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Preparation for Ministry

Standard Ordination Exams


Spring 2023 PCC Meeting Materials
PCC Statement—March 15, 2023


The General Assembly requires that everyone who serves in the ministry of Word and Sacrament, whether they proceed to ordination through the preparation for ministry process or are received from another denomination, must complete five standard examinations.

The Bible Content Examination assesses general knowledge of the Bible and its themes. It is usually completed early in seminary training and can be used to direct certain courses of study within the person’s theological education.

The remaining four tests, referred to collectively as the “Senior Ordination Exams,” are designed to assess a person’s ability to integrate academic theological study with the practical work of ministry in a pastoral context in the areas of Biblical Exegesis, Theological Competence, Worship and Sacraments, and Church Polity.

Handbook on Ordination Examinations

The “Handbook on Standard Ordination Examinations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” is designed to serve as a resource for inquirers/candidates, presbytery committees, and ministers of other denominations who may be taking the PC(USA)’s ordination exams.

The Handbook contains basic information about the ordination exams — the purpose of the five examinations, how to register for exams, dates of administration, testing sites, fees, etc. It also offers helpful materials for those preparing to take the four senior ordination examinations, such as instructions for the exams, tips on preparing for and writing exams, resources to be used, an outline of the evaluation process, and the process for appealing the final evaluation of an exam.

The handbook has been extensively revised in conjunction with the move to offering senior exams on a quarterly basis and the changes to the time limits for the exams.  To be sure you have the latest release, look for “June 2021 / 3.1" on the front cover.


Examination Preparation tools

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Equip training site offers a variety of video training resources to assist in preparing for the ordination exams.

Some of these courses provide overviews of what is covered in each exam and give tips on how to study for them. Now that all ordination exams are administered online, other videos provide demonstrations of how to use the online exam system and access the practice area. Be sure to also check out our FAQ page that includes some one to two minute video demonstrations of some most asked about issues.

Presbyteries Cooperative Committee on Exams

PCC Annual Meeting

TBD | For more information, please contact Tim Cargal

The Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCCEC) is a permanent committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The committee is responsible for:

  • composing the five standard examinations for ordination;
  • establishing the process for administering the exams;
  • training and overseeing readers who evaluate the exams;
  • releasing exam results to test takers, presbyteries, and seminaries.

See a current roster of the PCCEC