Certification FAQ

Q: Who should write my letter of reference?  What should I ask my reference to say?

Your letter need not be from a current or former supervisor, employer, client, or contractor. Because we are interested primarily in documenting the fact that you have worked in scientific editing for two years, we will also accept a letter from a co-worker, a colleague in a professional association, or a professor or instructor who can attest to that fact. 

Q: What is considered a manuscript of the life sciences?

Life sciences refers to the study of living organisms (for example, biology, chemistry, medicine, botany, and ecology but not mathematics or physics). Manuscripts include but are not limited to scientific articles, book chapters, grant applications, technical documentation, continuing education, and government and consumer materials.

Q: What will you accept as documentation of my education?

We prefer transcripts (photocopies will do), but if this is not possible, a photocopy of your diploma is acceptable.

Q: Do I need to document every degree?

No. We prefer documentation of your undergraduate education. However, the highest and most recent degree may be the easiest for you to document, and we will accept transcripts or copies of diplomas for graduate degrees. 

Q: Does BELS offer tests in languages other than English?

No, not at the present. Professional editors in the life sciences for whom English is a second language must work at least some of the time in English, as it is the lingua franca of science publishing. The BELS certification examination therefore presents the same hurdles for these editors as does their daily work.

Q. How do I know when the exam is offered?

Once approved for candidacy, you will be eligible for 2 years to sit for the examination. Testing is available during the months of January, April, July, and October each year.

Q: What happens after I complete the exam registration form and payment on the BELS site?

Once the registration fee has been paid, BELS will enter you into the Prometric (the computer-based testing company BELS uses) exam system. Prometric will then send you instructions on how to find a testing center near you or how to opt for remote assessment. They will also send communication on how schedule your exam timeslot that best fits your availability.

Q: What do I need to bring with me to gain admission to the exam?

After you schedule your exam on the Prometric site, you will receive an admissions letter from them. This letter will provide you with key information of authorized materials, exam security, and other important details. You will need to bring the admissions letter, as well as a valid government issued photo ID with signatures to your exam. The name on your admissions letter must match the name on your photo ID.

Q: Are all the questions on the test related to narrative text?

No. The test includes questions about tables and figures, as well as publishing practices and ethics.

Q: How many questions do I have to answer correctly to pass?

Because the questions are weighted, there is no way to state the number of correct answers needed to pass. There is no scoring penalty for incorrect answers. At the time of the examination, the proctors will provide the passing and total possible scores.

Q: After I have taken the examination, can I find out what sorts of questions I had the most trouble with so that I can prepare to take it again?

In order to maintain the integrity of the examination, BELS does not analyze individual candidates' tests or provide feedback to candidates. 

Q: How long will it take to receive my results once I have taken the exam?

Results may take up to six weeks. You will be officially notified via email.

Q: If I do not pass the exam on my first attempt, how long do I have to wait to retake it?

As long as your candidacy is current, you will be able to retake the exam as soon as the next testing window. Once your retake application and payment have been processed, you will receive communication from Prometric instructing you how to schedule for an upcoming exam.

Q: If I have a disability that may require special accommodations to take the examination, what should I do?

Please visit the Prometric testing accommodations page for more information.

Q: Once I become certified, how do I maintain my ELS credential?

Learn more about BELS Certification Maintenance here.