PCUSA Tackling Low Bible Test Scores Among Seminary Students


(By Michael Gryboski, The Christian Post). The Presbyterian Church (USA) is looking into ways to handle an apparent drop in satisfactory rates in Bible test scores among people preparing for ministry within the Mainline denomination.

Earlier this month, a task force created by the executive committee of the Committee on Theological Education released a statement on the Bible Content Examinations and a trend of lower than average evaluation rates that began in the summer of 2015.

The task force recommended that candidates take the BCE after a they’ve had a full year of education in theology, that the COTE convene a group of scholars to create a study guide for the BCE and other resources for the BCE, and that the questions be released following their use in the exam.

The Rev. Timothy B. Cargal, assistant stated clerk for preparation for ministry in the PCUSA Office of the General Assembly, told The Christian Post that the issue was less about lower scores and more specifically about lower “satisfactory rates.”

“Because a satisfactory evaluation requires a score of 70 percent or higher and the median scores fell below that level in summer 2015 and winter 2016, majorities of those who took the BCE during those administrations did not receive satisfactory evaluations,” explained Cargal.

“For the summer 2016 and winter 2017 BCE administrations, the median scores were within satisfactory range, and so majorities of those taking those administrations did satisfy the requirement, though the majorities remained below levels typically seen in the recent past.”

Cargal also told CP that he believed the “precipitating factor” for the lower satisfactory rates was the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates’ decision to quit using questions from past exams that were publicly released before 2009.

“The BCE has always and continues to use some questions from previous exams as a means for working toward a similar overall difficulty of the test from one administration to the next,” continued Cargal.





  1. REPLY
    Steve says

    Although I passed the Bible Content Exam when I first took it, after 20 years as a pastor, preaching and teaching the Bible, I would do a much better job (I hope). Perhaps instead of testing those who want to be pastors about their knowledge of the Bible, we should test PC (USA) pastors every 5 years or so on their knowledge of the Bible?

  2. REPLY
    Donald says

    Once the committee decided to actually think up new questions, ones that would genuinely test knowledge of the Bible, test scores fell and revealed the actual level of Bible knowledge among Presbyterian seminarians. Reverting back to using questions from old tests only tests how much seminarians are able to memorize the correct answers from prior tests and not knowledge of the Bible itself.

  3. REPLY
    James H says

    The louisville sluggers are worried about Bible test scores? Most of the louisville sluggers don’t believe the Bible anyway, just look at the last GA if there’s any doubt

  4. REPLY
    Joan says

    Tests not only test the students by also other factors…program of learning, methods, any changes in full time to parttime(perhaps part time and other factors limiting extent of students prep, and study……has student population changed, etc.

    • REPLY
      Donald says

      Not really. When I was in seminary during the last century, the BCE was the major bug-a-boo among my classmates for one reason – they were not really acquainted with the both the broad sweep of Bible content but also had not undergone a Pastor’s Instruction Class / Confirmation Class than emphasized Bible memorization. As a result, they did not truly know Bible content; they only knew what questions were likely to appear on each year’s exam.

      Having undergone a Pastor’s Instruction Class that had emphasized learning specific Bible verses as well as my practice of continuing to have a daily devotional practice which focused on the personal study of a Bible’s book each year, the exam was easy to ace.

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