Naati ccl assessment criteria

12 assessment criteria of the NAATI CCL exam

So, you are preparing for the NAATI CCL exam because you would like 5 extra points towards your Australian PR application? You are in the right place. Understanding how NAATI CCL is assessed and marked is key to successfully passing the test.

Unlike IELTS that shares a clear and detailed marking rubric, NAATI CCL is succinct in what it publicly shares with potential test-takers. It simply states that NAATI CCL assessors primarily look at:

  • Language quality (competence in English and LOTE)
  • Language register (ability to correctly discern the level of formality and find an appropriate translation)

Luckily, we have a more detailed NAATI CCL assessment criteria, as will share it with you!

Buckle up, as we walk you through the main 12 reasons why you might lose points on your NAATI CCL exam, and will explain how to avoid it.

Omissions, distortions, and insertions

The most common reasons for failing the NAATI CCL exam relate to the accuracy of translation.

What kinds of mistakes do people make? All kinds, but the top 3 are major omissions, distortions, and unjustified insertions.

What are they? Let us break them down and see some examples.

NAATI CCL assessment criteria 1: major omissions

Omissions means leaving out information, or, in other words, skipping some details.

For example, a speaker says, “I’m calling to find out how I can get life and income insurance” while the interpreter translates “I’m calling to find out how I can get life insurance’.

Have you noticed the omission? Yes- the word ‘income’ is missing. It is bad news for the test-taker as ‘income insurance’ was an important part of the request, so skipping it would not be an acceptable during the NAATI CCL exam.

It is not surprising that omissions are among the biggest offenders on the NAATI CCL exam, as there are many reasons why they can happen.

What do you do if you do not understand something, e.g. the word ‘tibia’ in a dialogue about a broken leg? Well, you can ask for repetition, but if you do not know this medical term, hearing it again will not help, so you might have no option but to leave ‘tibia’ out from your translation. Hence, a case of omission.

Or, perhaps, you understood this word (well-done!), but you did not make a note of it, got ‘busy’ with other details, and simply forgot to interpret it.

Ouch, but it happens very often as interpreting is a skill and it is easy to get overwhelmed during the exam situation.

Whatever the reason is, many ‘small’ omissions OR fewer, but ‘bigger’ omissions will result in losing points on the NAATI CCL exam.

OmissionsNot knowing a language item in English or LOTE


Knowing the language item, but inability to find an appropriate translation


Simply forgetting to translate a language item

Learning NAATI CCL target vocabulary


Improving English (or LOTE)


Extensive interpreting practice, ideally in the exam format


Good note-taking skills


 NAATI CCL  assessment criteria 2: major distortions

The second most common type of the NAATI CCL mistakes is distortions.

Distortions happen when you translate something incorrectly. For example, instead of ‘income insurance’ you might have said ‘guarantee insurance’ or ‘protection insurance’.

Some distortions are unavoidable and are allowed in the NAATI CCL exam. However, if there are too many of them, or if the distortions significantly change the meaning, you are in trouble, and risk failing the CCL exam.

DistortionsConfusing a language item for a different one


Learning NAATI CCL target vocabulary AND improving English and LOTE overall


Extensive interpreting practice, ideally in the exam format


NAATI CCL assessment criteria 3: unjustified insertions

An insertion is adding information that was not in the original version. Insertions tend to occur when an interpreter feels their ‘client’ will benefit from additional information, especially when culture-specific information is concerned.

For example, when translating a dialogue about Centerlink to a new ‘arrival’ to Australia, a test-taker might feel compelled to explain what Centerlink is, and what services it provides. Similarly, a well-meaning interpreter might want to provide an English speaker with background information on a LOTE custom, or holiday.

These good intentions might be OK in real life but will cost you valuable points on the NAATI CCL exam, so DO resist the ‘good intentions’ and avoid inserting any information that is not in the exam task.

Unjustified insertionsGood intensions, e.g. wanting to provide ‘background information’Being ‘disciplined’ with interpretations.

No additional information!

 NAATI CCL assessment criteria 4: excessive requests for repetition

Asking a person to repeat what they have said is an acceptable practice in translating and interpreting, and you are allowed 2 instances of asking for repetition without losing points on your NAATI CCL exam. However, you will lose points if you ask for repetition too many times.

