NEBOSH Open Book Examination Guidance

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1. Introduction

NEBOSH are committed to supporting our learners to complete their qualifications and continue their learning journey while staying safe. We are therefore introducing an open book examination that can be taken at home as a replacement for the invigilated paper-based examinations for Unit 1 of our National and International General Certificates.

Open book examinations are commonly used and are as valid and reliable as other forms of assessment. Their introduction will ensure NEBOSH General Certificate learners can continue their learning journey without further delay but with the assurance that the quality and standards NEBOSH qualifications are known for are not compromised. This will include scrutiny for plagiarism and collusion.

If you are a General Certificate Learner, this document will:

  • help you prepare for your open book examination and closing interview
  • clarify what to expect
  • provide guidance on how to perform at your best.

2. The assessment

What is an open book examination?
An open book examination can test the same learning outcomes and assessment criteria as invigilated paper-based examinations. However, unlike a closed book assessment, you can access textbooks and digital resources when completing an open book examination.

Open book examinations test your ability to extract and apply relevant knowledge and organise it to address the question asked.

When will the open book examination be available?

We are currently finalising the new assessment and will confirm the first assessment date shortly. We will ensure you have enough time to revise and prepare in advance.

How will I access and submit my open book examination?

Our internal processes and infrastructure are being adapted to support this alternative assessment.

Once the details have been finalised, we will explain how to register for an assessment. We will communicate these arrangements via our Learning Partners and through NEBOSH’s website, newsletters and social media channels.

Once you have been registered to an open book examination, you will receive further instructions including timings and how to access and submit your assessment.

What will the format of the open book examination be?

The open book assessment will begin by giving you a scenario. This will typically describe a realistic organisation or workplace with an outline of normal operational activities and worker behaviour. The scenario may go on to outline a developing situation, such as an incident or safety intervention. You may be asked to imagine that you hold a specific role, such as a safety manager, in the workplace described.

You will be asked to carry out a series of tasks, which may be split into several sub-tasks. We will specify the maximum marks available for each to help you manage your time. These tasks will partially or entirely draw on the sign posts and evidence within the scenario. Answers therefore need to be relevant to the scenario and, in some cases, specific evidence will be required to support answers.

As there is an expectation of more detail and reflection, you will be given 24 hours to research and complete the examination. This is a challenge that really tests your ability to interpret the scenario before answering the questions set using the knowledge gained through your General Certificate studies. You will be able to complete the assessment at home wherever you are in the world.

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Dependent on the specific scenario, an example question might be:

How could you improve consultation with the workforce in this organisation?

Note: Support your answer using examples from the scenario.


Assess the effectiveness of consultation within this organisation.

Note: Support your answer using examples from the scenario.

Will I still need to revise?

The simple answer is yes! Every assessment in any form is designed to ensure you have met the Unit’s learning outcomes so you should be as prepared as you would be for any other assessment.

You will have the opportunity during the open book examination to look in books and search the web, but this should be supplementary to thorough and robust revision and preparation.

Although this is an open book examination, it is important that you still revise and familiarise yourself with your notes. You will have a limited time to complete and submit your answers and you will be surprised how quickly this time will pass.

How can I best prepare?

Continue to work with your tutor and Learning Partner and take advantage of all teaching and support available.

As part of your preparations complete wider reading so you don’t have to do this during the examination. You want to instead be able to focus on the scenario and the questions being asked and be capable of retrieving relevant information fast. To do this you must be familiar with your notes, organising them in advance so you can find anything you need quickly during the examination.

Make sure you continue to work with your Learning Partner and follow their revision and preparation advice. This will include:

  • studying your course materials
  • making sure you understand all the learning outcomes (detailed in the qualification specification)
  • conducting wider research to understand how your studies relate to the real world.

How long do I have to complete my examination?

You will have 24 hours to complete and submit your answers. You do not have to complete the examination all in one go, take your time to review your resources and to apply your knowledge.

Am I meant to take the full 24 hours?

We give 24 hours to ensure all our learners have time to plan and complete the examination. You are not expected to be working for all that time. The 24 hour window reflects the fact that there are NEBOSH learners in multiple time zones and everyone will have work and family commitments to work round. The 24 hour window takes these factors into account and gives you the option to pace yourself by breaking your work on the examination into smaller ‘chunks’.

How do I plan my 24 hours?

You will have 24 hours to access, complete and submit your open book examination. It is important that you do not leave everything until the last minute to avoid running out of time. Make sure your plans allow you to draft, reflect and amend your answers before the deadline, building in time for breaks.

Build in some time to deal with any unexpected challenges such as slow internet connection or technical issues that may require assistance.

Where do I complete my examination?

You complete your open book examination at home. To allow you to concentrate during your examination it is important that you prepare a comfortable space to work.

We recommend you organise the following before your examination time starts:

  • a desk or table that gives you space to refer to reading materials and prepare your answers
  • a comfortable chair
  • good lighting
  • comfortable temperature
  • a clock so you can monitor your time to ensure you hit the submission deadline (remember the deadline will be BST time so if you are completing the examination outside of the UK you will need to make sure you consider any time zone differences)
  • a supply of refreshments and snacks to maintain your energy levels.
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If you can create a space that allows you to focus intently on your paper, you should be able to finish the questions in 4-5 hours.

Please remember to look after yourself making sure you eat, rest and sleep.

Am I allowed to refer to my course books, notes, or any other materials?

