Frequently Asked Questions
Certification Quick Links
If you're writing the stylistic editing test, you are allowed to bring a thesaurus in place of one of the three style guides otherwise permitted.
Download EAC's Current Policy on Certification (PDF, 17 KB)
If you're considering certification
If you've decided to take the tests
Changes Related to the New Professional Editorial Standards (2009), Introduced in 2010
Why does EAC have a certification program?
The EAC certification program:
When and where are the tests offered?
The tests are offered each November at sites across Canada, as demand and resources allow.
Tests have been offered in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
Usually, two tests are scheduled on one day. Please see the test schedule for this year's dates.
Why does EAC's certification program test for excellence?
The decision to test for excellence was made relatively early in the certification program development process, although this wasn't made explicit until 2006.
When certification was first explored, the Certification Steering Committee knew it had to find a way to distinguish between EAC's certification program and the university and college editing certificate programs that were just coming into being.
The passing grade for most certificate or diploma programs was—and still is—60%.
EAC certification is set at a higher bar: 80%. This defines a passing grade as an indication of excellence and differentiates EAC certification from a certificate or diploma program.
How does EAC certification compare with other programs?
EAC's certification program is based on Professional Editorial Standards (2009), which says, "The editor who meets the standards given here is able to do a professional job with a minimum of supervision."
Although many certification programs do test for proficiency, one of the principal certification guides consulted by EAC (Setting the Standard: Certification Programs Supplement, The Alliance of Sector Councils in partnership with the Canadian Standards Association, 2008, p. 8) states that "Some certification programs are designed to identify elite members of an occupation. These programs have requirements and assessments that may be complex and are intended to identify those who have truly demonstrated mastery of the content. In such cases, one can conclude that a successful candidate is a master in the field, but not that low scorers are incompetent. Failing scores are only interpreted as a candidate not having achieved mastery."
EAC's certification tests identify editors who are masters of their craft. This is accepted practice among national and international certifying bodies.
Why do I have to sign a confidentiality agreement before taking a test?
Confidentiality agreements are needed to protect candidates and the integrity of the testing process.
Before you take a test, you must agree not to disclose information that could identify other candidates.
In keeping with generally accepted testing principles, you must also agree not to reveal information about the tests themselves, because this could give future candidates an unfair advantage.
Whether you're writing a pilot test or an actual certification test, you'll be asked to sign a statement saying you will "not disclose information about the identities of individuals who take the tests or about the tests themselves. This includes discussing test questions and other content, the test scenarios and the specific tasks required of candidates."
EAC policies about confidentiality accord with provincial and federal privacy legislation.
How long does it take to become certified?
The time required depends on the credential(s) you wish to earn and the pace at which you choose to work.
As soon as you pass a test, you earn a certification in that editorial skill set.
The four tests you must pass to earn the certified professional editor (CPE) credential are offered in two-year rotations, so it's possible to become a CPE within two years.
There's no requirement, however, to take more than one test in any given year. The time frame for passing all four tests is unlimited.
How does EAC ensure that the testing process is rigorous, fair and secure?
The certification program is based on Professional Editorial Standards (2009), which outlines the skills and knowledge an editor requires to do a professional job with minimal supervision in fields across the publishing and communications industry.
Each test is developed and pilot-tested using generally accepted testing principles common to professional certification programs.
A marking analyst and an independent auditor review the results to ensure that the tests are fair and accurately marked.
Everyone involved, including National Office staffers, volunteers and testing experts, is required to sign a confidentiality agreement and to follow procedures that guarantee test security.
Are the tests offered electronically?
So far they haven't been, but we're working toward that goal.
We recognize that most editors work onscreen a good deal of the time. We're therefore researching ways to provide electronic testing while maintaining the security and integrity of the certification process.
Incorporating computers into a testing process presents a number of challenges.
First, testing experts have concerns about computer-based tests that require candidates to do more than answer multiple-choice questions with single keystrokes or write essays using standard word processing software. This is a significant concern, because onscreen versions of EAC's current tests, which ask candidates to proofread or edit passages of text, would require far more sophisticated use of computer technology.
Second, not all editors and proofreaders work exclusively onscreen. Many organizations and companies still require hard-copy proofreading and editing.
And third, not all editors and proofreaders who do work onscreen use the same hardware or software, or use software the same way.
A Computer Testing Task Force was formed to explore these issues in the spring and summer of 2011. Its recommendations (PDF, 503 KB)| were accepted that fall by the National Executive Council.
A pilot version of an electronic copy editing test was administered in November 2011. It revealed that we still have issues to resolve before we can offer the tests electronically.
