IPEd National Editors Conference

The 10th IPEd National Editors Conference will be held in Hobart, Tasmania from Monday 28Wednesday 30 June 2021.

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This guide contains information to help you prepare for the 2018 IPEd accreditation exam.

1 The exam
2 Exam development and administration
3 Registering for the exam
4 Preparing for the exam
5 Exam day
6 Marking of the exam
7 Notification of results
8 Appeals and requests for special consideration
9 A final checklist
10 Further information

The Accreditation Board recommends that you do not attempt the exam unless you have at least three years’ full-time editing experience, or equivalent. The sample exams will help you decide whether you are ready to sit the exam.

There can, of course, be no guarantee that anyone will pass the exam, and the standard is, as it should be, high.

1 The exam

The purpose of the accreditation exam is to assess candidates’ knowledge and use of the Australian standards for editing practice, now in its second edition. The exam focuses on the copyediting sections of the standards and on essential skills such as project definition and the ability to identify defamation, permission and copyright issues.

The exam is a test of competence rather than excellence, and candidates who pass the exam are certified as capable of applying the editorial skills described in the standards. The exam is an open-book test, and candidates will have access to the online Macquarie Dictionary.

Content and structure

The exam’s content reflects the variety of work that editors do, with examples drawn from various kinds of publishing. The exam consists of three parts:

  • Part 1: copyediting questions (20 per cent) – this section will test competence in copyediting for grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling, as well as general editing practice. It will include some multiple-choice questions. The focus will be on correcting errors rather than rewriting sentences.
  • Part 2: a short manuscript for editing (40 per cent) – the passage will be approximately 1200 words and will not require any specialist knowledge of the subject or genre. The focus will be on copyediting, with minimal structural editing required.
  • Part 3: short-answer questions (40 per cent) – in this section there will be ten questions, of which you must choose only four. You will not need specialised knowledge to attempt any of the ten questions. However, the assessors recommend that you choose your questions carefully, based on your strengths and experience.

Sample exams

The sample exams will help you decide whether you are ready to sit the exam itself. There are two sample exams on the website. We recommend that you work through them in the time allowed, with only the reference books you will bring into the exam. Allow yourself 30 minutes’ reading time and three hours’ writing time, and then check your answers against the answer guide, awarding yourself marks to see whether you have reached the pass mark of 80 per cent overall with at least 65 per cent in each part.

For additional practice, attempt the other Part 3 questions (the ones you didn’t do when you worked through the paper under exam conditions), allowing 20 minutes for each.

2 Exam development and administration

The exam team consists of a number of roles:

  • a lead writer/developer
  • a development team (drawn from AEs and DEs)
  • a lead assessor
  • an assessment team (also drawn from AEs and DEs)
  • a formatter
  • a proofreader
  • an exam trial manager
  • exam triallers
  • an exam coordinator
  • an exam secretary
  • invigilators

Everyone with access to the exam material must sign a confidentiality agreement.

3 Registering for the exam

The fees for the 2020 exam will be announced shortly.

The exam fee covers:

  • exam development and coordination
  • the cost for you to sit the exam, including venue hire
  • payments to markers
  • printing your certificate
  • all related correspondence and postage charges.

It does not include the cost of lodging an appeal against your result.

Late registrations will not be accepted.

Late payments will not be accepted. Candidates who have not paid the registrations fee by the closing date will not be allowed to sit the exam.

Identification and receipts

On submission of your application, you will receive a registration acknowledgement followed by a receipt once your registration fee has been received. Although you will not need to produce this receipt on the day of the exam, including it in your bound notes is recommended. You will need to produce photo identification before you can be admitted to the exam.

You will also be issued with a confidential reference number, which you will use instead of your name on the answer paper.

Only you and the exam coordinator will be able to match this number with your name. This is to ensure that the assessors marking the exam papers do not know the names of candidates. This number should be treated like a PIN and kept confidential at all times. Do not use it in any correspondence except with the exam coordinator.

You will receive details about your venue and the time of the exam by email six weeks before the exam.

Candidates with special needs

If you have special needs, such as a disability that means you cannot sit for four hours at a time, the Accreditation Board will endeavour to accommodate your needs. You should contact your society’s Accreditation Board delegate to find the best solution.

Cancellations and refunds

Once registrations have closed, cancellations will only be allowed in case of illness or emergency. If you need to cancel and can produce a medical certificate or other acceptable documentation, you may be entitled to a refund of your fee (less $100 administration fee), at the discretion of the Accreditation Board. 

4 Preparing for the exam

In addition to testing yourself on the sample exams on the IPEd website, the best preparation for the exam is the work you do each day as a working editor.

