A new approach

12 October 2020

NEBOSH, one of the world’s leading providers of health, safety and environmental qualifications and courses, has launched a transformation project that will enable all of its learners to carry out their assessments from a safe location of their choosing.

LIKE ORGANISATIONS around the world, NEBOSH is adapting to the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. It therefore bought forward and expanded plans to offer remote and online assessments for its range of qualifications and, in August, 8,000 learners from across the world took the first open book examination. 

About NEBOSH open book examinations

Open book examinations enable learners to sit their NEBOSH assessment in their own home or another safe and suitable location where they can concentrate. In a NEBOSH open book examination learners have 24 hours to complete their paper – using NEBOSH’s online examination platform they log in and download their question paper, complete their examination, and then submit their answer paper using the online platform. 

The questions asked are different to those in our previous closed book examinations. NEBOSH’s open book examinations present a real-life scenario followed by a series of related questions that require learners to demonstrate the application of a range of skills – such as analysis, critical thinking and research – all of which link back to the syllabus and knowledge they have gained through their studies. 

The first phase of this project introduced open book examinations for units NG1, IG1, NGC1 and IGC1. These units are part of the National and International General Certificate, the National and International Certificate in Fire Risk Management, and the National and International Certificate in Construction Health and Safety. Over 8,000 learners from countries around the world took the first examination where they were presented with a warehouse scenario and asked to complete a range of real-life tasks. Feedback has already been positive with learners valuing the thought provoking, practical and realistic nature of the assessment

The same rigour

As members of the health and safety community we know how important it is that our qualification holders have the skills and knowledge to make a positive impact on the workplace. One of our priorities in this project was to uphold the rigour and recognition people have come to expect from NEBOSH over its 40-year history.

Closing interviews

A key part of NEBOSH’s open book examination process is the introduction of closing interviews. Although they are not part of the assessment the purpose of these interviews is two-fold; to confirm the identity of the learner and to check that the work is their own. 

The closing interviews last approximately 15 minutes and take place with Learning Partners via video conferencing such as Zoom or Skype. Learners are asked to show their identification and then asked a series of questions specific to the examination paper to check the answers they submitted are their own work. 

“At the closing interview with the learners, I observed that while some have shown a clear knowledge and understanding of the subject matter…some learners failed to follow instructions. 

“Learning tips to anyone planning to write this exam: always read the instructions on each of the questions.”

Jacinta Onwuekwe
HSE training manager, UAW Safety and Consultancy 

Our examiners

So, although the open book examinations are new, the rigour of NEBOSH qualifications has remained. Our Examiners are still some of the best in the profession; they all hold a qualification in occupational health and safety, are a Chartered member of IOSH (or working towards) and have real life health and safety experience. What’s more they undergo training and quality assurance to make sure the marking is accurate and consistent so that learners achieve the results they deserve.

“I thought the open book exam for the NEBOSH General Certificate would ruin the credibility of the qualification. I was very wrong! It was much more challenging than the closed book exam in my opinion.”

Daniel Naldrett
Health and safety support, Wren Kitchens

Dee Arp, NEBOSH director of learning and assessment says, “The health of our learners is paramount. We want them to feel safe when they carry out their NEBOSH assessments and the best way to do this was to transform the way we do things. 

“We have worked closely with our regulator, SQA Accreditation, to maintain the rigour and recognition people have come to expect from NEBOSH over its 40-year history. COVID-19 has certainly presented us with some challenges but the changes we’re making will bring us up to speed with the latest awarding technology so that learners can complete their studies and gain the qualification they have worked hard for. What’s more, open book examinations give our learners the opportunity to continue developing their skills and knowledge through the assessment process.” 

Open book examinations

More open book examinations have been scheduled for 2020 and 2021 and, from 2 December, six additional languages – Arabic, French, Portuguese (European), Russian, Spanish (European) and Turkish – will be available. Learners who want to register for an open book examination can do so via their NEBOSH accredited Learning Partner. 

Top tips

Give yourself the greatest chance of success and make sure you are prepared:

  • Study and revise

Make sure you thoroughly understand the topic so that you apply your knowledge to the unfamiliar scenario presented in the examination. 

  • Prepare an environment that:

    • Is comfortable with a desk and chair

    • Has got room for your notes, books and other resources

    • Is free from distractions

    • Is well lit

    • Has a good internet connection available

    • Is not too hot or too cold

  • Read through the resources provided on the NEBOSH website

  • Familiarise yourself with the online examination platform before the day of your examination

  • Read the questions thoroughly to ensure you provide an answer that scores well

  • Do not cut and paste large amounts of text as you will not gain marks for work that is not your own

To help you prepare NEBOSH has provided a range of guides, videos and sample papers on its website at: