Resources for exam preparation
Exam candidates should begin preparing for the exam at least several months ahead of the exam date. The best preparation for the exam is working as an editor, but even experienced professional editors will need to undertake some additional preparation, especially if it has been some time since they sat any kind of exam.
Below is a non-exhaustive guide to exam preparation resources, organised by their general usefulness or by their relevance to a particular part of the exam:
- General resources
- Resources for the LANGUAGE part of the exam
- Resources for the MANUSCRIPT part of the exam
- Resources for the KNOWLEDGE part of the exam
See Structure and format of the exam on the main exam page for a guide to these different parts of the exam.
Exam candidates are expected to be conversant with the knowledge and skills set out in the latest edition of the Australian standards for editing practice. Candidates should be familiar with the Standards and use them as a guide to areas of study. Some of the relevant standards are set out below to correspond to the different parts of the exam. (IPEd is currently updating the Standards. Candidates for the 2024 accreditation exam should use the current edition to prepare for the exam until they are advised otherwise.)
Candidates are expected to be able to follow and apply a style guide. There is no prescribed style guide for the exam, but candidates will be required to specify which style guide they are using.
For Australian candidates, the most commonly used style guides are:
- the online Australian manual of style (AMOS) published by Biotext (IPEd members receive a discount on AMOS subscriptions): https://stylemanual.com.au/
- the free, online Australian Government style manual: https://www.stylemanual.gov.au/
All candidates will have online access to these two style guides during the exam.
For New Zealand candidates, the most commonly used style guide is Fit to print: The writing and editing style guide for Aotearoa New Zealand (Hughes & Wallace, Dunmore, 2010).
See “Style guides” in the Guide for candidates for more information on using a style guide in the exam.
Candidates should familiarise themselves with the style guide they will use, for example by practising navigating an online style guide or by knowing where to find certain sections of a print style guide. If using a print style guide, candidates may bookmark any particularly useful sections so they can access them quickly during the exam. Candidates may also find it useful to familiarise themselves with other published style guides.
Note that the print 6th edition of the Style manual for authors, editors and printers (Snooks & Co, Wiley, 2002) is not accepted as a style guide for the exam. However, it continues to be a useful reference book on matters of general editing practice.
The Macquarie dictionary online (MDO) is the default dictionary for the exam and candidates will have free access to it during the exam. Candidates may also nominate a specific print edition of the Macquarie dictionary or an alternative print dictionary for the MANUSCRIPT part of the exam. Candidates should ensure they are familiar with using whichever dictionary they choose to use during the exam.
Sample exams allow candidates to see the kinds of questions asked, to gain an understanding of the format, and to practise completing the exam within the time frame.
See Sample exams for details.
Candidates who are IPEd members can seek a mentor to help in their exam preparation via the IPEd Mentoring Program.
Exam preparation workshops
The Accreditation Board runs a series of online workshops on preparing for the exam, as well as general information sessions. Some branches may also hold information sessions and workshops on general preparation. See the Events listings for more information.
Don’t forget there are also workshops, webinars and presentations on specific aspects of editing skills and knowledge – see examples listed below for different parts of the exam.
Candidates may find joining or creating an exam study group useful.
Candidates should ensure that study groups only include other candidates and that information shared is obtained from the latest version of the Guide for candidates, the IPEd website, or from the exam prep workshops run by the Accreditation Board.
Candidates should be aware that any unofficial advice or information received from past candidates (e.g. in Facebook study groups, including Secret Editors’ Business) is likely to be out of date.
The exam documents will be in PDF and Microsoft Word formats. The exam is not a test of candidates’ ability to use advanced features of Word or PDF, but is a test of basic computer literacy and using Track Changes as core skills needed for editing today.
An IPEd webinar, Tour of the accreditation exam documents, will guide candidates through the sample exam documents, showing how to use them and the on-screen skills they will need during the exam. This webinar is available for purchase outside the exam period and by unregistered exam candidates. However, once registrations are open for the next exam, candidates who have registered and paid will gain access to the webinar free of charge.
Candidates should practise editing on-screen, and ensure they are familiar with:
- opening, saving and closing PDF files – including the “Save As” function – using Adobe Reader
- filling in PDF forms
- opening, saving and closing Microsoft Word files (Mac or PC) – including the “Save As” function
- turning on and using the Track Changes function in MS Word
- using the Comments function in MS Word to write author queries
- using navigation panes and hyperlinks within MS Word and Adobe Reader for ease of moving around in the exam documents
- working with multiple documents open
- using standard keyboard shortcuts
- using online style manuals such as the Australian manual of style and the Australian Government style manual (optional)
- using the Macquarie dictionary online (optional).