Branches will hold workshops to assist you in preparing for the exam, and IPEd is planning a webinar for people who cannot attend a face-to-face workshop.

You are expected to be conversant with the knowledge and skills set out in the Australian standards for editing practice and the Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th edition. Consider flagging useful pages such as those you found relevant when you worked through the sample exam.

If all or most of your work is in a single or highly specialised area, it may be helpful to spend some time refreshing your knowledge of general publishing processes and procedures. A selection of some of the better-known editing handbooks and publishing style guides is set out below.

If you are a current member of IPEd and have a Facebook account, it is recommended you join Secret Editors' Business (SEB). You can then request access to Secret Editors' IPEd study group, which is a closed group dedicated to preparing for the accreditation exam. Requests to join the group will be verified for IPEd membership by the group admins. Please note: Secret Editors' Business is not the property of IPEd and is not an official IPEd page. SEB and associated groups have been generously created and managed by IPEd members on a voluntary basis.

Suggested reading list

  • Butcher, J, Drake, C & Leach, M 2006, Butcher’s copy-editing: the handbook for editors, copy-editors and proofreaders, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
  • The Chicago manual of style 2010, 16th edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) 2013, Australian standards for editing practice, 2nd edn, Melbourne.
  • Flann, E Hill, B & Wang, L 2014, The Australian editing handbook, 3rd edn, John Wiley & Sons, Milton, Queensland.
  • Mackenzie, J 2011, The editor’s companion, 2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne.
  • Peters, P 2007, The Cambridge guide to Australian English usage, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.
  • Ritter, R 2003, Oxford style manual, Oxford University Press, London.
  • Snooks & Co. 2002, Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, John Wiley & Sons, Milton, Queensland.

Editing on screen

The exam facilities provide PCs for candidates to use in the exam, and technical support for PCs only. You will sit the exam on a PC, unless you specifically request a Mac during registration. No technical support will be available for Macs, and a Mac cannot be supplied on the day if you haven't requested one in advance.

The version of Word used will be Word 2016 on both PCs and Macs.

The exam is not a test of your ability to use Microsoft Word, and knowledge of advanced features of Word is not required. However, you will need to be familiar with the use of Track Changes.

It is recommended that you should also be familiar with:

  • the navigation pane, which can help you to navigate quickly through the document
  • ways to work with multiple documents open
  • standard keyboard shortcuts.

The only internet access will be the online version of the Macquarie Dictionary, but you must have a current subscription to the Macquarie Dictionary or a 30-day trial subscription that covers the exam day.

Recognising that most editors today work on screen, the exam developers have made every effort to minimise the amount of handwriting required for the exam. You will be provided with a hardcopy of the general instructions and specific instructions for each Part of the exam. You may use this as your scribble paper. You must not take this paper from the exam room.

5 Exam day

There will be at least two invigilators at each exam venue. During the exam, they will be able to answer general questions about the exam format and procedure, but not about the content. They will also be able to obtain help if any problems with the technology arise -- for example, if the screen suddenly freezes.

Any person who attempts to take the exam for another person or enlists the help of others will be permanently disbarred from accreditation.

What to bring

Make sure you bring your candidate reference number with you to the exam. You will record this number rather than your name on each exam file.

You will need to present your photo identification, such as a driver’s licence, to the lead invigilator. Once you have been checked off on the list of registered applicants, you may enter the exam room. You should bring your own writing materials, including a stand-alone calculator. Extra pens and calculators will be available.

The exam is an open-book test, so you may bring along your preferred style guide and other references. But avoid bringing your entire reference library – consulting many sources could take up an undue amount of time and space during the exam. As a general rule of thumb, three references should be sufficient: perhaps your preferred style guide, favourite dictionary and an editing handbook or specialist guide.

Note that your references must be hard-copy texts. You may also bring your own notes but they must be bound – loose pages of handwritten material are not permitted, nor are electronic references such as dictionaries. Computerised watches capable of storing, receiving or transmitting information or electronic signals will not be allowed in the exam room, and all other watches must be removed and placed at the top of the candidate's table where they can be seen clearly by an invigilator.  

You will have internet access to the online Macquarie Dictionary; however, you must have a current subscription to the Macquarie Dictionary or a 30-day trial subscription that covers the exam day.

You may annotate your reference books and use post-it notes as hard-copy references; however, if these represent style guides, they are to be handed to the invigilator at the end of the exam. Bound notes may include typed notes, photocopied handwritten notes, or photocopies of reference book pages. You will not be permitted to bring any loose sheets of paper nor any handwritten notes; ring-binders will not be allowed. Your notes must not include extracts from the sample exams. Permitted bindings include comb binding, wire binding, thermal binding, and stapled on the lefthand side. Contents in a ring binder do not count as bound.

