Notes on the accreditation exam 2014

Posted on: 27 March 2014

Meryl Potter
On behalf of the IPEd Accreditation Board

Updated 6 February 2014

The 2014 accreditation exam will take place on Saturday 3 May – check your state Society of Editors website for timing and venue details. To help you prepare for the exam, you will find two sample exams with their marking guides on the IPEd website. We strongly advise you to try the exams to familiarise yourself with the exam system and to identify any areas of weakness you might want to work on.

You will also find the Guide for Candidates about the exam on the IPEd website.

These notes set out the latest news on the exam and provide some general advice for those sitting the exam.

Some reminders from the Accreditation Board

You should use ink (black, red or dark blue pen) when writing answers to the exam questions, including the editing extract in Part 2. Pencil, erasable ink or highlighters should not be used to answer any part of the exam.

In Part 2 you should not use both in-text and marginal mark-up. It is time-wasting and confusing for both candidates and markers.

An important change has been made to Part 2 this year. In place of the Publisher’s Letter, which provided the brief to candidates, a simple list of key points will be provided instead, noting things like the expected audience and the kind of edit being sought. It will contain the same kind of information provided in the Publisher’s letter in the sample exams, but will be provided in this simpler and shorter format.

In Part 3, choose your questions carefully, based on your strengths and experience. Specialist questions (in 2014 these are questions 9–12) should not be attempted by those with minimal exposure to those areas.

A new exam

The exam this year will be at least 90% different from previous exams in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, and you should not expect to see questions repeated from previous papers. A new extract will also be provided for Part 2 of the exam.

The allocation of marks will remain the same: 20% for Part 1 and 40% each for parts 2 and 3. The total marks for each section are treated differently to produce a total mark for the exam out of 100. The treatment of marks for each section is described under each of the Part headings below.

As in the 2012 exam, the Part 2 extract and page for author queries will be provided as loose sheets so they are easier to handle. The style sheet will be in the bound exam booklet. Make sure you put all pages into the plastic envelope at the end of the exam.

If necessary, questions from Part 3 may also be provided as loose sheets. These pages must go into the envelope as well, whether or not you attempt those questions. No paper is to be removed from the exam room.

Write your candidate reference number on all loose sheets, as well as on every page of the exam booklet. If you wish, you may use a stamp with your exam number on it, instead of writing it.

This year 40 minutes will again be allowed for preparation: 30 minutes for reading time and 10 minutes for writing candidate reference numbers on every page of the exam booklet and all loose sheets.

Some lessons from previous exams

Manage your time

Stick to the allocation of time suggested in the note to the sample exam (most people have finished the exam in past years). There is no point in achieving 100% in one part of the exam if you fail to complete other sections, as you must achieve a pass or minimum mark in each section of the exam to pass. Every exam room will have a large clock, so keep an eye on it.

Remember that doing a written exam is a skill in itself that needs practice. Before you go into the exam, decide on the order you will tackle questions, and work out the times to start each section so you will have fewer decisions to make on the day. We recommend you allow 30 minutes for Part 1, and 1¼ hours each for parts 2 and 3, including review time. This reflects the allocation of marks across the exam.

Editing questions in Part 3 and the extract in Part 2

We realise that although you would normally check your work carefully, you will be working under pressure in the exam, and that you may not have time to check every answer thoroughly. We have allowed for this by generally allowing a safety margin of marks, so that you can pass and even get full marks without doing a perfect job. We think this is a commonsense approach to working under exam conditions.

The accreditation exam and the sample exam

You will find two sample exams and answer guides on the IPEd website. The Part 2 extract and hand mark-up answer guide from the 2008 sample exam (horse racing) have also been uploaded onto the website to give you another practice piece.

The sample exams reflect the format and type of questions used in the exam. Questions in Part 3 may be broken into sub-questions to make the direction of answers clear. There are no essay style questions and you are urged to use note form wherever possible (provided you also make your answer clear). Note that in the exam itself we provide more space to answer questions than we think you will need: don’t feel you have to fill the space available in your answers.  

The sample exams include new extracts to reflect the content of Part 2 of the exam. Part 2 focuses on sound copyediting skills, which include the preparation of a style sheet and asking sound author queries. Sample exam 1 also includes a substantial table to be edited and marked up. You should always expect something in the extract in the exam that tests more than language skills, like a table or bibliographic references.

