Skip to main content

Preparation for Ministry

Senior ordination exams


Bible content examSenior ordination examsExams scheduleRegistration for exams | FAQ

Standard ordination exams home

The focus of the senior ordination examinations is to assess one’s entry-level readiness for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The exams present pastoral challenges whereby candidates can demonstrate how they integrate faith and theological education in practical ministry.

This page will provide you with important information about the exams that you will need to know to complete the registration process. When you are ready to register, please visit the Registration page.

Exam description

The senior ordination exams cover the areas of Biblical Exegesis, Theological Competence, Worship and Sacraments, and Church Polity. These tests may be taken only with the permission of the presbytery’s committee/commission that is supervising the person’s discernment and preparation for ordination as a teaching elder. These exams are designed to be taken near the end of a candidate’s preparation as an assessment of readiness to begin ministry. Descriptions of the individual examinations are available in the downloadable “Handbook on Standard Ordination Examinations.” 

The Church Polity, Theological Competence, and Worship and Sacraments exams require test takers to use the published and/or PDF (Adobe Acrobat) editions of the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions as appropriate.

The four senior ordination exams are available in Spanish. The Theology, Worship and Sacraments, and Polity exams are also available in Korean. Candidates whose primary language is Korean may write responses to the Exegesis exam in Korean. The language in which the exams will be completed must be selected during the registration process.

Online administration
Senior ordination exams are administered using an Internet-based testing system.  A maximum of nine hours is permitted for completion of the Theology, Worship, and Polity examinations. The Exegesis exam is given over a period of roughly five days.  For more information, visit the Exams Schedule page.  All sections of the tests are open book.  Candidates may use whatever resources they have available, but they must give credit for any resources used. 

Special arrangements

Candidates with learning disabilities or physical handicaps should discuss special accommodations with their presbytery committees.  Registrations for the senior examinations involving any special accommodations may be requested using the standard online registration process, but will not be finalized until approved by the appropriate presbytery committee and reviewed by the Manager for Preparations for Ministry in the Office of the General Assembly. Even in these cases it is the responsibility of the inquirer or candidate to be sure they can meet the requirements for accessing the internet during the testing periods.  

For more information

If you have questions regarding the registration process,or other questions about the senior ordination examinations or special accommodations, contact Tim Cargal, (800) 728-7228, x5771.

Visit the registration page

Examination archive - fall 2022

Worship and Sacraments Adoración y sacramentos 예배 및 성례전에 대한 시험 (Worship Exam)
Theological Competence Competencia teológica 신학적 소양 (Theological Competence)에 대한 시험
Church Polity Política eclesiástica 교회 정치(Church Polity)에 대한 시험
Bible Exegesis Exegesis de la biblia  

(4) Comments

Join the Discussion
  1. The policies set by the PCC are that the constitutional documents to be used for the exams are those current when registration opened. Since registration for the July exams opened on May 1, the 2015-2017 Book of Order and the 2014 Book of Confessions (with the new Heidelberg translation but not the Belhar Confession) will be used for this round of exams. The first exams to use the 2016 Book of Confessions including Belhar will be the October 2016 exams (with registration opening August 1). The Polity, Theology, and Worship & Sacraments exams each have up to 9 hours allotted for their completion from the time they are begun within the 60-hour window from 8:00 a.m. ET on Thursday to 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday of the testing week.

    by Tim Cargal

    July 5, 2016


  2. With the recent passage of the Belhar Confession, will it be addressed in either the July Worship and Sacrament's or Theology exams? In addition, if taking both, is a nine hour period allotted for each separately or is there just one nine hour period for both?

    by Olivia Smith

    July 4, 2016


  3. You may leave the website, but should first click the "Save and remain" button on the page to transfer your work to the servers. Do not click the "Submit" button on the last screen until you are finished with the exam since that will end your access to the exam. Finally, leaving the site does not pause the time; exams must be completed within nine (9) hours of when the first question is displayed.

    by Tim Cargal

    April 20, 2016


  4. I am scheduled to take the Polity exam on April 21, 2016. While I understand the 9 hour window, is it permissible to sign in and out during that window? If I do, will my answers be lost?

    by Olivia Hudson Smith

    April 20, 2016


Join the Discussion