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The Rev. Timothy Cargal, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Stated Clerk for Preparation for Ministry in Mid Council Ministries of the Office of the General Assembly.

“... the Land that I Will Show You” is the blog of the Office of Preparation for Ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This blog is designed to serve as a resource for those discerning and preparing for a call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament as ordained teaching elders of the church. It will also provide a place for reflecting on and dialoging about the changing context of pastoral ministry in the early 21st century.

For quick announcements about changes or developments in the preparation process, dates related to exams or other key events, discussion boards, surveys, etc., you can follow us on Facebook at “Preparing for Presbyterian Ministry.”

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July 31, 2012

Online Exams Becoming Reality

Screen shot of online exegesis examIt was six years ago this past spring that the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) formed a task group to explore the possibilities for moving the paper-based examination system into the digital age. This past weekend PCC members became the first people to use an online system to answer an ordination exam question. In just four weeks, 511 inquirers and candidates will take one or more examinations online. In this post, I will describe the process we are engaged in to do all that we can to assure that the transition from paper to Internet goes as smoothly as possible.

Beyond the small-scale trial of the system undertaken by PCC members, we will be carrying out a larger scale trial from August 4-10. About 100 inquirers and candidates who are registered for the upcoming exams in the areas of Theology, Worship & Sacraments, and Polity have volunteered to use the new system to write a practice response to one question (drawn from last year’s exams) on Saturday, August 4. More than 50 readers from last year have likewise volunteered to use the new system to read and evaluate those answers to the practice questions between Monday, August 6 and Thursday, August 9. Then on Friday, August 10, the readers’ comments will be reported to the inquirers and candidates along with their presbyteries (who can use that information to encourage and support them in their final stages of preparation for the exams).

The invitation to participate in this trial was not extended to individuals who were registered only for the Bible Exegesis exam. The nature of that exam does not lend itself to the single question/single day format of the trial. But they have not been overlooked in the run-up to the new online system. They have already received materials designed to help them be prepared for issues particularly related to taking that exam in the online system.

Within the next couple of weeks we plan to make available to all those registered for the August 24-25 exams a video tour of the process for taking the online exams. In fact, those who will be involved in the trial of the system will get a chance to review a “first cut” of that video later this week to help them be prepared for Saturday’s practice tests.

We have also been at work preparing resources for our readers. The volunteer readers for the trial are also getting a preview of the secure website that will train and support all readers for their role in the examination process. Already on that site are “first cut” videos that walk them through how to use the online system for evaluating exams and will provide general orientations to key principles about the exams to new readers in the fall.

Later this month all those who proctor the exams will receive information about how their role will be played in the new system. Those materials will be sent to them with the final rosters for examinees at their sites.

Much planning and work has gone into the process of moving the examinations online. From the first online Bible Content Exam in October 2009, to the move to online registration and results reporting, to this next step of bringing the senior exams online, we have tried to anticipate potential problems and respond quickly to the unanticipated ones. There may yet be unanticipated issues with the online exams on August 24-25, even after this two-phase trial. But there are very many people volunteering many hours in hope of greatly reducing the potential number and severity of those issues. Thanks and God’s blessings to all of them.

Categories: Ordination Exams, Ordination Process