The Benchmark Interpreter Assessment*

*DISCLAIMER: The Benchmark Interpreter Assessment (BIA) is owned and administered by KMC Interpreting and Consulting, LLC. Neither the BIA, nor KMCIC is affiliated with, or sponsored by any certifying, testing, or licensing agency. This includes, but is not limited to: The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (or any of its state affiliate chapters), the National Association of the Deaf (or any of its state affiliate chapters), or any other local, state, or national certifying, testing, or licensing agency.


The Benchmark Interpreter Assessment (BIA) is diagnostic in nature, and consists of two parts: A Knowledge Test and a Performance Assessment.

About the Knowledge Test

The Benchmark Knowledge Test is a paper-and-pencil multiple-choice test, consisting of 150 questions. Questions cover six categories.

  • English and ASL Grammar and Usage (50%)
  • Interpreting and Ethical Decision Making (30%)
  • Deaf Culture and History (20%)

Candidates who register for the Knowledge Test must pass it at 80% or better to proceed to register for the Performance Assessment. Those who score under 80% may retake the Knowledge Test at the Retake Rate.

For a listing of reference materials to help prepare for the Knowledge Test, click  here.

About the Performance Assessment

The Performance Assessment consists of a Stimulus Video, which contains four six-minute segments. Each candidate is assessed in four interpreting modes, as outlined below:

  • Expressive Interpreting (Spoken English to ASL)
  • Receptive Interpreting (ASL to Spoken English)
  • Interactive Interpreting
  • Expressive Transliterating (Spoken English to English-based signing).


The scoring system is designed to provide an objective score based on message equivalency and accuracy. Each segment is scored individually, and then those scores are averaged together to determine a final score and level.


In addition to receiving an objective score, each candidate will receive a detailed Performance Report containing extensive feedback based on overall quality.


To reduce inter-rater variability, and ensure greater consistency, all BIA raters are provided with standardized forms that contain detailed descriptions of each skill set and subsets, along with descriptions of common errors and deviations. These forms are designed to coincide with each segment of the stimulus video. All candidates are assessed and given feedback on the same criteria.


Each candidate will receive a Results Packet as soon as possible after their assessment date.  Each Results Packet will contain a notification letter on BIA letterhead, informing the candidate of his or her score (level) and a Performance Report containing detailed feedback regarding skill strengths and weaknesses.


Benchmark Levels


Learning and practice take time and effort. Our progress often does not follow a straight path, with clearly delineated milestones that are evenly spaced and easily attained.  More often, we acquire skill and competence over time, doing routine, unremarkable work.  Any recognizable “Aha!” moments seem to be few and far between.  Many interpreters fear they aren’t making any progress and are at a loss as to how to measure their current proficiency level.  We need a tool that can help us perceive the advancements we have made and help us recognize the knowledge and skills which need to be enhanced.

This is why we have developed the Benchmark Interpreter Assessment.  Candidates who take the Performance Assessment will achieve one of five levels.  The levels are divided into two tiers: Emerging and Proficient.  The Emerging tier contains levels one and two.  The Proficient tier contains levels three through five.  All levels are described in detail below:

Benchmark Level Descriptions

Level 1:  Emerging (Score 0 – 1.49) A Level One interpreter, in many cases, would be consistent with a student who is in the first few semesters of an interpreter education program.  At this level an individual may be able to maintain conversational use of American Sign Language, but is unable to interpret reliably, even if familiar with the subject matter.  This interpreter possesses a basic working vocabulary in ASL; has knowledge of basic interpreting concepts but is not yet able to put them into practice effectively.  Often this interpreter is unable to keep up with even brief, uncomplicated exchanges.

Level 2:  Emerging Plus (Score 1.5 – 2.49) A level Two interpreter is able to interpret in a limited capacity, but with a high degree of inaccuracy.  At this level an individual may be able to interpret some meaning in informal settings, when exchanges are brief and subject matter is uncomplicated, but is unable to perform adequately in the standard interpretation modes. This interpreter may require excessive repetition or clarification.  While signing, a Level Two interpreter has a limited working vocabulary, and production is often incomplete and stilted.  While voicing, production tends to be weak and hesitant, containing awkward pauses, and frequent source language intrusions.  The ability to handle idiomatic phrasing is limited, and cultural expressions are handled awkwardly or omitted altogether.  

Level 3:  Proficient (Score 2.50 – 3.49) A Level Three interpreter demonstrates competence in the skills required to interpret with adequate consistency in the standard interpretation modes.  Normally, an individual at this level can handle unpredictable complications successfully.  A Level Three interpreter possesses a good working vocabulary and adequate command of both languages.  There is a mostly smooth delivery, with confident ASL production and confident voice.  When voicing, this interpreter is able to produce grammatically correct and natural-sounding English discourse most of the time, although some expressions may not always reflect target language conventions.  Idiomatic expressions and cultural allusions may be handled adequately.  Hesitations, false starts, and miscues may be noticeable.  Self-corrections are made without major distraction.  With advanced preparation, specialized settings can be handled well.  Demeanor and attire reflect high standards of professional and ethical conduct.

Level 4:  Proficient Plus (Score 3.50 – 4.49)A Level Four interpreter demonstrates above average competence in the skill sets required to interpret in most standard interpretation modes.  An individual at this level conveys the meaning of the speaker faithfully and accurately, including most details and nuances, easily conveying the style, register and cultural context of the source language.  There are very few significant omissions, additions or embellishments.  A Level Four interpreter is able to produce target language conventions accurately and fluently.  Idiomatic expressions and cultural allusions are handled with ease.  This interpreter demonstrates excellent production and delivery in ASL, and when voicing, displays confident and pleasant vocal qualities.  Hesitations, false starts, and miscues are rare.  Self-corrections are made without distraction.  Demeanor and attire reflect high standards of professional and ethical conduct.

Level 5:  Proficient Advanced  (Score 4.5 – 5.25) A Level Five interpreter demonstrates excellence in all interpretation modes.  An individual at this level is highly skilled at conveying the meaning of the speaker at any register and is consistently accurate.  The target language is conveyed with near-native to native fluency, including all details, nuances, style, register, idiomatic, and culturally specific expressions.  There are only minor omissions, additions or embellishments at this level.  This interpreter demonstrates superior command of both ASL and English lexicon and grammatical usage.  Outstanding production and delivery while signing, and when voicing, exhibits excellent vocal qualities, with very few hesitations, false starts, and miscues.  Demeanor and attire exemplify the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.

(c) 2018 Kelly M. Combs (Benchmark Interpreter Assessment)