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Examinations for Verbatim Reporters

Candidates for verbatim reporter posts must take the corresponding competitive examination in their main language, which is normally the language in which they did their higher education studies. Please note that the information on this page is for English-language verbatim reporters only. For information about the recruitment of translators who work in another official language, please switch to the version of this website in that language.

The written examination for English-language verbatim reporters usually consists of three papers:

  • Paper 1: Editing of, and making all necessary logical and stylistic corrections to, an English text (two and a half hours)
  • Paper 2: Bringing the English version of a text into line with the original French (one and a half hours)
  • Paper 3: Bringing the English version of a text into line with the original of a text in any of the official languages of the United Nations other than English or French (Arabic, Chinese, Russian or Spanish) (one and a half hours)

The use of dictionaries or other reference material is not permitted during the examination.

Those who pass the written examination are convoked to a competency-based interview.

Please note that the content and format of the examination, as well as eligibility requirements and instructions on how to apply, may vary from one examination session to the next. Applicants should therefore check the corresponding examination notices carefully in order to be duly prepared.

Sample examination notice (En/Fr)

Sample examination for verbatim reporters

Familiarizing yourself with United Nations verbatim records is the best way to prepare for the competitive examination for verbatim reporters. The exercise described here may be adjusted to fit your language combination – focus on statements in the languages in which you will be examined. While exam candidates are not expected to be well acquainted with United Nations editorial style, study of relevant documents is extremely useful preparation. This is facilitated by the wealth of material available on the United Nations website. 

Studying how a verbatim record differs from what is spoken at the meeting 

The following steps make use of the archive of meetings available through the UN webcast. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these resources. Scroll down to the bottom right of the screen and click on, “Previous Webcasts (2001 - May 2012).” 
That brings you to archived webcasts, which offer a list of different United Nations bodies and their meetings together with a wealth of material for your use. 

Click on the “Security Council” from the menu on the left. You will find recent meetings, along with links to earlier years. 

For each meeting, there is a link to webcast videos in English (English originals, plus interpretation into English when a speech is in another language) and in the original language. (Be aware that many of the webcasts are of press events and not formal meetings; you need concern yourself only with formal meetings.) Duration is indicated for each webcast. 

For each study session, choose a meeting that runs at least half an hour and then go to this page – http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/scact.htm – where you may select the year in which your chosen meeting took place. Then find the date and subject of the meeting and click on the link in the “Meeting Record” column. This will take you to a PDF file of the verbatim record of the meeting as published in English. 

As you listen to the webcast, follow along in the printed record. Take note of how this differs from what was spoken in the meeting: for instance, some utterances, such as the adoption of the agenda, are condensed into “stage directions”. You will see too that all but the most perfect speeches and flawless interpretations are edited to one degree or another. Be aware of the extent of the changes we make and the areas in which we make them. For instance, we try to make sure that everything is grammatical and accurate (except when we judge that inaccuracy is intentional); we check quotations and generally identify their sources; we bring our version into conformity with the original language by listening to the original and correcting or re-translating the interpretation. 

Because of the useful links at http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/scact.htm, Security Council records are particularly easy to find. But by using ODS you will be able to download verbatim records of General Assembly meetings as well and use them in the same way with the corresponding webcasts. 

Verbatim records in the five official languages other than English are mostly translations based on the English version. For a study session, choose a Security Council meeting and get the English version of its verbatim record, as indicated above. Then find another version (in one of the other five official languages) at http://ods.un.org​ sing the document symbol (found in the upper right-hand corner of the English cover page, beginning S/PV.). Compare and study the two versions of the verbatim record.

Additional ways to prepare

General familiarity with the United Nations can only be helpful, and un.org is a good place to start.

1. Listen to UN Radio and UN RSS feeds and podcasts in your languages at: http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/index.html

It is worth getting familiar with the content of this site. Much of it can be downloaded onto your device of choice. The calendar at the top left of the screen allows you to see United Nations Radio content for any day/month in the recent past. You can download a full month of UN Radio programmes in your languages. Some of the radio programmes are news shorts, while others are feature pieces. Both are helpful, but the news shorts are generally found to be more efficient for assimilating UN-specific content. Note key UN concepts, vocabulary and titles, and do some research on them.

Along the left-hand side of the screen, near the bottom, there is a link for subscribing to Podcasts and RSS feeds.

2. UN Organizational structure in all of your languages

http://www.un.org/en/mainbodies/index.shtml

http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/index.shtml

http://www.un.org/aboutun/chart_en.pdf

 

3. Read the UN Charter in all of your languages; references to it abound in UN oratory.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/index.shtml

4. When an examination has been announced, sample test material is generally posted on the Human Resources web page:

http://www.un.org/Depts/OHRM/examin/languageexam.htm

GOOD LUCK!