and fluent in both ASL and English. Proficient in interpreting and transliterating.

Level 4
Exhibits strong interpreting and transliterating skills and can interpret in medical, legal, and psychiatric settings.

Level 5  
Exhibits excellent interpreting and transliterating skills and can interpret in medical, legal, and psychiatric settings.

In conclusion to become certified as an interpreter for the deaf in Texas, one must acquire and possess a wide range of language skills including English and American Sign Language. The evaluation and testing process requires the
candidate to study, learn and practice in real life situations. One must study the certification handbook and materials, be determined to succeed, and not become discouraged if unsuccessful in the first attempt or future attempts
to pass the evaluation certification. Perseverance and training is necessary to be successful in attaining certification to become an interpreter of the deaf.


Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. (2001, February).
Certificate Levels Awarded by the Commission. Retrieved October 09, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http//

Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. (1993, April). Board for Evaluation of Interpreters Outreach and Training Program. (Rev. ed.). Texas: Author.

The Board for Evaluation of Interpreters. (1990, May). Interpreter
Certification and Principles of Ethical Behavior. (Rev. ed.). Texas: Author.

In a message dated 3/1/2006 8:48:51 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, smdaniluk@ writes:

Dear Dr. Vicars,

Attached is info regarding Texas testing procedures
for interpreters. Could you please forward this on to
your reader Michael Gillen from Nacogdoches who asked
about it? Thanks for the opportunity to help a fellow

Suzanne Daniluk, R.N.
Houston, Texas  


New BEI Testing System to Begin in 2006
By Angela Bryant

The DHHS-BEI is in the final year of new test development activities
and look forward to implementing the new certification testing
system in April 2006.  To date, the University of Arizona and the
BEI expert panel have completed: 1)The Job/Linguistic Analysis (JLA)
of current certified interpreters in Texas; 2) Development and
piloting of an English Proficiency test; 3) Development of scripts
for Entry, Professional and Master level performance tests.

There are three aspects of the project that are near completion:

·       Production of the three levels of performance test
·       The evaluation scoring/rating methodology and evaluator
·       Piloting the new performance testing materials.

Format of New Examinations

Test of English Proficiency
The final version of this test consists of 80 questions with five
subsections to test: 1) Reading Comprehension; 2) Synonyms; 3) Usage
and Grammar; 4) Sentence Completion and 5) Antonyms.  The time
allowed to complete the test is 1 hour and 15 minutes.  All
candidates will be required to take the test of English proficiency
before taking any level of the performance test.  A candidate
instructions bulletin will soon be available for dissemination and
will be posted to the DARS-DHHS web site. 

Interpreter Performance Exams
A three-tiered system was developed to certify individuals by skill
levels.  Detailed below are descriptions for each level:

Entry Certificate
This certificate will ensure that all BEI certified interpreters
meet minimum competency standards to interpret in K – 12 and
postsecondary settings.  This performance test will emphasize terms
and scenarios found not only in general lecture and teaching
situations, but other educational contexts as well.  The standard in
comparison to the current Level I certification is significantly

Professional Certificate
This certificate will ensure that the interpreter has skills
necessary to interpret in more complex settings other than
educational, indicated by the JLA.  This performance test will
emphasize the terms and scenarios in routine medical, public forums,
government workforce, mental health, and social service settings. 
The professional certificate sets a clear standard for an
interpreter ready to work in the majority of settings and performing
a wide range of tasks.  The professional certificate will raise the
standard of the current Level III interpreter.


Master Certificate
This certificate will ensure that the interpreter has the skills
necessary to interpret in the most complex settings including
complex medical and complex mental health.  This test will serve to
identify those interpreters qualified to work in the most critical

New Testing Procedures

With the implementation of the new testing system, the procedures
and fees can be expected to change as well.  Presently, the BEI is
exploring alternate methods of administering the written examination
to make it more accessible around the state. In addition, planning
is underway to address transition issues, such as establishing
eligibility requirements and determining how the current system will
correlate with the new system. 

More information will be forthcoming about these very important
matters including details about the requirement of mandatory code of
ethics training.  So please continue to check the DARS-DHHS web site
for updates.

Other Important Program Initiatives

Proposed Education Requirements

It is proposed and highly probable that the BEI will require an AA
degree beginning in January, 2010 and will require a BA degree in
January, 2014.  The Texas Society of Interpreters for the Deaf and
Texas Association of the Deaf are recommending in support of these
education requirements.

Court Interpreter Certification

HB 2200 passed in 2005 made changes to the court interpreter
certification process.  Beginning September 1, 2006 interpreters who
work in court proceedings must hold Court Interpreter Certification
(CIC).  To date the following court interpreter certification
implementation activities have occurred:

·       The development of a stand-alone application for court
certification, which will be available for dissemination and posted
on the DARS-DHHS web site by December 1, 2005.

·       The development of eligibility requirements which requires
applicants to provide proof of having: 

1.      A valid Texas BEI Level III, IV or V certification or a
valid RID at CSC, CI/CT, RSC, CDI or MCSC certification.

2.      Completed instruction in court interpretation through one of
the following methods:

(a) At least 120 hours of instruction in courtroom interpretation
approved by DHHS;
(b) Mentoring for at least 120 hours of actual practice by a
certified court    interpreter approved DHHS; or

                (c) A combination of DHHS instruction and mentoring
totaling at least 120 hours.

·       The development of the application process, which will be
available for dissemination and posted on the DARS-DHHS web site by
December 1, 2005.

·       The development of testing procedures that includes a list
of test sites and directions, a study guide, and samples of
examination content.  This information will be available for
dissemination and posted on the DARS-DHHS web site by December 1,

·       The development of CEU requirements and a certification
maintenance process that will be available for dissemination and
posted on the DARS-DHHS web site by December 1, 2005.

Currently certified court interpreters should expect to receive
correspondence from the BEI in December, 2005, concerning
certificate maintenance, which is due by January 31, 2006.  The
certificate maintenance fee is $35.  In addition, the five-year
certification period ends January 31, 2007, at which time 7.5 CEUs
are required; of which at least 2.0 CEUs must be court-related
topics approved by DHHS.  The certification renewal fee is $100.

Any questions about court interpreter certification should be
directed to Randi Turner at or Angela
Bryant at 

Texas Trilingual Initiative

DHHS and the University of Arizona partnered to get a federal grant
from the U.S. Department of Education to develop the nation's first
Hispanic trilingual interpreter certification tests.  This work
began in November, 2004.  Stemming from the pioneering work of the
Texas Hispanic Trilingual Task Force, the new certification exams
will test candidate's proficiency in ASL/English/Spanish, ensuring
that the large and growing Hispanic deaf and hard of hearing
community in Texas has equal access to education, social services,
health care and other vital services, and especially to be able to
communicate with their Spanish speaking families.

During the month of July, BEI staff traveled to various Texas cities
to conduct pilot testing of the new Spanish Proficiency examination
for 52 BEI and RID certified interpreters.  Presently, the results
of those exams are being compiled and more updates will be

BEI Office Welcomes New Team Member

For more than a decade, Connie Sefcik-Kennedy and Angela Bryant have
worked diligently to provide the best possible services to the
consumers and interpreters of Texas.  At times we experienced
challenges and minor setbacks striving to meet all of the demands of
the program.  But with persistence, dedication and team work we've
managed to maintain a level of consistency.  At this time we are
pleased to introduce Beth Hasty, a new staff addition who began
working in the BEI program on September 1, 2005.  For the last
several months Beth worked as the DHHS receptionist and provided
assistance to the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program
(STAP).  We are thrilled to have her on our team and look forward to
providing even better services in the near future!

As always, thanks to all BEI certified interpreters for your
continued support and we look forward to hearing from you whenever
questions arise.  Send email to or call us at
512.407.3250 or 512.407.3251 (TTY).

In a message dated 3/1/2006 7:03:28 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, mackeym@ writes:
Dr. Vicars,

Here is the updated site for Texas requirements.

Thanks Mallorie.


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