naati ccl exercises

Top NAATI CCL preparation exercises

In this blog post we’ll look at different NAATI CCL exercises to enhance your NAATI CCL preparation.

So, you’ve successfully taken IELTS or PTE Academic. You might even have taken C1 Advanced and got the result that you need to apply for Australian PR.

But are you ready to take NAATI CCL? How hard can it be? After all, all you need to do is interpret from English into your native language, right? 


According to the official NAATI statistics, fewer than 15% of all test takers successfully pass the exam from the first attempt. The statistics is a bit better for the NAATI CCL, but it’s still below 50%. 


That’s a lot of people who paid nearly 800 AUD and did not get their 5 points. Why is it? 

Reasons for failing NAATI CCL 

In most cases, those who fail NAATI CCL simply do not have a sufficient level of English to interpret from their native language into English and vice versa. 

But there are also those whose English level is decent, say, IELTS 7, but they still fail… Why? 

Well, in most cases they simply underestimate how difficult it is to code-switch under stressful conditions , and don’t practice enough or in the right way before their exam. 

Interpreting is a skill, and requires unique processes.

Imagine that you’ve only driven a manual car and you find yourself in front of a manual car… Suddenly, your head is exploding as you need to think of pedals and changing gears, etc. Oh, dear Lord. Why is it so hard? I thought I could drive…

It’s hard because interpreting requires you to do extraordinary mental gymnastics and twists your brain in a completely new way – all of a sudden, instead of just expressing what YOU would like to say and therefore being in control of vocabulary and grammar, you need to remember what was said by other people (and often they use the words you don’t normally use yourself).

Interpreting also requires you to analyze HOW it was said (was it formal? Informal? In a joking way?, etc.) and find the right way to express it in a different language. Not a trivial task! 

Good news – these skills can be trained with both NAATI CCL practice dialogues and NAATI CCL preparation exercises, and our 100% NAATI CCL pass rate attests to it!

But you DO need to put in the work. You can’t just ‘show up and wing it’. If you don’t practice and prepare, you’ll feel like that proverbial dog that understands everything, but can’t say things….

Even people with a near-native level in L2 can struggle to interpret well, especially when they feel stressed or when there’s a lot stake (like 800AUD for NAATI CCL exam and a chance to get additional 5 points towards an important life goal of getting an Australian PR?).

When learning any new skill, it helps to look at mini-skills that underpin a larger skill. So what are they = these mini-skills for interpreting? 

What helps with NAATI CCL interpreting?

Numerous studies looking at interpreter performance (e.g. Daniel Gile) report that interpreters tend to spend their mental energy on 3 key tasks: 

  • Listening and Analyzing 
  • Storing information in their short-term memory 
  • Language production 

All of these processes are happening simultaneously, and need to run smoothly. If any of them fail or demand more attention, an interpreter can feel overwhelmed, and is unable to express ideas in a different language.

In other words, if you drop a ball on any of these 3, your whole interpreting performance will suffer. 

Imagine a juggler who’s juggling 3 balls. If any of these 3 balls is too heavy or takes too much focus from the juggler, the other 2 balls will end up on the floor.

Similarly, if listening and analyzing takes a lot of interpreter’s effort or if their short-term memory can’t hold enough information, other areas will have fewer resources left, and they will not produce a good interpretation. That’s why you need to work on all 3 areas in order to successfully pass the NAATI CCL exam.

Not to mention the nerves or the waves of anxiety that might flow over you during the exam -that’s a 4th key element for NAATI CCL success. You don’t think that nerves will affect you? You’d be surprised – some of our most ‘laid back’ students who rarely feel flustered in everyday life, reported feeling nervous and performing worse than they could during the exam.

We strongly suggest that you come up with 2-3 nerve-calming strategies, like deep breathing or visualization and practice them regularly prior to the exam to be well-equipped to calm those ‘exam nerves’ should they arise. 

We also recommend  aiming to get at least 70 rather than 63 to give yourself a ‘buffer’ and feel more confident during the exam. The more confident you feel, the better your exam performance will be. 

What level of English should you have to pass NAATI CCL? 

At least B2. Ideally C1. 

If you haven’t reached B2 in your second language (usually English for most NAATI CCL test-takers), it’s probably too early for you to try NAATI CCL. Given the exam fee (nearly 800AUD), you want to make sure that your L2 is at a decent level before you register for the exam. 

We recommend having a C1 level in your second language if you want to feel comfortable during the exam and get more than 70, but we have had students with B2 who successfully passed the exam. If you need short-term and intensive NAATI CCL preparation, contact us today to discuss how we can help you. 

NAATI CCL preparation exercises

What else (apart from improving your English or whatever your L2 is) can you do to successfully pass NAATI CCL? 