We're continuing this work.
While EAC explores how to address these challenges, we continue to offer paper-based tests.
How are the tests handled and marked?
Each test is identified only by a candidate number.
The markers are carefully trained before they begin. They're given a very detailed answer key that contains a range of correct responses for each question.
Each test is marked independently by two markers, using a double-blind process. The two markers and the candidate remain completely unaware of one another's identities.
If one marker recommends a passing score and the other recommends a failing score, a third marker assesses the candidate's work, again without knowing anyone else's identity.
Once all of the tests have been marked, a marking analyst and an independent auditor review the results.
Only when it's time to let candidates know whether they've passed the test does a staff member in EAC's National Office match up their names with the candidate numbers on the test papers.
Do the tests require specialized knowledge about any particular subject?
No. They test only the knowledge and skills that every editor needs, as defined by EAC's Professional Editorial Standards (2009).
The tests simulate real-life work situations as far as this is possible in an invigilated exam setting, and with the understanding that not all editors work on the same kinds of documents, not all freelance editors have the same kinds of clients and not all in-house editors work for the same kinds of organizations.
While client and supervisor expectations differ, as do the procedures followed at different workplaces, the fundamental skills and knowledge required to edit a document remain the same.
A certified editor is one who can, according to Professional Editorial Standards (2009), "ensure that the material is consistent and correct and that its content, language, style and layout suit its purpose and meet the needs of its audience."
Do I have to pass tests in all skill areas?
You need to pass tests in all skill areas only if you wish to obtain the certified professional editor (CPE) credential.
Otherwise, you need to pass only the test for the specific credential you wish to earn, whether it's structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing or proofreading.
Do I have to take more than one test in the same year?
No. You can take the tests in different years.
You'll receive a discount, however, if you register for two tests in one year.
How hard is it to pass the tests?
To pass an EAC certification test, you must score approximately 80 percent or higher. The exact pass mark fluctuates slightly from test to test and from one administration to another.
The percentage of candidates who pass varies from test to test and from year to year, because the tests are different each year.
For instance, in 2011 the pass rate for the copy editing test was 22%, and in 2012 the pass rate for the structural editing test was 50%.
These rates are in line with those reported by other national and international certification bodies.
They're also what you would expect from a program that identifies candidates who demonstrate excellence in editing.
It's important to understand that EAC certification measures excellence, rather than proficiency. It identifies editors who are masters of their craft.
A failing score does not mean a candidate is incompetent. It just means the person has not demonstrated mastery.
What are some common reasons for failing a test?
Candidates fail for various reasons. Here are some of the most common.
Can I see my marked test?
No. To safeguard the integrity of the testing process and to ensure that we can reuse certain questions and passages on future tests, we cannot allow you to see your marked test.
If You're Considering Certification
How widely recognized is EAC certification?
A growing number of editors across Canada have earned credentials since the EAC certification tests were first offered in 2006.
The online roster of EAC-certified editors identifies those who are certified as proofreaders, copy editors, structural editors, stylistic editors and professional editors (CPEs).
A number of post-secondary institutions offer courses in editing, as well as certificates, diplomas and degrees in editing, journalism, publishing and communications. And several editing associations (http://www.bels.org, www.iped-editors.org, www.sfep.org.uk) test for editing proficiency.
EAC certification is the only program, however, that administers invigilated tests of excellence on the basis of national occupational standards, as specified by the Alliance of Sector Councils and the Institute for Credentialing Excellence.
Human resource personnel in business, non-governmental organizations and government are becoming aware of EAC certification, and are starting to ask for it as proof of editorial excellence.
Recognition is likely to increase as more editors meet the high standards required by the program.
I'm currently a member of the Editors' Association of Canada. Can I continue to be a member if I don't become certified?
Yes. Certification and membership eligibility are unconnected.
I'm a non-member and am considering taking the tests. Will I have to join the Editors' Association of Canada to become certified?
No. Certification is open to all editors and proofreaders, whether or not they're EAC members.
However, EAC Members do pay lower test registration fees than non-members.
I just graduated from a post-secondary publishing program. Should I apply for certification?
We recommend that you wait until you have at least five years of solid work experience across a range of media and materials.
The tests require knowledge and skills that can be gained only with practice and experience.
I have no formal training in publishing or editing, but I've been working as an editor for 15 years. Can I apply for certification?
The tests allow you to demonstrate your editing skills and knowledge, no matter where or how you've acquired them.
I'm an editor who recently relocated to Canada. Will I have to get Canadian experience or training before I apply for certification?
