Changes to the NEBOSH General Certificate

Major changes to the NEBOSH General Certificate, one of NEBOSH’s flagship qualifications have recently been announced. In this article, we’ll outline exactly what these changes are, why NEBOSH has decided to introduce them and what the changes mean for learners thinking about studying for this well-recognised health and safety qualification.

What are the changes to NEBOSH General Certificate?

The new syllabus has eleven elements, which are grouped into two units:

  1. Unit NG1  Management of health and safety
  2. Unit NG2 Risk assessment

You can see a detailed breakdown of the units and elements here.

The content of all elements has been revised and learners do not need to remember Section/Regulation numbers, instead, there is greater emphasis on risk management to make the qualification more relevant of the role of real-life health and safety professionals.

In the table below, we have provided an overview of the main changes and how the new version compares to the current one. Up to the 31st October, 2020 learners will be able to register for either the new or the current version of the course, i.e. both versions will be running side by side.



The Units

Currently, the NEBOSH General Certificate is comprised of three units:

  1. Management of Health and Safety
  2. Controlling Workplace Hazards
  3. A practical workplace inspection and report.
The new NEBOSH General Certificate will now only have two units:

  1. Management of Health and Safety
  2. Risk Assessment

Learning Hours

In the current version, the recommendation from NEBSOH was that there should be 80 hours of tuition time, with 53 hours of private study time, making an overall total of 133 hours across the whole course. In the new version, NEBOSH recommends 68 hours of tuition, with 40 hours of private study time, making a total of 108 hours. This is 25 hours less for the new version.


The current version involves two exams, each two hours long. The first exam covers the unit one content, while the second exam covers the unit two content. The new version will now only include one exam. The exam will still be two hours long and will cover the unit one content (management of health and safety). The unit two content is now assessed via a practical post-course risk assessment project that the learner carries out at their own workplace.

The Practical

The current version involves carrying out a workplace inspection and producing a written report to management. The new version involves conducting a risk assessment at your place of work, made of four parts:

  1. Description of organisation and risk assessment methodology:
  2. The risk assessment itself:
  3. Prioritisation of the three most serious hazards:
  4. Reviewing, communicating and checking the risk assessment.

Read the NEBOSH guidance for the practical element of the course here.

Command Words

In the current version, the exam questions use what NEBOSH call ‘command words’:

  • Identify
  • Outline
  • Describe
  • Explain
  • Give

This has often been a frustrating area of the course for some learners as they were required to learn what these command words meant as well as learning about health and safety!

In the new version, NEBOSH promise to use language that is easier to understand and less formal. NEBOSH has produced an example exam question paper that uses the new terminology.

You can take a look at the exam paper by clicking here.

With reference to the example exam paper, the word ‘explain’ is still used, but none of the other command words makes an appearance in any of the questions. Instead, the questions use words like ‘why’ and ‘what’.

NEBOSH unveiled the new-look General Certificate on the 4th September 2019. In a nutshell, it’s a modern version of the qualification with an updated syllabus. They have also changed the way the learners are assessed: there will be one question paper to assess learners on what they know and a practical assessment to asses what learners can do.

Here at Stockwell Safety, we will be teaching the new syllabus as from September 2019.

We thought we would answer some most common questions that learners might have.

How long is the course?

We will be delivering the course over two weeks, ran back-to-back. The guided taught hours have been reduced to 68 hours which means we will have more time to prepare learners for the assessments.

How is the qualification assessed?

There will be just one question paper and learners will have two hours to complete the paper. NEBOSH have updated the language they use which means no more command words, instead, they use everyday language with its everyday meaning. There is also a practical assessment. Learners will be required to complete a risk assessment at their workplace. Both assessments will be marked by external examiners chosen by NEBOSH.

When is the next course coming up?

We have courses coming in November 2019 at Runcorn. To see all upcoming courses, follow the link:

Why is NEBOSH making these changes?

The video below provides a bit of information from NEBOSH about the changes.

NEBOSH say they needed to make the General Certificate more learner-friendly by using language that is easier to understand as well as making sure it provides immediate benefits to employers.

NEBOSH are facing some stiff competition in the current health and safety course market from the likes of NRCQ and IOSH and so we think it’s a good time for them to have made these changes to one of the most widely-recognised health and safety qualifications.

What do the changes to the NEBOSH General Certificate mean for learners?

It’s early days and it remains to be seen how these changes will be received by learners and employers. We think learners will enjoy the fact that there is now only one exam and that NEBOSH have eased off with those command words.