Resources for the LANGUAGE part of the exam
The LANGUAGE part comprises short-answer and multiple-choice questions on language skills needed for copyediting under Part D of the Australian standards for editing practice, namely standards:
- D1 Clarity:
- D1.1: Principles of clear expression.
- D1.2: Clear and logical connections between phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs and sections.
- D1.3: Punctuation to ensure clarity of meaning and ease of reading
- D3 Grammar and usage:
- D3.1 Conventions of English grammar and syntax in different genres.
- D3.2 Words and their meanings.
- D3.3 Conventions governing expression of numbers, dates, percentages, measurements and statistical data; use of italics, capitalisation, bolding, underscoring, angle brackets, hyphenation, symbols and shortened forms; list formatting; citation of sources and quoted material in academic and non-academic text.
- D4 Spelling and punctuation:
- D4.1 Australian spelling and punctuation, and acceptable options in both, in texts for Australian publication.
- D4.2 Word usage, spelling and punctuation used in other English-speaking cultures as appropriate.
The resources below may be of most use in these areas.
IPEd holds workshops in grammar and related language skills at various times. Check the Events page on the IPEd website.
Suggested reading list
Any good grammar guide and style guides will be useful. Some other useful resources are:
- Peters, Pam, The Cambridge guide to Australian English usage, 2nd ed (Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2007).
- Murphy, Elizabeth, Working words, rev ed. (Lacuna, Armidale, 2019) [esp. Parts 4–6]. Buy now from the IPEd bookstore – IPEd members receive a discount.
- Murphy, Elizabeth, with Hilary Cadman, Effective writing: plain English at work, 2nd ed (Lacuna, Sydney, 2013). [esp. Parts A and B]. Buy now from the IPEd bookstore – IPEd members receive a discount.
- Guides provided by the CIEP (UK), such as Gerard M-F Hill, Punctuation: a guide for editors and proofreaders, Luke Finley et al, Editing into plain English, and Louise Harnby, Editing fiction containing gender-neutral pronouns (found at https://www.ciep.uk/resources/guides/).
Resources for the MANUSCRIPT part of the exam
The MANUSCRIPT part is a practical exercise comprising a short extract for editing and a style sheet, both in MS Word format, that examines copyediting skills under the Australian standards for editing practice, namely standards:
- A6 Tools and software for editing practice:
- A6.1 Common word-processing software for editing [in this case, Microsoft Word].
- A6.5 Style guides or style manuals appropriate to the genre.
- A6.6 Standard mark-up symbols and conventions for copyediting and proofreading [in this case, Track Changes and Comments].
- D1 Clarity
- D2 Voice and tone
- D3 Grammar and usage
- D4 Spelling and punctuation
- D6 Illustrations
- E1 Integrity:
- E1.2 Accuracy of cross-references … within the text [and] between the text and illustrations and tables.
- E2 Textual elements:
- E2.1 An editing style sheet specific to the publication to ensure a consistent approach to textual elements …
- E2.2 Explanations of symbols, terms and shortened forms, when required and placed appropriately.
- E2.4 Identification and review of statements where content seems to require checking.
- E3 Illustrations:
- E3.1 Illustrations, where required, that are consistent, accurate, complete and relevant.
- E3.2 Consistency between text and non-text elements.
- E4 Format, layout and production:
- E4.2 Layout to correct problems …
For the extract, candidates should practise three skills, each of which is marked in the exam:
- Copyediting to a brief (i.e. doing the editing job asked of you, not the editing job you think the text needs) using Track Changes in Word.
- Writing clear and respectful author queries about matters that can’t be easily resolved with a dictionary or style manual.
- Creating a style sheet to record the style decisions made for the extract. Candidates should use the style sheet template provided with the sample exams for practice.
The best way to improve these skills is through actual copyediting and learning to exercise your own editorial judgement. However, there are some other resources you can use to brush up on particular copyediting skills.
Copyediting skills workshops
IPEd offers an online workshop on copyediting under its accredited skills series (check the Events page for details). The workshop covers all three skills listed above.
Other copyediting workshops include those offered by the CIEP in the UK. See https://www.ciep.uk/training/choose-a-course/copyediting-suite-courses.
Other copyediting resources
In addition to general editing handbooks (see under KNOWLEDGE resources below), you may wish to try US publications The copyeditor’s workbook and The copyeditor’s handbook, both by Erika Buky, Marilyn Schwartz and Amy Einsohn. Be aware that the style will be American and so will not agree with Australian or Aotearoa New Zealand style, but they have lots of great exercises, with answers and comprehensive explanations. The exercises are also available online to download and edit in Word.
The CIEP provides a free fact sheet, “Good practice for author queries”, that may be useful. See https://www.ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/.
