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  9. Studying for the NEBOSH General Certificate Assessment

Studying for the NEBOSH General Certificate Assessment


Like the vast majority of other accredited health and safety qualifications, the NEBOSH General Certificate requires candidates to undertake and pass an assessment at the end of the course in order to prove that they have learnt and understood the information which has been taught on the course syllabus. The whole point of any health and safety training course is to provide the necessary knowledge to the attendees which they can implement when back in the workplace in order to reduce the likelihood of themselves suffering an injury, or creating an incident which can endanger the safety, health and wellbeing of their fellow colleagues and/or members of the nearby public. Without this knowledge there is a far greater probability of them causing an accident and putting themselves and others at risk.

The accredited certificate is not only proof of a person's knowledge and understanding of the information, but also recognises the fact that they have put a lot of time, effort and dedication into studying for the assessment and how to apply this knowledge to actual situations.

The Importance of Revision

When studying for the assessment on a course such as the NEBOSH General Certificate, candidates must approach the task diligently and with a determination to succeed. Far too many attend the training but then feel that the assessment can be achieved by simply turning up on the day and writing down what they can remember from the course. The reality is that the wealth of information taught on a course like the NEBOSH General means that comprehensive revision is essential to refresh the memory and allow a candidate to pull this information from their brain and write it down when answering an assessment question.

Study Area

Along with understanding the need to study and revise, candidates also need to recognise the importance of performing quality exam revision rather than just sheer quantity in terms of time spent. Fundamentally this comes down to ensuring that revision sessions are done in a dedicated environment such as a quiet room which is free from distractions. Spending two hours reading the textbook whilst frequently glancing up at the television or listening to music will be far less productive than spending one hour in a quiet study area. The room should also be well-lit to prevent eye strain and the subsequent feeling of tiredness that comes with it. Ideally, the room should be as large as possible and with a window, and the study desk surface should be large enough to enable you to spread out your books and course materials and write notes easily.

Sit NEBOSH General Certificate Exams as Soon After the Course as Possible

The NEBOSH General Certificate is a Sizeable Qualification

After reading through the content of a NEBOSH General Certificate course it becomes clear that there is an enormous amount of information taught and knowledge imparted by the course tutor. All of this learning needs to be absorbed and retained by the individual so that they can call upon it when it comes to the exams and assessments.

Giving the Course the Respect it Demands

A number of people fail to achieve the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification because they do not afford it the respect it deserves, insofar as accepting that there is a lot of detail to be learnt. All too often certain candidates, particularly those who have already worked in a health and safety role for a period of time, turn up to the course with the attitude that any questions asked will simply be a matter of common sense and that they will be able to answer everything based on their experiences in the workplace.

The reality of the NEBOSH General Certificate, as it is for other qualifications and indeed health and safety in general, is that it is not just about common sense alone. Obviously there is always a large element of common sense which needs to be applied in any workplace or situation to avoid certain risks, but there is so much more to staying safe than common sense alone.

As far as the NEBOSH General is concerned, the course syllabus contains detailed information on such topics as relevant legislation, correct procedures for issues like accident reporting and investigation, safe exposure limits for hazardous substances, minimum distances for operating vehicles near electricity cables etc. This information is not simple common sense; it is specific detail which needs to be learnt.

Anyone who fails to approach the course in the right frame of mind and commit themselves to the fact that they will need to properly study and learn such detailed information will struggle to achieve the qualification. This is especially true of the NGC1 unit which focuses on health and safety law and legislation. This information cannot be guessed; it needs to be taught, understood and remembered.

The Need for Exams Soon After the Course Finishes

The very fact that there is so much detailed information which needs to be learnt is the same reason why the exams for the NEBOSH General Certificate need to be taken as soon after the course as possible. The more time that elapses between learning the information and recalling it in the exam, the greater the likelihood that it will have been forgotten during that time. This results in lost marks, too many of which can culminate in a fail and the need to re-take a unit at a later date, which causes even more time to elapse and more information to be forgotten.

Some candidates will intentionally try and spread out the taking of NEBOSH General exams. Whilst this may give them more time to devote to the study and revision for each unit, it is normally more than offset by the knowledge forgotten from the course itself, leading to a poor exam performance.

The Disadvantage of Waiting for a NEBOSH Standard Exam Sitting

Smaller training companies attempt to keep costs and NEBOSH General Certificate course prices low by linking into the NEBOSH standard exam sittings. These are exam sittings which are held by NEBOSH every quarter during the year. Whilst it may keep course prices low, it can mean a wait of up to three months between the end of the course and taking the exam. This also assumes that a candidate can attend the exams scheduled for that specific date. If not, it will mean another three month wait before the next sitting comes around. With so much happening in a person's work and personal life in that three months, a lot of information can be forgotten.

Larger health and safety training providers pay NEBOSH to be able to schedule exam sittings at their own premises when they choose. Scheduling courses which finish on a Friday, with the exams scheduled for the Monday, enables delegates to go into the exams with the information taught during the course fresh in their minds. Consequently, pass rates tend to be far higher, saving both time and money for delegates in not having to take exam re-sits.


The NEBOSH General Certificate qualification does take a lot of effort and dedication to achieve but it is worth it for those who successfully achieve it. Not only does it provide a great deal of information which a person can use to prevent harm from coming to themselves and to their colleagues, but it can also improve future job prospects as well as providing a solid platform for progression onto further health and safety qualifications like the prestigious NEBOSH Diploma for instance.

It is hard enough to achieve a NEBOSH General Certificate qualification without making life even more difficult for yourself by leaving a large amount of time between the exams and the course. Sitting the exams as soon as possible will give you the best possible chance of recalling information to answer the questions set.