You will, however, need to be familiar with Canadian editing practices and references and the Canadian context.
I have plenty of work already. Why should I bother with certification?
You may want to take the tests to prove your own ability and to be recognized within your field.
You may want to consider certification as professional development. Studying for the tests will help you identify and fill gaps in your knowledge and skill set.
You may also want to use your certified status as a marketing tool.
Many certified editors have found that it pays to mention their credentials when communicating with prospective employers and clients.
And many organizations, especially in publishing and government, are recognizing the value of EAC's certification program.
I employ editors. Should I consider paying for their certifications?
In a 2002 EAC-sponsored national poll of 100 companies that employed editors, 65 percent said they would reimburse all or part of their employees' costs related to programs such as certification.
Sixty-one percent wanted to know when certification would be available.
The employers noted several advantages of certification. Among other things, they felt it would:
If You've Decided to Take the Tests
What's the best way to prepare for the tests?
Begin preparing for a certification test by reviewing the standards that will be tested.
Does it matter whether I use the original Study Guides based on Professional Editorial Standards (1999) or the new Study Guides based on Professional Editorial Standards (2009)?
Both sets of resources are useful when preparing for certification tests or improving your editing skills and knowledge.
However, the four Study Guide volumes were designed to support candidates writing earlier versions of the certification tests, and do not reflect all aspects of the current tests.
If you decide to use one or more of the old volumes, make sure you study the newer Professional Editorial Standards (2009).
It differs from Professional Editorial Standards (1999) in several respects:
When deciding which resources to use, keep in mind how the current tests differ from the tests offered before 2010.
What am I allowed to bring to the test?
You will be asked to bring the following to the test:
Once you've registered for a test, you'll receive a complete list of materials you may bring to the test.
If the books you intend to bring have handwritten notes on some pages, you don't need to erase them.
You may also include sticky notes on pages to help you quickly identify particular sections.
However, please remove any loose sheets of paper from your books before you bring them to the test site.
You may also bring the following:
What am I NOT allowed to bring to the test?
You may NOT bring any of the following:
What if a dictionary, style guide or some other item I like to use isn't on the list of allowable materials?
If a book or other item you'd like to use isn't on the list of allowable materials, contact the certification program administrator at least 15 days before the test and ask about it.
You may be given permission to replace one of the listed books with the book you prefer, or to bring the extra item.
If your request for an additional item is granted, all candidates will be informed of the addition to the list of allowable resources.
Why do I need a calculator?
Depending on the test, you may be expected to check numerical material for accuracy or to perform calculations, in accordance with requirements listed in Professional Editorial Standards (2009).
I do all of my editing onscreen. Why can't I use a computer during the test?
Historically, EAC has not had the resources to securely and efficiently administer computer-based tests.
In 2011, we pilot-tested an electronic version of the copy editing test.
While encouraging, the results from the pilot revealed that we have a number of issues to resolve before we can offer the tests by computer.
We continue to work toward this.
Meanwhile, we're continuing to improve our paper-based tests.
We include questions about onscreen editing that don't require you to perform tasks best accomplished with the help of a computer, such as search and replace or cut and paste.
This allows us to address the role of computers in editing while maintaining test security, operating efficiently, accommodating the needs of markers and providing a world-class certification program for editors.
Am I expected to be an expert in specific style systems, such as APA?
You are, however, expected to be familiar with documentation style in general (notes-and-bibliography versus author-date systems), and to know where to find information in the style guides you bring to the test.
Your best sources of information about what you're expected to know are Professional Editorial Standards (2009) and the Study Guide.
Will I have to convert imperial measures to metric?
You may be expected to notice and perhaps correct errors or inconsistencies in conversions, as described in Professional Editorial Standards (2009).
If you're writing the copy editing test, for instance, according to standard D12, you might be expected to "correct or query errors in material containing statistics, mathematics, and numerals (e.g., incorrect imperial/metric conversions, incorrect totals in tables)."
What happens if I don't pass?
A few months after the test, you'll receive a letter telling you whether you've passed or failed.
If you don't pass, you may take the test again the next time it's offered.
You may also appeal your result within 30 days of the date on the letter.
How many times can I take a particular test?
You can take a test as many times as you wish.
Each test is offered at least once every two years.
You must pay the full registration fee each time you register for a test.
If you plan to retake a test, we recommend that you engage in professional development activities that will strengthen your knowledge and skills pertaining to the relevant standards in Professional Editorial Standards (2009).
Is there a time limit for passing all of the tests required to become a certified professional editor (CPE)?
