helpful tips naati ccl

Top 3 NAATI CCL tips

Many people who need to take NAATI CCL are truly time-poor people. Jobs, families, other commitments. They would love to spend hours preparing for the NAATI CCL exam, but they simply cannot do it.

How do you choose what to focus on in your NAATI CCL exam preparation? What techniques bring the best results?

We have selected 3 most effective techniques that can help you get in shape for your NAATI CCL exam day.

1. Record yourself interpreting…yes, out loud!

Since NAATI CCL became an online exam, there are a lot more sample dialogues available online. Some of them will be in your target language, while others can be purely in English. It might seem that the English ones are not relevant, but you would be surprised how many people lose points on interpreting into their own language.

We have looked at hundreds of exam reports and we were struck at how many comments about LOTE quality test-takers received.

What does it mean? It means that you do not sound good in your own language.

How come? Aren’t you meant to be fluent in your own language?

Errors in LOTE (= your native language) happen more often than most people think. A stressful situation and a huge cognitive load of ‘on-the-spot’ interpreting leads to awkward phrases, wrong stress, and other mistakes in your own language.

The best thing you can do to become aware of these problems is to record yourself and listen back as if it is not you. Imagine it is somebody else and listen carefully and objectively. The more problems you find with your language, the easier it will be for you to avoid issues during the exam.

2. Learn to take notes quickly

Taking notes is very important for your NAATI CCL exam. You have to convey all the important information, and it’s much easier to do if you can take notes quickly and efficiently.

There are different techniques that entrepreneurs use, including creating special symbols and writing diagonally. They are great, but they require considerable time investment.

If you are short of time, simply try omitting some or all vowels in your notes. Most people can guess what a word is based on consonants.  For example, what do you think this word is ‘phn’? Yes, a phone. What about this one ‘fn’? Yes, a ‘fine’, etc. Leaving out vowels is one of the most efficient way to speed up your note taking.

3. Ban yourself from excessive self-corrections

Many test-takers lose points on their NAATI CCL exam because they get nervous and start offering multiple self-corrections of their answers. While the intention is a good one – provide a better version- in most cases, this behavior will only undermine your chances of getting the result that you want. Remember that the examiners deduct points for excessive self-corrections and, unless you have given an absolutely wrong version, you might be better-off sticking with whatever translation you gave first.

4. Bonus tip: Sign up for personal NAATI CCL coaching

The most efficient way to prepare for the NAATI CCL exam is to get feedback on your performance from an experienced NAATI CCL coach. You are in the right place – NAATI CCL Institute is the top-performing NAATI CCL coaching program. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised by our affordable prices. Test us out! We are confident we’ll be able to help you pass your NAATI CCL exam!



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!






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.