Ordination examinations are given by an ecclesiastical body as a way to ensure that a candidate is adequately equipped, called and prepared for ministry in that body.
The first three, respectively, are taken in a proctored setting over the course of two days. The fourth is given to students at the conclusion of the other three, and is taken home for completion. In addition, all candidates for ministry must pass a fifth ordination exam typically given the first year of seminary called the Bible Content Exam.
Exams are graded by at least two readers on a scale of 1 to 5. 3 is a passing score, and 5 is outstanding. If one reader passes a student, and a second fails that student, a third reader is then called in to make a final judgment.
Special considerations are made for students whose first language is not English, and the exam is regularly administered in Spanish and Korean.
It is common for students to have to take their exams several times before passing. Up to 28% of ordained ministers will have repeated at least one exam. Some, though not all, presbyteries impose a limit on the number of times their candidates may attempt an exam. Others allow for alternative formats. Still, a fair number of students do not pass all of their exams after several tries. It is not unheard of for a candidate to be dismissed from the ordination process after multiple attempts to pass the tests have failed.