Why does EAC's certification program include credential maintenance?
Credential maintenance is a recognized part of professional certification programs offered by associations throughout the world.
The Alliance of Sector Councils recommends that "the certification body should develop procedures and requirements for periodic recertification of certified individuals" (Setting the Standard: Accepted Principles and Recommended Practices for National Occupational Standards, Certification Programs, and Accreditation Programs, the Alliance of Sector Councils in partnership with the Canadian Standards Association, 2008, p. 22).
The document continues, "[R]ecertification may require evidence of continued employment in the certified occupation, evidence of continued education/training hours, and/or administration of an assessment instrument specifically designed for recertification."
Credential maintenance adds value to your credentials and to EAC's certification program by:
Who designed the credential maintenance program, and why was this format chosen?
EAC's certification program has been developed over many years. It has always included provisions for credential maintenance.
A number of EAC certification committees and subcommittees have built a framework for the credential maintenance program. The current format was approved by EAC's National Executive Council in 2011.
The format was chosen because it includes activities that most conscientious editors would agree are essential to doing their best work, and that many are already doing—learning, teaching, working, volunteering.
We wanted a program that acknowledged the contribution of these activities to the maintenance and building of editing skills, and that did not put an extra burden on already busy professionals.
EAC's credential maintenance program is similar to those of other professional organizations, including the American Translators Association, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Project Management Institute.
Why are editors who were certified before 2012 not required to maintain their certifications? What if they want to participate in credential maintenance?
The certification program before 2012 did not yet include credential maintenance.
It's therefore unfair to require editors who earned all of their certifications before 2012 to participate in credential maintenance. They didn't agree to do so when they pursued certification.
Any editor who received a credential before 2012 is required to participate in credential maintenance if s/he has also earned a credential under the new iteration of the certification program.
Why is there an annual fee for credential maintenance? I've already paid to write the certification test(s).
The small annual fee ($25 for EAC members, $100 for non-members) covers the administrative costs of tracking, auditing and notifying certified editors about their credential maintenance requirements.
It allows us to maintain contact with and support certified editors in their pursuit of professional development opportunities.
The fee remains the same no matter how many credentials you earn.
Editing doesn't change that much. Why do I have to prove that my skills are up to date?
Editing may not undergo drastic changes, but things do change.
Editors who don't participate in regular professional development may not be aware of the latest features of commonly used software, or of the current state of the gradual but constant shift in language usage, or of trends in publishing.
This reduces their ability to advise employers and clients.
EAC certification is based on Professional Editorial Standards, which are regularly revised to reflect the current state of editing.
Credential maintenance assures prospective clients that editors are staying up to date with the latest practices and standards.
I don't have time to do credential maintenance. My schedule is full as it is. Does this mean I shouldn't bother pursuing certification?
Many of the activities you're already doing will qualify for credential maintenance points. These include:
The credential maintenance program was field-tested by a freelance editor who was an EAC member, an in-house editor who was an EAC member, and an editor who was not an EAC member.
All three were able to earn 100 points in less than the five years required, largely by engaging in activities they already pursued. Accumulating points required no special effort.
Why do I have to earn points in at least three different categories to maintain my credential(s)?
We believe an editor needs well-rounded skills, and that a broad range of experience goes into making a good editor.
If only one category were required, it would be possible for an editor to retain a credential by doing the same editorial task for years, for example, without ever taking a course or reading an article about changes in language usage.
Or someone could attend many seminars, but never actually work as an editor.
Just as you need broad experience to pass a certification test, you must continually improve and broaden your skills to remain a master of your craft.
I don't live near a city. How can I maintain my credential(s) if I can't attend seminars?
A wide variety of activities that qualify for certification maintenance can be done remotely, including online courses, listening to editing-related podcasts, reading and writing about editing, mentoring other editors and so on.
You can earn up to 10 points by attending just one EAC conference in each five-year reporting period.
A number of EAC volunteer opportunities are suited to remote work.
And, of course, working qualifies, too.
I've taken just about all the courses there are at my level. How can I stay certified?
You can earn the points you need without taking courses.
Many other activities qualify—teaching courses, giving talks or seminars, mentoring other editors, volunteering for EAC, writing and reading about editing, attending EAC conference sessions and more.
And, of course, working qualifies, too.
Do I have to send in proof of all my professional development activities for credential maintenance?
You don't have to send in proof of your activities, such as documents or receipts, but you should keep these records in the event that you're audited.
The Credential Maintenance Subcommittee occasionally performs random checks to ensure that all is in order.