Although the exam is open book, you may not borrow references or anything else from other candidates during the exam.

Duration of the exam

The exam runs for four hours.

This consists of:

  • 10 minutes to read the hard-copy instructions which will be provided
  • 20 minutes to open the exam documents, check that Track Changes is turned on, ensure that there are no technology issues, and type your candidate number in the required field in each document. No other typing will be allowed. The exam documents will be sitting on the desktop in a clearly labeled folder.
  • 30 minutes reading time. No typing will be allowed during this time, but you may jot down the questions you intend to do in Part 3  – no other writing will be allowed
  • 3 hours for the exam itself.

General rules during the exam

Anyone who arrives after the 30-minute reading period has ended will not be admitted.

All mobile phones must be turned off (not to ‘silent’) and placed under your chair. The invigilators will remind all candidates to turn off their phones before the exam begins.

You are encouraged to save your work frequently to avoid the possibility of losing work due to technical problems or power failure.

Leaving the exam room

If you need to go to the toilet during the exam, speak with an invigilator; save your work and minimise your window. The invigilator will note the time you left the room and returned, and will escort you to the toilet.

You may also speak with an invigilator if you need to leave the room for any other reason. The invigilator will follow a similar procedure. If you leave the room because of illness, you may not return.

You may not remove any part of the instruction booklet or scribble paper from the room. Once you have finished the exam, you will be asked to check you have inserted your candidate number and to save and close all files, give the instruction booklet to the invigilator and leave the room; you may not return until all papers have been collected by the invigilators.

To minimise disruption to those who are finishing the exam, no one may leave during the last 15 minutes of the exam.

6 Marking of the exam

The exam will be marked by IPEd assessors – a team of distinguished and accredited editors.

To ensure that marking is fair and consistent, the assessors will follow a detailed marking guide and moderate the exam papers in consultation with each other. The marking scheme will recognise that there may be more than one correct solution to an editorial problem and more than one way to mark up a manuscript.

What is the pass mark?

The exam is scored either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. The pass mark is 80 per cent of the total number of marks available in the exam, and 65 per cent of the marks available in each of Parts 1, 2 and 3.

Please note that there is no relationship between the pass mark and the percentage of candidates who pass the exam (the pass rate); if all candidates sitting in a given year were to get 80 per cent or more, the pass rate would be 100 per cent.

7 Notification of results

The Accreditation Board will notify you by email of your result within eight to ten weeks of the exam date. However, no papers will be returned.

If you pass, you will receive a certificate stating your accredited status and, if you consent, have your name published in your branch’s newsletter and on the IPEd website. Your branch may host a special ceremony to present the certificates to its members.

If you do not pass, you will receive a brief report on your performance that will help you identify areas of weakness. You may re-sit the exam once more at a reduced fee at either of the next two exams.

8 Appeals and requests for special consideration

If you want to appeal, you must email or write to the exam secretary setting out in detail your reasons for seeking review. Complaints and requests made by telephone will not be accepted.

Requests for special consideration

If you want to make a request for special consideration as a result of something happening on the day of the exam (for instance, because of sudden illness or family problems, or because of a problem with the venue or the conduct of the exam), you must supply a statement of the reasons to the exam secretary within seven days of the date of the exam. The exam secretary will refer the matter to the Accreditation Board, whose decision on whether you qualify for special consideration will be final.


Appeals against the result of the exam must be accompanied by a fee of two-thirds of the full exam fee to cover the cost of the appeal. If the appeal is upheld, the appeal fee will be refunded in full. Appeals are reviewed by the Accreditation Board in consultation with the lead developer and lead assessor. Candidates will be notified of the outcome within three weeks of the appeal being received.

Requests for an appeal must be made within 21 days of the exam results being received by candidates

The board’s decision is final.

9 A final checklist

Make sure you have all these items with you when you come to the exam:

  • receipt for payment
  • photo identification
  • candidate reference number
  • reference books
  • bound notes (no loose or handwritten notes are permitted)
  • calculator.

10 Further information

In the first instance, contact your local branch’s Accreditation Board delegate.

Additional notes for candidates give extra exam information and tips.

In conclusion

By applying for accreditation as an editor, you are supporting the drive for high standards of competence in the editing profession as well as demonstrating a commitment to your own professional development. The Accreditation Board looks forward to welcoming you to the worthy company of accredited editors.

Find an editor

IPEd has established the Editors Directory. Clients can search the directory for freelance editors using specific criteria. These will identify editors that have specific interests, skills or experience in certain areas.