Certification FAQ

Download these FAQs as an infographic (PDF)

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. 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. 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.