Certification FAQ

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

Your three letters need not all be from current or former supervisors, employers, clients, or contractors. Because we are interested primarily in documenting the fact that you have worked in scientific editing for two years, we will also accept letters from co-workers, colleagues in professional associations, and professors or instructors who can attest to that fact. 

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: What do I need to show the proctors to gain admission to a test?

Bring your ticket of admission to the testing site, and be prepared to show BELS proctors some form of personal identification that contains a photograph, such as a driver's license. BELS sends each candidate a ticket of admission when he or she has submitted a registration form and fee. Deadlines for registering for each examination are published in the examination schedule. We cannot register anyone for a test after the deadline has passed, nor can we admit anyone to a test who has not registered for it and thereby reserved a place. 

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: If I do not pass the exam do I have an opportunity to appeal the results?  

If you choose to appeal the Board's decision regarding your examination, you may petition BELS for reconsideration. Address your written petition to the Secretary for Appeals. The petition must include a statement of the basis for reconsideration and a justification of that basis. The written petition must be post-marked within 30 calendar days of the date you received your certified results letter. Appeals postmarked after that date will not be considered.

Q: Can exams be cancelled?

In rare cases, it may be necessary to cancel a scheduled exam because of a low level of interest or other circumstances beyond our control. If that occurs, we will notify you within several days of the registration deadline that the exam has been cancelled. Please keep this possibility in mind when making travel plans. BELS cannot be responsible for fees or penalties related to the cancellation of an exam.

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.