NEBOSH Open Book Exams: What Can You Expect?

Industry News By Matthew Coombes

Most organisations have had to find a way to adapt in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and NEBOSH are no exception. They’ve announced plans to change the way assessments work for a selection of courses, in order to help keep learners safe and able to continue with their education with as little disruption as possible.

What are the main changes?

The biggest change to be announced so far is the introduction of open-book exams. These are replacing conventional in-person closed book exams, which were typically held in public venues like hotel function suites and watched over by invigilators. Open book exams can be done in your own home or another suitable location, such as a private office, and users will be allowed to use relevant textbooks and other resources.

Will it affect me?

For the time being, open-book exams will only be used for Unit 1 of the NEBOSH National and International General Certificates. You will be affected by this change if you are studying one of the following units:

  • NG1
  • IG1
  • NGC1
  • IGC1

If you are taking a NEBOSH Construction or Fire certificate that includes studying one of the above units, you will only do an open book exam for that unit, and the rest of the course will be assessed in the way it usually is. If you are studying with ACT we will contact you as soon as possible if the situation does change, and explain your options.
All other units in the National and International General Certificates remain unchanged for now.

What is an open book examination?

Open book exams test the same learning outcomes, subjects and assessment criteria as the usual invigilator lead exams would. However, the questions are slightly different than you might expect.
Open book exams typically test your understanding of the subject by asking you to apply your knowledge to a range of scenarios. For example, you might be provided with a description of a workplace, and an incident that occurs there. You may be asked to imagine you occupy a specific role, such as a health and safety manager, and be asked what steps you would take to manage the situation and prevent it from happening again.
Each scenario provided may be broken down into specific tasks, and the exam paper will specify how many marks can be gained from each answer to give you an idea of how much time to spend on the answer.

How long will I have to complete the exam?

Exam markers will expect a higher level of reflection and detail than a traditional exam, therefore you will be given 24 hours to research and complete the exam. You don’t have to complete the exam all in one go, as long as it’s started and completed within the 24-hour timeframe. NEBOSH will still specify the date that the examination will take place, as all learners will need to complete the exam at the same time. Your learning provider will contact you with the date of the exam. The 24 hour time period is to allow for learners across time zones, and those with family and other work commitments.

How long should it take to complete?

If you are able to focus on your exam with no distractions, NEBOSH estimates it will take between four and five hours.

What do I need to complete the exam?

This examination will be completed online, and so a reliable internet connection and laptop or computer are required.
NEBOSH recommends making sure you have the following items ready for when the exam begins:

  • A desk or table big enough to organise reading materials and hand-write any useful notes
  • A comfortable chair
  • Good lighting
  • A comfortable temperature
  • A clock to monitor the time. The submission deadline will be in BST, so please bear this in mind if you are submitting from outside the UK
  • A supply of refreshments and snacks to maintain energy levels.

What happens afterwards?

After you have submitted your exam, your learning provider will be in touch to arrange a post-examination interview. More details will be provided on this closer to the date of the examination.

What do I need to do now?

Your learning provider should be contacting you shortly to confirm your examination and answer any questions you might have.
If you are learning with ACT and have questions about the exam, please contact us at or phone us on 01384 447923

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