Editing standards

IPEd's Australian standards for editing practice sets out the core standards that professional editors should meet.
For more information on the history of the Standards, how to obtain a copy or to print a copy, visit the Australian standards for editing practice webpage.

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In this guide, revised in 2016, you will find information to help you prepare for the 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.

Accreditation exam 2016

The accreditation exam 2016 was held on Saturday 25 June

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.
In 2016, the exam will conducted as an onscreen exam for the first time.

Content and structure

The exam’s content reflects the variety of work that editors do, with examples drawn from various kinds of publishing and choices to allow for specialisations. 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 12 questions, of which you must choose only four. Eight of the questions will be general, testing skills and areas of publishing knowledge that would be expected of editors working in any genre. The remaining four questions will be more specialised – for example, related to mathematics, science, education, online or web-based content, literary fiction, biography, government or corporate publications, or any other genre of publishing.

The assessors recommend that for Part 3 you choose your questions carefully based on your strengths and experience. Specialist questions are for those who have experience in those areas and should not be attempted by those without such 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 non-specialist questions (the ones you didn’t do when you worked through the paper under exam conditions), allowing 20 minutes for each. Attempt the specialist questions only if you have experience in the field: no amount of practice and preparation will help you pass a specialist question if you have no professional experience in the area.

The sample exams are still in the format used for the paper-based exam, but at least one of them will be available in the onscreen format in the near future. In the meantime, you can still print and use the paper-based versions to start your preparation.

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

Registrations for the June 2016 exam closed on 27 May 2016.

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.

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. You will need to produce this receipt, and photo identification, on the day of the exam to be admitted.

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 three hours and a half 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

If you withdraw after the final registration date but before Thursday 23 June, you will have your fee refunded (less $100 administration fee).

If you withdraw on or after Thursday 23 June because of illness or an emergency, and you 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.

If you withdraw on or after Thursday 23 June and do not have a medical certificate or other acceptable documentation, you will NOT be entitled to a refund of any part of your fee.

If you have to withdraw, it is important that you contact the exam coordinator in writing or by email as soon as you possibly can. 

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.

Societies will hold workshops to assist you in preparing for the exam.

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. Do not write in your own references.

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.

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 will be presented in Microsoft Word 2007 for Windows. It may also be available for Mac if there is sufficient demand.

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

It is recommended that you should also be familiar with:

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

Some features of Word, such as the spelling and grammar checkers, will be unavailable.
There will be no internet access and on access to online resources.

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 receipt and 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 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 will not be permitted to bring any loose printed, photocopied or handwritten notes into the exam. Loose pages of photocopied or handwritten material are not permitted, nor are electronic references such as dictionaries.

You may annotate your reference books and use post-it notes. Bound, typed notes are also acceptable as hard-copy references; however, if these represent style guides, they are to be handed to the invigilator as the end of the exam. Note that bound notes must be typed and not include hand-written notes. They must not include extracts from the sample exams.

Although the exam is open book, you may not borrow references or anything else from other candidates during the exam.
Although the exam is the be delivered on screen, you will not have internet access.

Duration of the exam

The exam runs for three hours and 50 minutes.

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 folder entitled ‘IPEd accreditation exam 2016’.
  • 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 society’s newsletter and on the IPEd website. Your society 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, fax 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

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 society’s Accreditation Board delegate.

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.

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