Only one sample exam is provided for the MANUSCRIPT part, to provide an example of what the part looks like and how it should be completed, and for you to practise timing. Any short text between 1000 and 2000 words will do for practice, as long as it contains headings so that you can practise identifying the heading levels. If you wish to practise exam timing, aim for a text of about 1200 words, ideally including some non-text elements such as tables, illustrations or references.
Resources for the KNOWLEDGE part of the exam
The KNOWLEDGE part comprises short-answer questions on general editing practice and knowledge, as defined in the Australian standards for editing practice, especially standards in the following areas:
- A1 Professional knowledge and conduct
- A2 Communication
- A3 The publishing process
- A4 Legal and ethical matters
- A5 Design, typography and formatting
- A6 Tools and software for editing practice
- A7 Printing and replication processes
- B1 Project definition
- B2 Project documentation
- B3 Monitoring
- C1 Appraisal
- C2 Structural devices
- D2 Voice and tone
- D6 Illustrations [principles of presentation]
- E1 Integrity
- E2 Textual elements
- E3 Illustrations [relevance and relation to text]
- E4 Format, layout and production.
If all or most of your work is in a single or highly specialised area, it may be helpful to spend some time refreshing your knowledge of general editing and publishing practices and knowledge. The suggested resources below are not exhaustive.
Most editing handbooks and style manuals cover the knowledge areas required for the exam, such as project management and professional ethics.
Butcher, Judith, Drake, Caroline, and Leach, Maureen, Butcher’s copy-editing: the Cambridge handbook for editors, copy-editors and proofreaders, 4th ed (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2012).
Flann, Elizabeth, Hill, Beryl, and Wang, Lan, The Australian editing handbook, 3rd ed (Wiley, Brisbane, 2014).
Mackenzie, Janet, The editor’s companion, 2nd ed (Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2011). Buy now from the IPEd bookstore – IPEd members receive a discount.
Murphy, Elizabeth, Working words, rev ed (Lacuna, Armidale, 2019). Buy now from the IPEd bookstore – IPEd members receive a discount.
Accessibility and inclusion (Standards A2.3, A7.5 and E1.3)
For an introduction to accessibility for people with a print disability, and what editors and authors need to know about changes in the publishing industry, see the IPEd recorded webinar, Accessibility and inclusion.
The Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (APIA) website https://aipi.com.au/aipi-guides/ has two useful publications:
- Inclusive publishing in Australia: an introductory guide (APIA, 2019)
- Making content accessible: a guide to navigating Australian copyright law for disability access (APIA, 2019).
Otmar, Renée. Editing for sensitivity, diversity and inclusion: a guide for professional editors (2019).
Free fact sheets from the CIEP that could be useful include “Disability terminology for writers and editors”, and “The state of gendered language”. See https://www.ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/.
Ethical issues (Standard A1.5)
Ethical issues include, for example, objectivity, confidentiality, conflict of interest, and implications of editing particular kinds of material such as theses or indigenous content. Although the latter examples are examples of specialist editing, generalist editors need to understand and be aware of the ethical issues. Thesis editing guidelines are available on the IPEd website.
A recorded IPEd webinar on thesis editing is available to purchase from the events page.
Legal issues such as copyright (Standards A4.1–A4.6)
General editing handbooks contain material on legal issues, but material in older books may be out of date. For more up-to-date resources see:
- Australian Copyright Council website https://www.copyright.org.au
- Copyright Licensing New Zealand website, especially https://knowledgebase.copyright.co.nz/hc/en-us/categories/115000313154-Publishers.
Plain English (Standard D1.1)
The Plain English Foundation offers a number of workshops and other training resources. See https://www.plainenglishfoundation.com/home.
Murphy, Elizabeth, Working words, rev ed (Lacuna, Armidale, 2019). [esp. Part 7]. Buy now from the IPEd bookstore – IPEd members receive a discount.
Murphy, Elizabeth, with Hilary Cadman, Effective writing: plain English at work, 2nd ed (Lacuna, Sydney, 2013). [esp. Part B]. Buy now from the IPEd bookstore – IPEd members receive a discount.
Publishing practice (Standard A3) and project management (Standards B1–B3)
The editing handbooks listed above include information on publishing practices and project management.
Snooks & Co, Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn (Wiley, 2002). See especially Part 1 and Chapter 13.
Pierotti, Susan, Manuscript to Market: The Lifecycle of Getting Your Book into Print (Creative Text Solutions, 2017). Buy now from the IPEd bookstore – IPEd members receive a discount.
Free fact sheets from the CIEP include “Anatomy of a book”, “Good editorial relationships”, and “The publishing workflow”. See https://www.ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/.