“But what if I don’t understand?” – you might ask. “Don’t I risk losing even more points if I don’t interpret a part of the dialogue?”

Absolutely. However, asking for more than 1 repetition in a 350-words dialogue (a standard NAATI CCL task) means that your language skills are not sufficient to qualify for 5 bonus points towards your PR. Therefore, it is best to treat your repetition requests as an ‘emergency-only’ and use them strategically.

Excessive requests for repetition


Nervousness, insufficient language skills, listening issuesKeep requests for repetitions to one per dialogue

NAATI CCL assessment criteria 5: inappropriate choice of register

Register is essentially a ‘style’ of language used to achieve a particular purpose.  For example, a formal register is often used to emphasize respect or a social hierarchy (an employer/ a teacher) or to signal that an interaction is serious.

It is important to remember that friendliness and informality are at the core of Australian identify and Australian English.

It means that even the most formal conversations, including government or medical interactions, often include strong elements of informality, such as Idioms, shortenings, and conversational phrases. They are critical for creating rapport between speakers and signalling that you are a ‘nice person’. They are a linguistic equivalent of a ‘smile’.

Therefore, ignoring the ‘informal’ details, is like taking the ‘smile’ out of someone’s face. It is a big ‘no-no’.

For example, both “I was just wondering if you might know…” and “I’d like you to tell me” are both requests for information, BUT they have different registers. The first version is warm and friendly and shows that a person is familiar with Australian politeness norms, while the latter version sounds ‘cold’.

Australians care a lot about sounding ‘warm’ and ‘friendly’ so not matching the same level of formality or friendliness in your translation will cost you points on the NAATI CCL exam.

At the same time, some test-takers go ‘too far’ with the informal register and use it where a more formal translation might be more appropriate.

Practice and feedback on your performance will help you determine whether you are using the correct register in English and LOTE, and your NAATI CCL preparation should include a strong focus on different registers in English.

Inappropriate choice of register in English/LOTELack of awareness of different discoursesFeedback on one’s NAATI CCL practice

Explicit discussion of formality levels

NAATI CCL assessment criteria 6: unidiomatic usage in English/LOTE

Idioms work because they have predictable and expected words, so it is important to use them exactly as they are without any changes. One different word or even one wrong letter, and the idiom falls apart.

For example, if the dialogue calls for an Australian idiom ‘messy’, the correct phrase is ‘dog’s breakfast’, not ‘animal’s breakfast’ or ‘pig’s breakfast’. Similarly, it is ‘first come, first served’ not ‘first come, first serve’ (a common mistake).

Make sure you learn idioms in context and use them exactly as they are. It will ensure that you do not see a comment ‘unidiomatic usage of English’ or ‘unidiomatic usage of LOTE’ on your NAATI CCL exam report.

Unidiomatic usage in English/LOTEInsufficient knowledge of idioms

Confusion with L2

Learning idioms in context and regular revisions



NAATI CCL assessment criteria 7: incorrect sentence structures

Most common sentence structure mistakes at the NAATI CCL exam are the word order.

It is very common for a non-native speaker to say something along the lines of:

  • I don’t know very well Centerlink (wrong).
  • He has also many questions (wrong).
  • I was in Sydney shopping (wrong).
  • They always are very helpful (wrong).

More advanced structural errors might include:

  • You can get information about health insurance if contacting the insurance company (wrong)
  • Not only he did call, but he also sent an email (wrong)

See the bottom of this section for the correct answers.

Sometimes incorrect sentence structures happen because a test-taker does not have a sufficient grammatical knowledge, but often sentence structure mistakes are simply a result of a cognitive overload.

A person might know the grammatical rule and can successfully do isolated exercises but struggles to use the correct sentence structures during the NAATI CCL exam as their mind is juggling a lot of competing demands and accuracy simply slips.