The sample exams give you an idea of the style of questions and the kind of subject matter that you might find in the exam itself. You should not expect to find the same topics or content in the final exam. If similar content does appear in the exam, you should take extra care to read the question, as it may be slanted differently from the question in the sample exam.

Work through each of the sample exams under self-imposed exam conditions and mark your work using the answer guide. The answer guides include a large range of acceptable answers, but you aren’t expected to reproduce an equivalent amount of content in the exam itself. Recognise areas where you could have done better, and work on improving them. Spend some time reading and reminding yourself where things are in the Snooks & Co. Style manual for authors, editors and printers. It’s worth setting some time aside in the weeks leading up to the exam for reading or working through the remaining questions from the sample exam and honing your exam skills. You may tag important pages in the Style manual, but you may not add hand-written notes.

If your work has become very specialised over the years, you might also want to refresh your memory on the basics.

Consider setting up a study group with some others planning to take the exam, and working through the sample exams together. Some groups have worked together entirely by email, while others have held regular face-to-face meetings. Many candidates have found this not only useful for the exam, but also in forming professional associations for the future.

A Style manual update

A query arose from the sample exam in 2008 about the duration of copyright as described in the answer guide. The Style manual was produced before the most recent changes to the copyright law – it does not, for instance, include information on the change to the duration of copyright, which is now life of the creator plus seventy years, and matters such as moral rights and parody. To bring yourself up to date on copyright matters, visit the Copyright Council’s website <> and look at the free fact sheets there. You can take these into the exam only if you have them bound and they have no hand annotations (see below).

Update on editing research theses

We also draw your attention to the guidelines on editing research theses, which have been uploaded to the IPEd website at where you will also find links to more information for editors, research students and supervisors. These may also be taken into the exam only if you have them bound, as for the Copyright Council notes, though they can be bound together into a single booklet.

What you should take into the exam

There’s no limit to the number of references you can take into the exam, but there is limited time for looking things up. Take a sound, up-to-date dictionary that you are used to using, is easy to use and will fit on your desk, and Snooks & Co.’s Style manual for authors, editors and printers as a minimum. You may also take in a copy of a house style guide if you are going to adhere to that style in the exam. If you do that, the style guide must be handed in with your paper (put your candidate number on it); it will not be returned to you after the exam. If you have a specialist reference book or dictionary you use regularly, take that too, but we suggest limiting the books you take, for your own peace of mind.

You can take Australian standards for editing practice into the exam and things like Copyright Council fact sheets (mentioned above), provided they are bound and do not have annotations.

You might also want to take in a ruler and a calculator, but the calculator must be stand-alone, not part of another electronic device such as a mobile phone (phones must be turned off and placed under your desk where they are visible to invigilators).

Your bound notes

As mentioned already, you can take a personal set of notes into the exam as well, provided they are typed and not hand written, and do not have hand annotations. This could include updated copyright notes, the Australian standards for editing practice, updated in 2013 (if printed off the IPEd website), and any handy reference material or checklists that you usually use. If you have decided the order in which you will attempt the exam, you can also include a typed timetable for your work in the exam, noting starting and finishing times for each part and each question, which can help you keep to the timetable.

For binding, you can use comb or wiro binding that office machines or local printers can provide.

As with other reference material, make sure you don’t overdo the amount of material you take in, as looking everything up will make it difficult to finish the exam in the time allowed.

Part 1

Part 1 is marked out of 20 and each sentence is worth 1 mark, so each mark earned here is equivalent to 1% of the mark for the whole exam.

Do only what you need to

Part 1 consists of twenty sentences to be edited and four multiple-choice questions. You must answer twenty questions, but you can answer all twenty-four questions if you wish. Answering all questions allows you to pick up some bonus marks in Part 1, but it’s not a good idea to do that unless you finish early and have plenty of time. If a question needs no edits, tick it or write ‘no edits needed’ to show you are answering the question and not just omitting it.

Part 2

In Part 2, 160 marks are allocated to the extract, and 20 marks each to the style sheet and the author queries, making a total of 200, which is divided by 5 to give a mark out of 40 for the exam as a whole. Every mark accumulated in Part 2 is worth 0.2% of the final exam mark.

Pay close attention to the style sheet you create

A sound copyedit usually depends on creating a sound style sheet. If you aren’t used to using a style sheet when you edit, read up on the topic in the books recommended in the note to the sample exam, and start practising in your day-to-day editing work. The style sheet is worth 20 raw marks in Part 2 (4% of the total exam mark), which can make the difference between a pass and a fail in that section and the exam as a whole.

