Translating Situational Judgement Tests

By Sue Orchard

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Situational Judgement Tests (or SJTs) are in widespread use and a well-constructed SJT can provide invaluable insights into a person’s attitudes and behaviour in the workplace.

However, translating a situational judgment test into other languages needs to be handled very carefully as there are many potential issues that need to be taken into consideration.

It is not possible just to take and translate an SJT without careful analysis of the text to see if it could be appropriate and acceptable in another language and another country or not. There may be many parts that need to be adapted and localised, or only a few.

All the many cultural aspects will need to be looked at carefully. Would the situations given in the questions be valid and understood by people in different countries and cultures? If not, these would need to be rewritten to take account of local practices and behaviours.

In terms of the answer options, how would different cultures react? What may be the best answer in one country may not be the most fitting answer in another culture. People from other countries do react differently to certain scenarios. You need to consider the appropriateness of the answer options for different cultures.

Do the answers cover most of the appropriate and possible responses in different cultures? In a “Command and Control” culture, people may not feel that they have the freedom of thought to allow them to answer appropriately.

If the answer options aren’t considered appropriate or even understandable in a particular culture, this would cause the whole SJT to lose validity and meaning for such people.

You may also need to consider whether people feel comfortable answering SJT-type questions at all. People could be scared that wrong answers could affect their job prospects and their progression within their organisation rather than their answers helping to show where potential training may be needed.

The “right” answers may well differ in different cultures, so the scoring matrix may need to be amended.

Any job titles used will need to be examined for appropriateness. For example, a lot of SJTs refer to a “Supervisor”. Is this a role that exists in other cultures, in which case people would be familiar with it, or is there something else more appropriate? Is there an equivalent job title in use in a particular country?

So how can we achieve a successful outcome when translating an SJT?

Don’t despair! We have successfully adapted and translated many situational judgment tests over the years.

An analysis of the potential for translation and also the possible issues needs to be carried out right at the beginning by experts who understand the culture of their own country and who also understand the culture of the country from which the SJT originates. Job titles will need to be checked for appropriateness, as will the answer options.

These experts can then come up with appropriate suggestions for changes and these will then be discussed with the SJT owner to ensure that the suggestions for changes provide equivalent situations.

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