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Merel Elsinga

The Editing Essentials Test Tested: Unlock Your Editing Career

Illustration of a black key with a white pencil contour. The head of the key is the Editors Canada caret logo in a rounded square.

You have just embraced editing as your new career. You have some editing experience, just not the five years recommended to sign up for an Editors Canada certification test. How can you convince prospective clients or a potential employer that you do have editing skills?

The certification steering committee has come up with a new qualification just for you: Editing Essentials. In one hour, you can take an online test that consists of 45 multiple-choice questions. Passing the test (75 per cent) proves your ability to work as an editor. The test is $75 for Editors Canada members and $100 for non-members.

I did the test. Twice. The first time I got thrown out one-third of the way into the test because I wanted to google whether something was a Canadian brand. This would normally be a handy trick for someone who spent their formative years in other parts of the world. But not in this case, because the test instantly decided I was sourcing information I was expected to know as an editor, so I got booted out. And you don’t want that to happen to you, because you can take this test only once every six months.

Luckily for me, since I was considered an Editing Essentials test tester, the certification steering committee gave me another chance to complete the test so that I could actually give you my feedback.

I like the quality level of the test. “Just” reading the Professional Editorial Standards is not enough, as the test has many practical editing questions. You do need to know what course of action to take as an editor. And you need to have the judgment to decide the most pressing editing issue in a text.

During the test you are able to review your answers before you submit. This is helpful, as it certainly is not a “giveaway” multiple-choice test. The choices consist of mostly plausible answers that all need to be considered carefully. They are not, as you often see with multiple choice tests, three ridiculous options and only one plausible answer. This means you cannot buy yourself a certificate — you must really possess essential editing knowledge.

As soon as you have submitted the test, you can see your score. You can also see which questions you answered correctly and which you answered incorrectly. However, there is no explanation as to why the answer is right or wrong. The thought behind this is that if you can’t figure out why option X is the right answer, you’ll know where to focus your ongoing professional development.

When you pass your Editing Essentials test, you will receive an official letter from Editors Canada confirming that you completed the test successfully.

As a tester, I won’t receive that letter, but I am relieved to share with you that I passed the test.

Would you consider taking the Editing Essentials test? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Previous post from Merel Elsinga: Update on the International Plain Language Standard: An Interview with Gael Spivak

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8 Comments on “The Editing Essentials Test Tested: Unlock Your Editing Career”

  • Leah Morrigan


    This is an excellent idea for new editors!

  • Laura Busheikin


    Really happy to see this. It’s so important for editors to be able to gauge their readiness before they put themselves out there as professional editors, and equally as important for clients to have a consistent and trustworthy way of knowing that someone they’re hiring has the necessary skills.
    I am not a full-time editor; I’m mostly a writer who does a bit of copy-editing, so I would not likely take this test, unless I change career direction. If there were a test specifically for copy-editing, I would take it.

  • Connie Miazga


    Great information, Merel. You mentioned that reading Professional Editorial Standards is not enough. What additional preparation would you suggest for aspiring editors as they prepare for testing?

    • It would help to have some editorial training or experience under your belt, Connie. Click on the editing essentials page (link in article) for multiple suggestions.

  • Anna Notaro


    No. I don’t think this is altogether a good idea. It’s interesting that the test decided you were sourcing information and kicked you out. What if you had just been thinking, or had suddenly received a phone call that you had to take, or any other kind of issue that would take you away from the test? Some people even skip a question and go on to the next, with the intention of going back later. What would the test do in that case? Is there an option for review? I don’t like that the computer is going to decide whether I’m cheating, and I most certainly don’t appreciate having a time limit to answer a question. Not to mention the fact that even when doing the Editors Canada certification test one is allowed a few books to source information.

    Is there an option to do the test anonymously? I would think that is not an option, especially if you’re going to receive a letter to say you passed successfully. Some people don’t necessarily want that letter, preferring only to test their knowledge to see where they are strong and where they are weak.

    There are many reasons why this test, as you describe it, would not be a good thing.

    When someone obtains a certificate that states all the necessary courses were passed then the certificate should be enough.

  • I’m far enough along in my editing career where I could sign up to do the certification test, but I’m not sure I see the value in it for myself. I question if this particular test is an option or of value at this point either. I know there are a lot of professions that require certification and/or extended learning credits. Editing has so many possibilites when it comes to work and paths one can take, and I don’t know how one test can “fit all.”
    I went to a top school and received an editing certificate. I pay a fairly expensive membership fee for this association because it keeps me in the loop and I enjoy attending my branch meetings when I can. I’ve taken a few classes, but I’m always questioning the cost of everything and the benefit I’m getting from it. I’m a freelance book editor and find there are many skills I use that aren’t the same as other types of editing, nor can they just be taught or graded on a test. My clients never question my education or associations. Many companies have their own tests for freelance editors.
    I think for some people, testing and certifications are important, and for others they are not. I appreciate the professionalism this association wants to bring to editors but, again, the standards are different depending on the editing path. For now I will continue to build my worth through my experience with editing and work and worry less about passing tests.

  • Colleen Ellis


    Thank you for this! I’m excited and nervous about this new testing opportunity. I’m excited to have the opportunity to see how my skills are because I don’t have a solid way to know. I’m nervous because if I have to re-take the test, my confidence might take a kick! But that’s the way with most tests in life. I think this new test will help me to understand where I need to focus my learning now. Thank you to everyone who made this happen.

  • Lloyd Winfield


    Thank you for developing the Editing Essentials test and letter (certification). Until now, certification, i.e., recognition from the standard setting body of a person’s editing abilities, was only achievable by those with experience (5 years is the suggestion). This new test provides recognition of abilities at an introductory level, and without a presumption of much experience. I’m an aspiring editor. I plan to review the PES and then take the test.

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