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Taxonomic Examination Instructions

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Taxonomic certification exams will be available at several designated testing centers. They may also be administered in connection with a course or workshop or upon request to the Taxonomic Certification Program Coordinator. Visit the Schedule an Exam page to see the list of available exams and registration information.

Preparing for an Exam

Exam Conditions

  • Each exam event will be staffed by an examination supervisor (proctor) who is a Society for Freshwater Science member.
  • The testing center may provide the following equipment:
    • Dissecting microscopes with a magnification of at least 40X and fiber-optic incident and transmitted light
    • Compound microscopes with a magnification of at least 400X (1000X preferred)
    • Wireless and/or hard-wired computers with reliable internet access
    • Forceps, examination dishes, alcohol, and other examination tools may be provided if proper notice is given of an exam to the Program Coordinator.
  • Candidates may need to bring their own microscopes and computers.
  • Candidates must provide their own literature. The exam is open-book, and candidates may use taxonomic keys as required. Online resources are allowed, however testing centers cannot guarantee internet speeds or access to documents because of firewall security issues. Please confirm with the Program Coordinator.
  • Candidates will receive no assistance in identification during the exam from any other individual.
  • The proctor is there to ensure proper testing conditions during the exam. The proctor can contact the program coordinator during the exam if issues occur.

Permitted During the Exam

  • You are permitted to have drinks during the exam.
  • You may leave the room during the exam to use the restroom or take a break, provided you do it quietly. Keep in mind you are only allotted three hours for the exam (two hours for the diatom exam).
  • Music and headphones are allowed. Your cell phones must be turned off or put on silent mode throughout the exam.

Forbidden During the Exam

  • Specimens other than the exam specimens. Do not bring voucher specimens or your reference collection.
  • Answering cell phone calls or texts in the exam room.
  • Working with another person.

Suggested Equipment for Exams (Specimen or Image)

  • Image-based exams require a computer with good battery power, an internet connection, and a USB port for some test groups. Wi-fi has been unreliable and is not recommended for testing due to the potential for a dropped signal and lost test portal. USB sticks are available for areas that have poor internet connectivity.
  • For specimen-based exams, we suggest you bring:
    • Microscope, cold lamp, forceps, petri dish, squirt bottle (70% ethanol or water). Spectrum vial stand (small Styrofoam block with a hole), pen or pencil, and paper.
    • Extra bulbs for your microscopes and cold lamps and tools required to changed bulbs.
    • A cushion to sit on for height adjustment to your scope.
  • An extension cord and surge strip if you are plugging in multiple devices.
  • Taxonomic keys. Online resources are allowed, however testing centers cannot guarantee internet speeds or access to documents because of firewall security issues. View a list of recommended keys and guides.

Image Testing Instructions

The image-based exams are administered on the Taxonomic Certification Program online exam portal and must be taken in a controlled, supervised environment. To take an exam, you will need to make arrangements with the Program Coordinator, who will arrange for a proctor at an approved test center. (If you are interested in hosting a testing center, please review the requirements and contact the Program Coordinator.)

>>> Please review ahead of your online testing date: How to use Classmarker.com to take your SFS-TCP exam

  • A family-level practice quiz is available online. Start here.
  • Upon arrival at the test center or virtual exam environment (set up via the program coordinator), the proctor will explain the exam conditions and allow you to set up your test station.
  • You will log in to the online testing portal. Log-in credentials will be emailed to you and the proctor before your testing date.
  • Once started, the exam will time out automatically after three hours (two hours for the diatom exam). You may choose to finish the examination at any time. (If the connection is lost during the exam, you may launch a new exam if time allows, or you may schedule another date and time that works for you and the proctor. There is no additional cost for a rescheduled exam.)
  • You can move through the specimens at your own pace. You can return to specimens and change their identification until the exam is finished.
  • Specimens are represented by image collages (Eastern and Wester Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera; North American Chironomidae; and the family-level exam) required to provide identification. To show key features required for identification, an image set may include specimens from more than one genus (family-level exams) or species (genus exams).
  • Identification will be made through “fill in the blank” boxes. “Next” must be clicked to record or change an answer, and after the last question (when ready to end the exam), you must click “Finish Confirm.”
  • At the end of three hours (two hours for the diatom exam) or when you choose to finish the exam, exam results will be sent to your registered email address and the program coordinator.
  • A test score of 95% (38 of 40 images to family level and 19 of 20 images to genus level) will result in successful certification.
  • A score of 90-95% will allow a half-price retake. The fee will be refunded if the retake is successful.
  • Certificates will be mailed to successful test candidates, and their names and affiliations will be posted on the SFS TCP website. Certifications stand for five years.

Specimen Testing Instructions

  • Once started, the exam will time out after three hours (two hours for the diatom exam). You may choose to finish the examination at any time.
  • You can move through the specimens at your own pace. You can return to specimens if you wish to change their identification until the exam is finished.
  • The specimen-based genus-level examination will be administered with actual specimens that are mature and relatively intact.
  • All attempts will be made to provide good quality specimens that are identifiable. However, the Taxonomic Certification Program (TCP) acknowledges that, on occasion, the condition of a particular specimen may compromise your ability to identify it accurately. If you feel a specimen cannot be identified, you may ask the examination proctor, and a replacement specimen or slide will be provided.
  • Answers will be written on exam sheets.
  • Exam sheets are scanned, emailed, and graded by the Program Coordinator.
  • Your score will be emailed to you within five business days (usually one to two days).
  • A test score of 95% (19 of 20 specimens/slides) will result in successful certification.
  • A score of 90-95% will allow a half-price retake. The fee will be refunded if the retake is successful.
  • Certificates will be mailed to successful test candidates, and their names and affiliations will be posted on the SFS TCP website. Certifications stand for five years.

Appeals

Appeals must be submitted to the Program Coordinator within 30 days of the examination. The Program Coordinator will refer any appeals to the Taxonomic Certification Committee, which will render a final decision within 60 days of the examination. An appeal must be accompanied by a US $50.00 deposit, which is refundable if the appeal is upheld.

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