Incorrect sentence structures in English/LOTEInsufficient grammatical knowledge

Exam pressure


Sentence structure practice

Exam practice


Correct answers:

  • I don’t know Centerlink very well.
  • He also has many questions.
  • I was shopping in Sydney.
  • They are always very helpful.
  • You can get information about health insurance BY contacting the insurance company (right) OR if you contact the insurance company, you can get information about health insurance.
  • Not only did he call, but he also sent an email.

NAATI CCL assessment criteria 8: grammatical errors

Yet another reason why you might lose points on the NAATI CCL exam is grammar. Mistakes often include verb tenses, conditional sentences, gerund VS infinitive… you name it. There are plenty of grammatical rules to break in English!

Given your NAATI CCL results depend on your English grammar, it is highly advisable to brush up on your English grammar before the exam.

When choosing a book, go for B2/C1 grammar, such as Work on your Grammar, Upper-Intermediate/Advanced grammar practice or the good old Advanced Grammar in Use by Hewings. Pick a book with keys and work your way through exercises checking what rules you need to revisit or to learn.

Alternatively, if you suspect that your LOTE grammar might not be in top shape (e.g. you have not used LOTE for a while), you should invest some time into improving it.

Grammatical errors in English/LOTE


Insufficient grammatical knowledge

Exam pressure


Grammar practice

Exam practice



NAATI CCL assessment criteria 9: unsatisfactory pronunciation

You can lose points for unsatisfactory pronunciation in English and LOTE. What does ‘unsatisfactory’ mean? It simply means errors that impede understanding. Or, in other words, make you hard to understand.

Remember: you are not expected to speak with an Australian accent, so do not waste time and energy trying to sound ‘like a real Aussie’(you might never be able to anyway!).

Instead, work on the pronunciation areas that make you hard to understand. It maybe particular sounds (e.g. th, r, l) or intonation issues.  Whatever your errors are, copying after a high-quality audio out loud, and  recording yourself doing so will be a good place to start.

Unsatisfactory pronunciation in English/ LOTE



Pronunciation and intonation errors that impede understanding/ communicationPronunciation and intonation practice

Exam practice

NAATI CCL assessment criteria 10: excessive pauses

NAATI CCL assessors also consider the quality of your delivery, in other words how confident you sound, what your pace is like, etc. While an occasional pause here and there is acceptable, excessive pauses will make listening to you harder, and will therefore lose you points.

The trouble is that test-takers are more likely to pause during the exam than during practice sessions, as exam is a stressful situation. It is therefore important that you have 1-2 self-soothing techniques up your sleeve, such as deep breathing or visualization.

It is a good idea to pace yourself and make sure that you have a consistent and steady pace, rather than speaking fast, pausing, and speaking fast again.

And practice, practice, and practice. You need to get used to the challenges of code-switching and interpreting on the go.

Excessive pauses


Exam pressure

Insufficient English/LOTE level


Self-soothing techniques

Exam practice

NAATI CCL assessment criteria 11: excessive hesitations

Feeling unsure is a natural feeling during the exam. Most of NAATI CCL test-takers are not interpreters and translating under stressful conditions can further enhance hesitations.

However, remember that you will be marked down for excessive hesitations, so it is best to put on your ‘poker face’ and sound confident even if you are not. Remember the old saying ‘Fake it till you make it?” It helps in the NAATI CCL exam too.

Avoid such phrases as ‘I’m not sure, but I think that he said…” as you will be penalized for them. Instead, try to sound calm and confident. You can do it!

Excessive hesitations


Exam pressure

Insufficient English/LOTE level


Self-soothing techniques

Feeling ‘in control’ mental exercises

Exam practice


NAATI CCL assessment criteria 12: excessive self-corrections

Finally, you will lose points for excessive self-corrections as it, too, impacts the quality of your delivery.

Aim to provide your best translation from the first time rather than saying something and then revisiting it.

Excessive self-corrections


Exam pressure

Insufficient English/LOTE level


Self-soothing techniques

Feeling ‘in control’ mental exercises

Exam practice


Passing NAATI CCL is not easy, but it is doable if you have at least B2 level in English.

The best way to prepare for the NAATI CCL exam is through practice.

NAATI CCL Institute provides one-to-one exam coaching, and we use the most up-to-date exam tasks. We will be delighted to assist you!

Talk to us today about what we can do to help you!






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