Alumni Testimonial # 8 - Medical Interpreter Study Guide Resources

Jun 06, 2023

Gissela Alvarez Testimonial:

“I am Thankful for the chance to study and to make one my goals come true, I will try my best to help people with limited language skills utilizing my knowledge as Interpreter”

If you’re interested in working as a medical interpreter, preparing for certification is a crucial part of landing a job. Here, we’ll explain the tests, explore more about the two certification bodies in the United States, and provide a list of resources to help you study and prepare.

Understanding the Sections of the Medical Interpreter Test

The test is divided into two sections–written and oral–but how it is broken down depends on which certification body you’re testing. 

Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)

Written Exam

  • Professional Responsibility and Interpreter Ethics (22%): Covers job tasks such as: maintain boundaries; maintain impartiality; assess the need for advocacy; address ethical dilemmas; present self in a professional manner; pursue professional growth; adhere to safety measures; manage stress.
  • Manage the Interpreting Encounter (22%): Covers job tasks such as: monitor one’s competence and limitations; manage unfamiliar terms and concepts; manage the flow of communication.
  • Healthcare Terminology (22%): Remain current on healthcare terminology and general vocabulary in working languages through research, continuing education, etc., to interpret accurately and completely. 
  • US Healthcare System (15%): Maintain working familiarity with the US health system as a part of a legal and socioeconomic environment with its own culture and organizational structure to predict and respond to events appropriately and navigate the system effectively.
  • Cultural Responsiveness: (19%): Recognize that individuals have different levels of acculturation and intracultural variation to avoid making assumptions that may misrepresent a speaker’s meaning. Serve as a culture mediator by recognizing when there is risk of potential miscommunication and responding appropriately so that each person’s own beliefs are expressed.

Medical interpreter job description

Oral Exam

  • Interpret Consecutively (75%)
  • Interpret Simultaneously (14%)
  • Sight Translate a written message (9%)
  • Translate a written message (2%)
  • Stay true to the message by considering cultural context and nonverbal content that maintains original intent. 

Both exams are time-limited. The written exam is a computer-based, 100-question, four-option multiple-choice exam in English. Candidates are given 2 hours to complete the test. Before the exam starts, candidates have 20-30 minutes for the proctor to explain the testing procedure, read directions, and demo the exam interface. The preliminary score is available immediately after the test is electronically submitted.

The oral exam is 60 minutes. The candidates have 20 minutes to test their audio equipment and controls to make sure everything is in working order, and that they are familiar with everything before they start.

Your exam score is not an average of your performance in the subdomains. Scores are calculated with a proprietary formula, scaled with points from 300 to 600. A score of at least 450 is needed to pass. Should you fail, you can take it again after a 90-day waiting period. You are allowed three attempts per year.

National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)

Written Exam

Only offered in English, the written exam is a computerized, multiple-choice format with 51 questions. 


  • Roles of the Medical Interpreter (8%): Covers the role of the conduit, the role of clarifier, the role of culture broker, and advocating for patients.
  • Medical Interpreter Ethics (15%): Confidentiality, impartiality, professional courtesy, accuracy and completeness, conflict of interest, the scope of practice, professional development, disqualification/impediments to performance.
  • Cultural Competence (8%): Cultural practices related to healthcare in relational and familial structures.
  • Medical Terminology in Working Languages (38%): Medical Terminology in Working Languages, Medical Apparatus, Medical Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, Pathologies, Musculoskeletal System, Nervous System, Endocrine System, Integumentary System, Urinary System, Digestive System, Cardiovascular System, Reproductive Systems, Respiratory System, Treatments, Anatomy, Symptomatology, Pharmacology, Acronyms and Abbreviations (e.g., MRI, CAT)
  • Medical Specialties in Working Languages (23%): Obstetrics and Gynecology/Genetic Counseling, Nutrition Counseling, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Pharmacy, Organ Transplant, Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT), Emergency Medicine, Surgery, Orthopedics, Oncology, Urology and Nephrology, Radiology, Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapy, Neurology, Endocrinology, Ophthalmology, Hematology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Respiratory Illness.
  • Interpreter Standards of Practice (CHIA, IMIA, NCIHC) (5%): CHIA (California Healthcare Interpreters Association) Standards, IMIA (International Medical Interpreters Association) Standards, NCIHC (National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare) Standards.
  • Legislation and Regulations (HIPAA, CLAS) (3%): Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services) Standards.