The Dangers of Overconfidence in a NEBOSH General Certificate Exam

Rather than a lack of knowledge, one of the primary reasons for a candidate failing one or more of the assessments which accompany NEBOSH General Certificate courses is because of overconfidence, and the subsequent problems which this creates.

Confidence in Exams is Not Always a Bad Thing

Of course, being confident when going into examinations is typically a good thing. Feeling nervous will frequently lead to forgetting vital information and/or failing to answer the questions in the specific way in which they are asked (state, list, explain, define etc - see more on this on Point 2 - Not answering the questions according to how they are asked). No matter how much self study has been undertaken before sitting down for the course exam, nerves have been the nemesis of many a student.

Overconfidence can be Detrimental to Exam Success

At the other end of the spectrum, overconfidence can be just as damaging. Even before setting foot in the building for day one of the NEBOSH General course, some delegates will believe that they already know all of the information, perhaps even more than the course tutor, and that everything taught on the training course will either be simple common sense or a re-cap of what they already know. This can be particularly true of those who have been working in an industry for many years where they have the potential to encounter numerous hazards, and so feel that they have already acquired sufficient knowledge regarding health and safety during their career. The fact that their manager and employer has deemed it necessary to enrol them on the course suggests otherwise though.

The NEBOSH General Certificate Comprises a Lot of Information to Learn

Not only is the delegate likely to approach the exams in an overconfident or even dismissive manner, but they will probably also take the same attitude towards the course tuition too. The amount of information contained on the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus is substantial, with the course duration typically 10 days of full time training. Some individuals resent having to sit through a two week course, even if work are picking up the cost and they are still being paid for attending, believing that it is a waste of their time and like being back at school.

Whatever their attitude towards the course or exam, the simple reality is that in all likelihood they will need to achieve this qualification in order to either continue in their current employment with the company, or to move on to a higher position with that company or another employer. Overconfidence or arrogance is likely to result in one or both of the following two consequences:

Missing Critical Information

A person may think they know everything there is to know about health and safety in the workplace, but the topic is so vast that this is highly improbable. Consequently, not paying attention in class to the course tutor will result in missing vital information which will not only be required for the exam, but would also serve the person well when they are back in the workplace in regards to keeping themselves and others free from coming to harm. The NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus will also teach subjects which the individual had not even considered before as a potential issue such as psychological health hazards or the moral reasons for implementing health and safety standards and procedures.

If the candidate misses this information when it is taught due to not paying attention during the class, they will not be able to put it down on the exam paper should a question on this topic come up. These lost marks can be the difference between a pass and a fail.

Not Answering the Questions According to How They Are Asked

Passing the examinations is not just a matter of learning all there is to know about the subject. NEBOSH exam questions beginning with verbs such as explain, define, list, outline etc will need answering in different ways, and the number of marks available will also serve to determine the length and type of answer demanded.

This is information which a person will not know unless they have been taught it by the course tutor. It is therefore not sufficient to just go straight into the exam thinking that it can be easily passed, as even with all of the knowledge in the world, if the candidate does not answer the question in the format required by the question, they will receive little or no marks for their efforts.


So in conclusion, whilst confidence is important when it comes to the NEBOSH General Certificate exam, overconfidence and arrogance which results in a person not giving the course syllabus the attention and respect it necessitates will find themselves at a major disadvantage when it comes to sitting the exams; so much so that it may result in failure and non-achievement of this sought-after health and safety qualification.

Why are NEBOSH General Certificate Pass Rates Better by Not Linking to Standard Exam Sittings?

What are NEBOSH Standard Exam Sittings?

NEBOSH accredited courses and qualifications such as the NEBOSH General Certificate require delegates to sit and pass assessments at the conclusion of the training in order to demonstrate that they have acquired and retained a sufficient level of health and safety knowledge to achieve the qualification in question. Rather than handing them out to anyone who attends, the prestige attached to and associated with a NEBOSH qualification is due to the fact that only those who have worked hard both during the course and in the exam preparation and revision needed will score highly enough in any written and practical assessments to achieve it.

NEBOSH hold four examination sessions every three months in March, June, September and December where candidates taking the course with health and safety training providers who cannot or will not pay to hold their own examination sessions can attend.

Does Every Health and Safety Provider Put Their Students on NEBOSH Standard Sittings?

No. Larger health and safety training providers pay for the privilege of calling their own examination sessions at their own training venues at any time of the year. Ideally these are scheduled immediately after the course has finished, and is a significant reason for the often much higher pass rates than those achieved by smaller providers whose delegates have to wait for the standard exam sittings.

Why is a Candidate More Likely to Pass a NEBOSH Exam by Not Attending a Standard Sitting?

The answer to this question is because of the length of time between the person finishing the training and taking their exams on the subject. As time passes, more and more information is forgotten which the delegate would need in their exam to successfully and thoroughly answer the questions posed. With possible waits of up to three months between the end of the training and sitting the examination, it is easy to see why these candidates will struggle in the exams.

The NEBOSH General Certificate courses we offer nearly always conclude on a Friday and the exams held on the Monday, which allows course attendees to spend the weekend revising for the exams. This enables them to go into the exam with the maximum amount of information fresh in their minds and ready to recall.

Examinations are also held at the same premises to where the training takes place, which negates the need for people to have to travel to another location such as they would were they to attend a NEBOSH standard exam sitting, which could be in an entirely different city.

External Candidates on NEBOSH Exams

There are also limited spaces available on the NEBOSH exam sittings for external candidates who have studied elsewhere or need to re-sit a particular NEBOSH exam unit. The popularity of the training courses means that these places are extremely limited however, so booking well in advance is essential, especially as registration closes two weeks before the exam date. For more information on NEBOSH Exam only bookings please click here.

NEBOSH General Certificate Articles

Please see below for some articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification which you may be interested in:

Articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate course

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