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Genus Level Taxonomic Certification Examinations (images-USB and online, specimens & slides)


The Specimens to Genus Tests

Genus level images and specimen based tests are offered separately for both Eastern and Western genera, in which "eastern" genera will be those occurring east of the Rocky Mountains and "western" genera will be those occurring in and west of the Rocky Mountains. Chironomidae (Images), Oligochaeta (Slides) and Mollusk (Images) testing are not divided in eastern and western genera. It should be noted that geographic and phylogenetic coverage of this examination may be modified as testing protocols are improved. Candidates should be prepared to identify genera from throughout the examination region.  Five different Taxonomic Groups for each region may be attempted in the Genus Level.  These may be attempted in independent examinations or may be undertaken in succession at the same examination centre, as time and scheduling permit. The five Taxonomic Groups (east and west) are as follows:

Group 1. General Arthropods(Specimens)- East and West Testing
Genera of Crustacea and arthropods other than EPT and Chironomidae (immatures and adults as appropriate).

Group 2.  EPT (Images Online)- East and West Testing 
Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) genera (nymphs and larvae only).

Group 3.  Chironomidae (Images)- North American
Chironomidae genera (larvae only).

Group 4.  Oligochaeta (Slides)- Only North American genera.

Group 5.  Mollusca  (Images USB)- Only North American genera including introduced genera

Lists of taxa that may occur in the tests can be seen from this link

Test specimens will not include any rare or endangered genera.


Test Conditions

The Genus Level TCE will be available at several designated testing centers. The candidate registration will close at least one month before the scheduled examination date. A Genus Level TCE may also be administered in connection with a course or workshop, or on request to the Taxonomic Certification Program  (TCP). Each Genus Level Center will be staffed by an Examination Supervisor who is a SFS member. The TCE Center may provide equipment(a) dissecting microscopes with magnification of at least 40X and fiber-optic incident and transmitted light and (b) compound microscopes with magnification of at least 400X (1000X preferred) or hard wired computers with reliable internet access. Candidates may bring their own microscopes and computers. Candidates must provide their own literature, forceps, and other examination tools. The TCE Center may provide examination dishes, alcohol, and other necessary supplies. The Genus Level testing will be "open book." Reference specimens are not allowed in specimen or slide testing. Responses will be handwritten on a personalized answer sheet and returned with the test sets.
Please contact your test supervisor about your equipment needs.

Suggested equipment for genus level tests:

Image tests will require a good battery power and internet connection and a USB port for some of the test groups. Wifi has been unreliable and not recommended for testing due to the potential for a dropped signal and lost test portal. In areas that have poor internet USB sticks are available. 


Microscope, cold lamp, any literature (digital or other), forceps, petrie 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.

An extension cord and surge strip if you are plugging in multiple devices.


A cushion to sit on for height adjustment to your scope.


You are not permitted to have any specimens in the room other than the exam specimens.  Please do not bring voucher specimens or your reference collection. 


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 3 hours for the exam.


If a candidate finishes a test early they may leave the room quietly and return for their equipment after the three hour session has finished to avoid being disruptive.


Music and headphones are allowed.  Your cell phones must be turned off or put on silent mode throughout the exam.  No answering cell phone or text in the exam room. 



A maximum of 3 hours will be allowed for examination of each Taxonomic Group. When more than one taxonomic group is being attempted in a single examination, each Taxonomic Group will be examined in succession with up to 3 hours allotted for each Taxonomic Group.

The specimen based Genus Level Examination will be administered with actual specimens that are mature and relatively intact. EPT tests and Chironomidae larvae have been imaged and Oligochaeta will be slide-mounted and all others will be alcohol-preserved. For insects, only benthic larvae or adults (not eggs or pupae) will be included. For Annelida, only sexually mature specimens will be included; for Mollusca, only mature specimen images will be included. For each taxonomic group, specimens or images of 20 genera will be provided. These will be selected at random from a list of genera for which specimens or images are available. The distribution of genera in the pool will be weighted by frequency, representative of the overall frequency that each genus occurs in the region. It is possible that a genus will be repeated in the 20 specimens, depending on the random selection.

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 a candidate’s ability to accurately identify it.   Therefore, if a candidate feels a specimen cannot be identified he may ask the examination supervisor and a replacement specimen or slide will be provided. 

Online image tests are chosen randomly from a bank of collages within the chosen TCP Testing Portal. All test candidates for these tests must first register as a member on the TCP web site and know their User name and Password to sit the test. Results are sent immediately following the test, to the email address the candidate registered. 

Saving or copying and image from a TCP test is strictly prohibited and may lead to disqualification from the program. 

To Pass

A score of 95% is considered passing for certification for a particular region and taxonomic group. If more than one taxonomic group is attempted, each part will be scored independently, such that it may be possible for a candidate to be certified for one or more taxonomic groups, but not for others.  A summary of test performance statistics by group and region are available at this link.

On completion of the examination, the test answer sheets are returned to the program coordinator for review.   

Candidates will be contacted by mail with their results.  In cases where candidates get two specimens incorrect (90%) they will be informed by email and the TCP will have both specimens re-examined to ensure that the specimens are correct.  Furthermore, to ensure fairness and that the test is a true reflection of a candidate’s taxonomic ability, we will allow all candidates scoring 90% to take a re-test.  This re-test will take place at a subsequent scheduled certification event.  The re-test will require a $100.00 deposit.  If the candidate is successful and passes the re-test, the deposit will be refunded.  If the candidate fails, the deposit will be forfeited.

The specimens will be retained for at least 30 days, after which the specimens may be discarded.  Once all re-examination has been concluded candidates will be notified by letter of their results.

We would also ask that candidates complete a questionnaire regarding the test, this is available at this link or from the link at the top of this page.  This will assist the programme in maintaining and improving the quality of the TCP.



Appeals must be submitted to the TCP Coordinator within 30 days of the Examination. The TCP Coordinator will refer any appeals to the Taxonomic Certification Committee (TCC), 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.


Registering for a Test

To sign up for a specimen based Genus Level test go to the upcoming tests page and then complete the online form.  Alternatively contact the test contact personFor a list of upcoming test locations and dates click here.

To take an Images online test register on the TCP web site as a member and set up your user name and password. This will allow you to access the free self evaluation test to familiarize you with the testing portal functions you will experience in your actual test. These tests maybe proctored through the TCP administrator using Skype or by setting up an on site Proctor.   

Certified Taxonomists

A list of certified taxonomists is available on the web site for each of the taxonomic groups.  Successful candidates not wishing to be listed should note that when registering for certification.  For those candidates who have been certified and are not listed, please contact the Coordinator to be added to the web page




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