  • Train your short-term memory, as you’ll need to retain 35 words at a time under stressful conditions
  • Train note-taking and listening at the same time
  • Get to know and understand Australian context, e.g. Centerlink or Australian business structures
  • And, of course, practice lots and lots of NAATI CCL dialogues

Memory exercises for the NAATI CCL exam

When your short-term memory is running low, it’s easy to omit things or use incorrect discourse, which will cost you marks on your NAATI CCL exam. Below are some exercises that can help you improve your short-term memory for NAATI CCL interpreting.

NAATI CCL preparation: Shadowing 

A good ‘starter’ exercise, which requires you to repeat word for word what’s been said. You don’t need to interpret it to a different language yet – just copy what’s been said as closely as you can, ideally with the same intonation (for additional pronunciation and intonation training!). 

How do I do it? 

Pick a recording of a ‘role-model’ (someone whose manner of speaking you enjoy and want to sound like) and start with short audio segments. Play 5-10 seconds of their speech and copy them closely. Ideally, record yourself and compare the recording of your ‘shadowing’ with the original. Gradually increase the segments to 15 or 20 seconds, and keep increasing to 30 and 40 seconds. It’s more than you’ll need to interpret at NAATI CCL, but you need to be able to do more than the exam requires in order to feel confident/prepared.  

Can’t think of any ‘role-models’? Try TedX Sydney talks or ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) videos. It’s a good idea to copy after Australian presenters to get used to Australian accent. 

NAATI CCL preparation: shadowing with distractions 

Once you can comfortably ‘shadow’ for 30-40 seconds, add some distractions, like background noise to increase the difficulty. Distractions like soft or loud music or TV running on the background will train your brain to focus harder on language, which can help you on your NAATI CCL exam day. 

NAATI CCL preparation: reformulation exercises

Once you’ve mastered ‘shadowing’, move on to reformulation exercises. Listen to a short audio or video clip in your native language, and instead of repeating it word by word, rephrase it in your own native language. This exercise gives you confidence to express ideas in different words – something that is incredibly useful at NAATI CCL. You might not be able to always find the exact words you’d like, and that’s where thinking of synonyms or similar ways of expressing ideas will be your ‘life-saver’ during the exam.

NAATI CCL preparation: interpreting exercises

Finally, you are ready for interpreting exercises. You can return to the same audio recordings that you’ve previously ‘shadowed’ and interpret them into your native language. Once you can successfully interpret from English into your native language, it’s time to move to interpreting from your native language into English. Note that it’s always harder to interpret from your native language into English, so do more of such exercises to be ready for your NAATI CCL exam. 

NAATI CCL preparation: visualization

Do you know what one of the most common NAATI CCL mistakes is? Omission. It means simply forgetting to interpret some parts of the message. It can happen if a test-taker does not know the equivalent in another language, which is a language issue. But it can also happen if a person is overwhelmed and simply forgets or leaves out some details. To prevent the latter from happening, use an old Roman technique of a room tour. Simply imagine a room with different objects in it (e.g your living room or another familiar space) and come up with a fixed way of moving around the room (e.g start with a door, move to a couch, etc). Mentally attach information to each object and it can become your ‘road-map’ for not leaving out any important information. 

Ad hoc interpretation

When it comes to skill development, frequency is key. It’s better to do 1-2 minute interpretation 20 times a day than 30-60 minutes once a day. That’s where ad hoc interpretation exercise can be very powerful. Find any opportunities throughout the day to interpret what you hear. The more you do it, the easier it’ll become.

For example, if you are waiting in a line and hear people talking around you, mentally interpret what they say. Waiting for a kettle to boil? Instead of checking your social media accounts, mentally interpret a conversation you had prior to that OR if you do find yourself on Facebook or Instagram, mentally translate the posts that you are scrolling through. Remember, you need to strengthen your interpreting muscle to do well at NAATI CCL. 

Note-taking exercises 

It’s important that you learn to take notes of the key facts, like names, dates, places or any other factual information to correctly render them in your interpretation. Set aside at least 5-10 minutes every day to practice note-taking.

You can play ABC news or any other Australian TV channel or podcast and write down any key information. Experiment with different pens, pencils and paper sizes. See if you can shorten information (e.g. leave out vowels) or come up with your own short-hand system of writing things down quickly.

Be strategic with what you are writing down. The more you try to write down, the higher the chances that you’ll miss some important information, so keep the notes to the most critical information. 

And, most importantly, practice using NAATI CCL dialogues.

Our experience shows that practice with a personal NAATI CCL coach is the best way to make sure you pass NAATI CCL.

Let us help you in this challenging and overwhelming task. We have all the resources and the expertise necessary to prepare you for the NAATI CCL exam.

So far, all the clients we’ve worked with, managed to pass NAATI CCL from the first attempt and we’ll be happy to assist you too. Simply drop us a line today to discuss your NAATI CCL training.