How hard is the NEBOSH General Certificate?

5 minute read | 12 March 2019 15:00:00 GMT

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The NEBOSH General Certificate is a foundation level qualification. It's level 3 on the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and level 6 on the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework. 

People who pass the course are qualified to manage health and safety. And that’s serious job, they don’t just hand it out to anyone!

That said, over 120,000 people took their NEBOSH General Certificate in 2017, showing that with a bit of hard work and proper guidance, there’s no reason why you can’t pass with flying colours.

Here are just a few factors to consider before taking the NEBOSH General Certificate to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.

Getting to grips with content

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers all aspects of health and safety management. It looks at topics such as health and safety regulation, management systems, risk assessment, audits and hazard control in all types of workplaces. There’ll no doubt be concepts and terminology in the syllabus that you’re not familiar with, especially if you’re new to health and safety, and you’ll be asked to discuss these topics in detail in your exam.

But don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of chances throughout your course to ask questions and you’ll be given resources to help explain harder topics in more detail.

Organising your time is essential

As with any qualification, the biggest challenge you’ll face will be time. The NEBOSH General Certificate requires a total of 133 hours of study. This is split into 80 taught hours and 43 hours of private study.

If you’re studying online, planning your study time is essential to getting the most out of your course. Short, regular study sessions are more effective than long, random ones, so you’ll need to find time to study most evenings and on the weekend.

If you’re in the classroom, you’ll need to discuss with your employer the possibility of taking 2 weeks off work. Plus extra time for your exams. You’ll also be expected to find time in the evenings to complete homework, as well as completing your own study in between your classroom sessions.

Whatever learning method you choose, it’s easy to fall behind if you don’t keep on top of your studies. This may seem like hard work now, but it’ll all be worth it when you receive that NEBOSH certificate through the post!

Sitting your exams

To achieve your full qualification, you need to pass 3 exams. That's 2 written exams (1 each for N/IGC1 and GC2) and a practical assignment for GC3.

The pass mark for each unit can vary, but is usually set at 45% for written exams, and 60% for the practical assignment. You’ll be awarded a mark for each assessment. These will then be added together to give you your final overall grade:

Pass: 150-179 marks

Credit: 180 – 209 marks

Distinction: 210 + marks

Written exams consist of 2 sections and you must answer ALL questions within both. Section 1 has 1 “long-answer” question, while section 2 has 10 “short-answer” questions. You’ll have 2 hours to complete the whole paper.

For your GC3 assignment, you’ll need to carry out a risk assessment and write a convincing report to management outlining hazards and risks, with short and long term recommendations persuading them to take action.

To pass your exams you must be able to clearly communicate your understanding of health and safety regulation and key concepts, as well as your ability to apply them to a workplace. This means having a good level of writing and oral communication skills, as well as the ability to critically evaluate situations and use evidence to back your conclusions.

Many learners get nervous at the thought of exams, especially if they haven’t studied in a long time, but don’t let that put you off. You’ll get lots of revision and exam guidance throughout your course to help you answer questions and take the stress out of your exam day.

Motivation is key

Lots of us won’t have taken a qualification since university or school. You may have even forgotten what it’s like to study and how much work it takes.  

Above everything else, taking a qualification off your own back takes a lot of motivation and commitment. Although you’ll have tutors on hand to help you with content, they won’t chase you up on work you haven’t done. You’ll be expected to complete reading and set deadlines on your own, which is a lot harder than it sounds when you have a full-time job and other responsibilities.

Getting a diary and creating a study plan is essential, it will make your learning experience a lot more enjoyable and help you stay on top of your studies. If you do start to feel overwhelmed at any point, you can always get in touch with your course tutor who will be able to offer some friendly advice and put your mind at ease. 

The NEBOSH General Certificate is the most popular and widely recognised health and safety course in the world and a great way to start on your health and safety journey. If you would like more information on the course, download your copy of the NEBOSH Certificate Taster Pack!

Want to know more? Get Your Free NEBOSH Certificate Taster Pack

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Rosie Thomas

Rosie is the International Marketing Executive at Astutis. After graduating with a degree in Business and Management from Aberystwyth University, she joined the Astutis team to work closely with our learning development team and health and safety consultants to create useful content for our readers. Since taking her Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing online, Rosie particularly enjoys writing how-to-guides and career posts, using her own experience of online learning and professional development to offer advice to those thinking of taking a health and safety career. Rosie has also taken her NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.