Scores are provided within 24 hours and once passed, candidates will be given instructions on how to obtain their certificate or schedule the oral exam. Oral exams are scored on pass/fail, and candidates will receive feedback with their notification, overall exam score, and pass/fail notification within 8-10 weeks of their test session.

Candidates who fail the exam are allowed to retake it after 90 days. If, after three attempts you still do not pass, you must wait one year before trying again.

Oral Exam

Unlike the CCHI, NBCMI does not test simultaneous interpreting, written translation, or sight translation into English. The oral exam is computerized and ranges from 45-60 minutes. Candidates have 10 minutes to complete two sight translation passages and 30 minutes to complete 12 mini-scenarios.

  • Mastery of Linguistic Knowledge of English (15%)  
  • Mastery of Linguistic Knowledge of the other language (15%)  
  • Interpreting knowledge and Skills (25%)  
  • Cultural Competence (10%)  
  • Medical Terminology in Working Languages (25%)  
  • Medical Specialties in Working Languages (10%)

CCHI vs. NBCMI Explained

After completing a training program, you’re ready to sit for national certification as a medical interpreter. There are two organizations in the US that certify at the national level, though there are some differences between them. Some interpreters choose to become certified by both. 

The CCHI is the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters. Upon receiving certification through this body, you’ll be a certified healthcare interpreter. It requires a written professional skills exam along with an oral proficiency exam and is available in Arabic, Mandarin, and Spanish. CoreCHI is a written professional skills exam available for all languages where there is no oral exam available from CCHI.

Fees are either $485 for languages where an oral exam is included or $210 for those that don’t include the oral portion. The written and oral exams are conducted at a testing center with computer-based testing. The written exam may also be taken online at home. Certification is valid for four years.

Recertification requires 32 hours of continuing education over the course of those four years (16 hours in years one and two, and another 16 in years three and four), along with 40 hours of healthcare interpreting experience (20 hours in years one and two and 20 hours in years three and four). You’ll also pay a $300 recertification fee–$150 for the first two years, and $150 for the second two years.

The NBCMI is the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. Upon receiving certification through this agency, you’ll be considered a certified medical interpreter. Languages include Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. HubCMI is a written professional skills exam for languages where no oral exam is available from NBCMI. The testing fees are the same as with CCHI, and tests can be taken at a testing center or online at home.

Certification is valid for five years unless you tested for a HubCMI language for which there is no oral exam available through the NBCMI. Those certifications are only valid for four years. There is also a two-year certification for HubCMI if there is an oral exam available in your language but you choose not to take it. There is not a renewal option available for the two-year certification. 

Recertification requires 30 hours of continuing education obtained over the course of your certification period, and no healthcare interpreting experience is required for recertification. A $300 recertification fee is required.

Medical Interpreter Resume Templates

Studying Tips for Improving Your Test Results

  • Review medical terminology.
  • Review human anatomy and basic human information medical terms.
  • Review idioms.
  • Review interpreter training manuals.
  • Review regulations and guidelines, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, Title VI, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Review cultural awareness resources.
    • The Cross-Cultural Health Program ( 
    • Diversity RX ( 
    • HHS Office of Minority Health Cultural Competency ( 
    • EthnoMed (
  • Arrive early and well-rested.
  • Use online videos to test your knowledge.
  • Use the certifying body’s website to find additional study material and webinars to attend.
  • Take a practice test under exact test conditions.
  • Review and study consistently before the exam instead of trying to cram the night before.

Practice Video Resources for Medical Interpreters

Additional Medical Interpreter Testing Resources


No matter which medical interpreting certification you choose, your interpreting skills will be put to the test. The certification exams are meant to challenge you and ensure you will be able to do your job well– not just for yourself, but for the medical staff and patients you will be helping.

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