You can refer to written and online materials to help you prepare your answers. However, you must ensure that the work you submit is entirely your own, and for the whole time the examination is live you must not:

  • communicate with Learning Partner staff on the topic of the assessment
  • communicate with other learners on the topic of this assessment
  • seek advice or contribution from any third party, including proof-readers, friends, or family members.

During the examination you can use textbooks, learning materials and other resources for reference. Please be careful not to copy directly from the reference books. Use your own words applying the knowledge gained during your training course.

Will I need to reference study material?

It is important to reference any materials used during your examination because your answers will be scrutinised for plagiarism and collusion.

The level of referencing expected will be to simply list the sources of information you have used. This can include textbooks, journals, articles, and online sources, etc.

Making your reference list while you are writing responses will help to ensure you do not miss any references. Your reference list does not count towards the overall word limit.

Is there a word count for my examination?

Your examination will specify a word count, with a 10% tolerance, and you are required to stick to this.

In a traditional examination your answers are mostly limited by the length of time you have in the exam room and how quickly you can hand-write your answers. Without that limit, there is a risk that you might ‘over-answer’ a question (writing a lot more than is necessary to get full marks on the question). We specify word limits to give you a sense of how ‘big’ the Examiner expects the longest good answer to any question to be. The maximum word count will be specified against each question and your answer should not exceed this limit.

Your overall word count must be +/ – 10% of the recommended word count. Examiners will not mark text that exceeds the word count, they will stop marking at the maximum word count. Remember you are being assessed on relevance and quality rather than quantity of words. It is important to stay focused on the subject and context of the question.

Do I need to practice an open book examination?

You do not need to complete a practice or mock examination. However, completing an examination at home is very different from sitting in a room under exam conditions. It is important that you practice completing work in your prepared environment to make sure you can concentrate and are comfortable.

What standards of behaviour do NEBOSH expect during an open book examination?

You are expected to act responsibly and with integrity. In the context of an open book examination, this means you are:

Permitted to:

  • refer to your own course and revision notes
  • look up information in offline or online resources, for example textbooks or online journals.

Expected to:

  • indicate clearly the presence of all material you have quoted from other sources by including the source material in a reference list.

Required to confirm:

  • that the work that you are submitting for the open book examination is entirely your own work, except where otherwise indicated; and
  • that you have not copied from the work of any other learner, nor consulted or colluded with any other learner/ other person during the examination.

What do I need to know about malpractice?

We expect, and trust, that you will seek to maintain the integrity of the assessment, and of the qualification, by ensuring you follow the instructions for the open book examination. Failure to adhere to these requirements will be considered a breach of the Malpractice Policy, where the offences of plagiarism, collusion, impersonation/ commissioning are relevant.

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NEBOSH has a clear policy on plagiarism and collusion within assessments: please see the Policy and procedures for suspected malpractice in examinations and assessments for further information.

Suspected plagiarism and/or collusion will be investigated thoroughly with Learning Partners and learners, and the outcome of the investigation will determine the level of the sanction applied.

NEBOSH takes all forms of assessment malpractice seriously, and repeated attempts of plagiarism or collusion may lead to a learner being banned from taking any future NEBOSH assessments.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is taking the work of another person or source and claiming it as your own. The following are examples of plagiarism:

  • Including paragraphs, sentences, and the ideas (either published or unpublished) of others (including the work of other learners) without acknowledgement of the source through referencing
  • Paraphrasing the work and ideas of others without acknowledgement through referencing including material from computer files or downloaded from the internet.
  • All work you submit for assessment will be accepted on the understanding that it is the result of your own effort without wrongful appropriation of any kind. You are expected to offer your own analysis and presentation of information gained from research.

Please be aware that highly plagiarised open book examination submissions will be subject to penalty and suspension.

How do I avoid plagiarism?

To avoid plagiarism, you must reference your open book examination submission. This means acknowledging where you have used sources, ideas, or work that is from someone else. You can do this simply by creating a list of sources used.

What is collusion?

Collusion is when two or more learners collaborate to produce work which is submitted by each in an identical, or highly similar, open book examination submission with the claim that the work was completed independently.

Collusion is a form of plagiarism, involving unauthorised co-operation between at least two people, with the intent to deceive. It can take the following forms:

  • two or more learners conspiring to produce a piece of work together with the intention that at least one passes it off as their own work.
  • the submission by a learner of the work of another, in circumstances where the latter has willingly lent the former the work and where it should be evident to the learner lending the work that by so doing an advantage is conferred on the other learner. In this case, both learners are guilty of collusion.
  • unauthorized co-operation between a learner and another person in the preparation and production of work which is presented as the learner’s own.
  • the commissioning and submission of work as the learner’s own, where the learner has purchased work, or solicited another individual to produce work on the learner’s behalf.

What is impersonation?

Impersonation is when a learner asks someone else to complete all, or part, of their open book examination submission and then claims the work as their own.

How will NEBOSH deter cheating?

In an open book examination, you must submit your own work, without any help from others. When you take an examination, you will be required to sign up to a ‘Learner Statement’. This will confirm that you have understood and abided by our rules on plagiarism and collusion.

All open book examinations will be marked by NEBOSH Examiners and will be scrutinised for plagiarism and collusion. NEBOSH reserve the right to also make use of plagiarism and collusion checkers.

After your open book examination your Learning Partner will contact you to undertake a closing interview. The purpose of the interview is to confirm that the work you have submitted is your own.

How will the open book exams be marked?

All open book examinations will be marked by NEBOSH Examiners and will be scrutinised for plagiarism and collusion.

How will my grade be determined?

Your open book examination for this Unit will contribute to your overall grade for the qualification as a whole as normal.