On the online credential maintenance reporting form, briefly describe each activity and note the date(s). Then keep paper or electronic confirmations of these activities.
At the end of the five-year period, will I receive something as confirmation of credential maintenance?
EAC will send you a new seal for each of your credential certificates.
I was ill for a long period, and was unable to work or study to earn credential maintenance points. Will I lose my certification(s)?
If you let us know you won't be able to earn all of the required points by the end of your reporting period, we'll take your circumstances into consideration and help you establish a new schedule.
Please contact EAC's certification program administrator for more information.
If I've earned 100 points, can I submit my credential maintenance reporting form before the end of my five-year reporting period?
Yes. You can submit the form as soon as you've earned 100 points.
Your next reporting period will begin as originally scheduled—that is, five years after your current one began.
You'll still need to pay the annual administration fee for the intervening years.
What kinds of activities qualify for credential maintenance?
You can use a wide range of activities for credential maintenance.
Almost any activity that directly relates to maintaining your editing skills and knowledge qualifies for credential maintenance points.
Qualifying activities fall into five broad categories:
What constitutes an editing-related credential maintenance activity?
Editing-related activities are those that help improve your professional skills and make you a better editor.
Participating in a workshop on effective business communication will improve your editing skills, for example, so it qualifies.
What kinds of activities don't qualify for credential maintenance?
Some of your activities may relate to your work but not qualify for credential maintenance points, because they don't pertain specifically to the skills and knowledge of editing.
Why don't all EAC volunteer activities qualify for credential maintenance?
To qualify for credential maintenance points, an EAC volunteer activity must directly relate to editorial skills and knowledge.
Although essential to EAC operations, an activity such as serving on a branch or national executive, doing administrative work or undertaking a social task doesn't help keep your editing skills sharp and up to date.
To qualify for credential maintenance points, an activity must require editorial skills and knowledge. Examples include setting a certification exam, marking a certification exam and revising Meeting Professional Editorial Standards or Editing Canadian English.
Why does working as an editor qualify as professional development for the purpose of credential maintenance?
We believe working regularly is one of the best ways to stay current on changes in language usage, editing practice and the publishing and communications industry.
When you're working, you're learning—and actively practising what you learn. You may look up a grammar rule you've never needed before. You may learn how to use new editing software. A colleague may pass on a productivity tip.
If you stop working for an extended period, it's likely that your skills will get rusty, and you may become unaware of the latest trends in, for example, self-publishing.
Changes Related to the New Professional Editorial Standards (2009), Introduced in 2010
How did the introduction of the new Professional Editorial Standards (2009) change certification?
The new Professional Editorial Standards (2009) came into effect on January 1, 2010. It differs from the old Professional Editorial Standards (1999) in significant ways.
Most important for certification, the section on elementary knowledge of the publishing process has been expanded and renamed, and the section on structural and stylistic editing has been divided into two separate sections.
Because Professional Editorial Standards is the basis for certification, the testing framework had to be revised with the introduction of new standards in 2010.
The stand-alone test for knowledge of the publishing process was eliminated, and questions and tasks requiring this knowledge were added to every certification test.
Separate tests were also introduced for structural editing and stylistic editing.
How will the certification program continue to change?
The certification program began to change when the new Professional Editorial Standards (2009) came into effect on January 1, 2010.
Between 2010 and 2012, four new tests and four new Study Guides replaced the old tests and the original four-volume Study Guide.
Beginning with the 2011 test administration (for the credentials awarded in 2012), EAC also introduced the credential maintenance program.
This program recognizes your ongoing commitment to professional development, and ensures that your credentials remain current in the ever-changing world of editing and proofreading.
Now that the process of moving the tests and the Study Guides to the new standards is complete and the credential maintenance program has been launched, EAC is turning its attention to the significant challenges of developing computer-based tests.
I started to pursue certification under Professional Editorial Standards (1999). What does the change to certification based on Professional Editorial Standards (2009) mean for me?
It depends on which tests you passed before 2010.
If you passed only one Professional Editorial Standards (1999) test, you receive no credit under the new system.
If you passed the two Professional Editorial Standards (1999) tests needed for a certification credential, you're entitled to full credit, as follows:
Is certification based on the old standards viewed as inferior or superior?
EAC does not view certification based on Professional Editorial Standards (1999) as inferior or superior to certification based on Professional Editorial Standards (2009).
The 1999 and 2009 standards are equally well regarded.
Both were developed by editors and publishing and communications professionals who were aware of editing practices current at the time.
EAC views editors certified under the 1999 standards, the 2009 standards and a combination of the two as equally well qualified to undertake editorial tasks.