You gain marks in the Part 2 extract for a sound edit, not just the number of changes you make. In the case of the sample exam, for instance, including a note in your style sheet that ship names are shown in italics will get you marks not only for the ships that you have marked as italic in the extract, but also for the names already in italic – that’s because you have shown your decision in the style sheet. This also applies, for example, to things like the treatment of dates, numbers and measurements.

Ask sensible and civil author queries

Author queries are marked out of 20 and each query is worth 2 marks. You are asked to write ten queries. Eight good queries will get you a pass; ten sound ones could get you full marks. Allow no more than maybe two extra as a safety margin. You will not be penalised for writing more, but writing more queries than you need to is a significant waste of time that will not garner additional marks, and you may risk failure if this takes significant time from finishing the exam. Your queries should be polite, phrased to get the answer you need and brief. Good queries are generally concerned with matters of content, not style. They are not an opportunity to correct, lecture, denigrate or criticise the author.

Do a good mark-up of the extract

Manuscript editing should be completed in the spaces between the lines. Many past exam candidates also used proofing symbols, placing edits in the margins. No one lost marks for working this way, but it does make the edit unnecessarily difficult to follow, and above all it wastes your time because you are overdoing things!

You will be able to work more quickly, more efficiently and more clearly if you do an editorial rather than a proofreading mark-up. Start practising today if that’s not the way you usually work, but rest assured that markers do not deduct marks for mistakes in mark-up unless errors are introduced to the edit. Ask for help from someone experienced in hand mark-up or attend a workshop where you will have a chance to learn and practise this skill.

Part 3

In Part 3 each of the four questions is marked out of 20, making a total of 80 marks. This mark is divided by 2 to give a mark out of 40 for the exam as a whole. Every mark accumulated in Part 3 is, therefore, worth 0.5% of the final exam mark.

Answer only four of the twelve questions in Part 3 of the exam. You must answer four whole questions in Part 3 and cannot answer parts from various questions to make up the 20 marks.

If you are asked to answer, for example, four of six sub-questions in a particular question in Part 3, just do the four, unless you know you have plenty of time, as answering extra sub-questions in Part 3 will not allow you pick up bonus marks. If you answer more than four sub-questions in a case like this, markers will count the marks from the best four answers to sub-questions, so only do the extra work if you have some spare time at the end. 

Specialist questions

When the first sample exam was tested with society members some years ago, people asked for some specialist as well as generalist questions in Part 3. Each year, four specialist questions will be included in the exam, though their subject areas are likely to vary from year to year. This year they are the questions numbered 9–12 to make them easy to identify. It’s important that you attempt these questions only if you have professional experience in the area. It’s unwise to think that you will be able to produce a good answer to these questions from general editorial knowledge or because you managed a similar question in the sample exam. There are still eight generalist questions in Part 3 from which you can choose. Don’t touch the specialist questions in Part 3 unless you’re a specialist – you need to have professional experience in the area to answer these questions properly. The structured sub-questions mean you won’t be able to bend a question into a more familiar area, as markers will be looking for a sound knowledge of the topic.

Follow the brief

Just as you would do for an editing job, make sure you follow the brief you are given. Most questions will provide a brief or outline the situation under discussion, and the questions asked are very specific. Make sure you read carefully – you can’t use highlighters on the exam paper, but you can underline significant parts of the brief and question to help you stick to the point in your answers.

Society workshops

Your local Society of Editors will offer at least one workshop on the accreditation exam, where you will have a chance to talk strategies and discuss the sample exams and answer guides with Accredited Editors and Distinguished Editors who have taken the exam or helped develop the accreditation scheme. The Accreditation Board strongly recommends you attend a workshop before sitting the exam, if possible.

Accreditation matters

The exam development team aims to provide a fair exam that tests all the standards in the Australian standards for editing practice, updated in 2013 (you may bring a copy into the exam). It is recommended that editors not attempt the exam unless they have at least three years’ full-time editing experience, or the equivalent. IPEd has established the accreditation scheme so that experienced editors have a qualification that indicates that their work is of a high professional standard. You should therefore expect the exam to challenge you and demand maximum effort over the three hours. It is not meant to be ‘easy’.

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The society works actively to support and promote editors and the editing profession, both in South Australia and nationally. As a member of the society, you will have access to a variety of benefits.



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