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Jessie Ball duPont Library

General Ordination Examination

Resource for M.Div. students considering the GOE exam

Taking the GOE in the Library

General Ordination Examination

Every year in early January senior seminary students take the General Ordination Examination. The best place to take the exam depends on each student, but I would like to suggest that the library might be a good candidate to take this important exam. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Our Theology Reference collection is a great resource. In addition, a ready-reference truck with specific materials for each individual exam is available for everyone to consult.
  2. We have both individual and group study rooms that can be used by our students. Thus, you can reserve these rooms in advance and ask for assistance with other library resources.
  3.  Drinks and snacks are available to all students, ad libitum

Frequently Asked Questions about GOE

Frequently Asked Questions

(source:, accessed January 2, 2017)

When does the GOE occur?

  • Every fall, the GBEC invites bishops, seminary deans and others to nominate Candidates to sit for the General Ordinantion Examination. The GBEC offers the GOE once a year in January.


  • The GBEC electronically administers the GOE at Episcopal seminaries and at other locations in this country and abroad with the help of Seminary/Group Liaisons and with Special Liaisons appointed by bishops.

How long does it last?

  • The GBEC will administer the 2017 GOE on January 3, January 4 and January 6 (January 5 will be a day off). Candidates will have three-and-a-half hours each morning and afternoon to answer one question in about 1,000 words covering a given canonical area (The Holy Scriptures, History of the Christian Church, Christian Theology, The Practice of Ministry, Christian Worship, and Christian Ethics and Moral Theology) - a total of six questions - all of which will be "Open Resources." The GBEC writes questions Candidates can answer in two hours but allows an extra hour-and-a-half.

How does the GBEC create the GOE?

  • The GBEC produces a new GOE annually through a year-long process of conceiving and formulating questions based on the six canonical areas, time constraints of the exam, input from seminary curricula, and the Standards. Board Members and volunteers form six teams, each responsible for one canonical area and for constructing questions designed to give Candidates plenty of opportunity to show their knowledge and understanding. Teams first work independently, then seek feedback from other teams and from staff and from a testing consultant, and finally receive feedback from the entire GBEC. Candidates may want to look atPrevious Exams.

What forms do the GOE answers take?

  • The GOE has asked for answers in the following forms: essays or short answers; multiple-choice or true/false selections; a combination of some of these. At present, the GOE consists of six essay questions, each representing one of the canonical areas. All six of the 2016 questions will allow "Open Resources."

What does the GOE cover?

  • The GOE covers the six canonical areas The Holy Scriptures, History of the Christian Church, Christian Theology, The Practice of Ministry, Christian Worship, and Christian Ethics and Moral Theology

What do "Open Resources" and "Limited Resources" and "No Outside Resources" mean?

  • The GOE asks Candidates to cite all sources consulted whether or not directly quoted and automatically checks all GOE answers with iThenticate and other plagiarism-detection software to ensure originality of work and accuracy of citations.
  • "Open Resources" allow Candidates to utilize all electronic and printed reference and other materials. However, the GBEC creates questions not to determine the Candidate's ability to cite facts, figures and theologies, but rather how well the Candidate can think and write theologically about specific issues while having resource materials to confirm facts cited in answers. These questions allow the Candidate to use any resources at his or her disposal - such as books, class notes, and electronic material. "Open Resources" questions should not pressure Candidates to produce detailed, perfect and/or voluminous answers, but rather allow Candidates to refresh their minds on facts and details.
  • "Limited Resources" questions aim to find out what the Candidate has learned while giving the examinee access to specified limited resources, e.g. only the Book of Common Prayer, 1982 Hymnal, and specified Bible. These questions might ask about the practice of liturgy or for the exegesis of Scripture. However, the GBEC's current policy is to ask only "Open Resorces" questions.
  • "No Outside Resources" questions try to discover how well the Candidate responds using his or her own resources - application and expression knowledge gained by learning and experience; intelligence; and memory. These questions do not allow any outside resources. However, the GBEC's current policy is to ask only "Open Resorces" questions.

What can the Candidate do to prepare?

  • Life experiences, theological study and clinical training are themselves preparation. A person who has read, marked, learned and inwardly digested his or her studies should do well. Cramming will not be helpful and may in fact be harmful by causing lack of rest and stress.
    • Review previous GOEs and practice answering some of their questions.
    • Join a GOE preparation study group if it is calm, orderly and prayerful rather than anxious, unfocused and spiritually ungrounded.
    • Review the six canonical areas, remembering that proficiency in them includes the ability to communicate ideas clearly and accurately.
    • Familiarize yourself with the GBEC website and how it works. Log in and write a practice question! Make sure you have loggedin and are ready to go when the question actiually becomes available so you are comfortable with the electronic system.
    • Come rested and free of other responsibilities.
    • Have books, notes and other resources organized and at hand when answering questions because at present all qurestions allow "Open Resources."

What are some pointers for answering GOE questions?

  • GOE questions ask for information and then ask you to do something with that information, such as compare and contrast it or connect its relevancy to something in the church today. So don't just dump information. Think about the question, provide the information it requests, and then make the connections for which it asks. If English is not your primary language, please state that fact as requested at the outset of the GOE.
    • Manage your time so you can organize, write, edit and submit your answer before your time expires and the clock locks you out. All questions ask for 1,000-word responses within a generous 3 1/2 hours. Don't race the clock! The GBEC will not accept late answers.
      • Answer the question asked rather than the one you wish had been asked. Read and reread and understand the question! The GOE questions are written to be answerable in two hours, but actually you will have 3 1/2 hours.
    • Take time to think carefully about the answer (perhaps even briefly outlining it) before beginning to write.
    • The 1,000-word limit is an important part of the questions, so answers should not be overly brief or too long.
    • Answers should speak clearly and directly to all parts of the question and should follow the structure of the question. Leaving part of the question unanswered is the same as not answering the question.
    • These essay questions ask for biblical, theological, or historical information and/or current issues and life situations and that you respond in various ways: How do you do this? How do you perceive the issues involved? How aware are you of the available resources? What criteria do you apply? All of these will determine the quality of the response. Personal witness is welcome and is sometimes requested, but it is not a substitute for a solid answer.
    • Do not recycle former work of dubious relevance to the question, and do not overdo quotations. The answers call for your work rather than someone else's work.
    • Be sure to note the varied dimensions of the questions. Some questions may require a pastoral awareness of the people to whom the answers are addressed.
    • Use language precisely and correctly.
    • Check spelling and grammar through a word processor, but do not rely on it and check them yourself as well.

Do answers require citations or references?

  • Absolutely! The GBEC asks Candidates to cite all sources consulted whether or not directly quoted and checks all GOE answers with iThenticate and other plagiarism-detection software to insure originality of work and accuracy of citations.
  • Citations are an important component of any academic paper. Candidates should use parenthetical citations and make them as short as possible. A  bibliography is not necessary. The GBEC is more interested in your ability to use sources correctly than in your precise style of citation.
    • Cite all sources, including theological, ethical and historical dictionaries and class notes (may state parenthetically "Class Notes").
    • Put direct quotations of more than five words within quotation marks. Quotes from the Internet must include website reference.
    • Credit the source of any quotations or paraphrases in parentheses.

For previous exams, see this link:

(source:, accessed January 2, 2017)