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Jim Anderson CMIOSH, MIIRSM, AIEMA

How hard is the IEMA Foundation Certificate?

April 2019

The great thing about the IEMA Foundation Certificate is that it’s designed specifically for those new to the subject. It covers a range of topics so that you get a broad understanding of the whole sustainability agenda and the sort of skills you’ll need to work within the field.

Although there’s a test at the end to make sure you’ve understood everything, the main aim of the course is to give insight into the environmental world and a new foundation of knowledge to build on – it's by no means designed to be scary, or difficult! 

Providing you put the time and effort into your studies, you'll find the IEMA Foundation Certificate to be an interesting and enjoyable learning experience packed full of group discussions, activities and environmental debates. 

What's covered in the IEMA Foundation Certificate?

IEMA recommends a minimum of 40 hours of study to complete the IEMA Foundation Certificate. The course has 13 learning outcomes so that at the end of the course you’ll be able to:

  • Outline the implications of global trends for the environment, for society, for the economy and for organisations
  • Outline sustainable business/governance principles and their relationship with organisations, products and services
  • Outline environmental principles and their relationship with organisations, products and services
  • Outline major policy and legislation and their implications for organisations, products and services
  • Outline major tools, techniques, systems and practices used to improve sustainability performance
  • Outline the role of innovation and other leading practices in developing sustainable products and services and providing sustainable solutions
  • Collect data, perform analysis, and evaluate information
  • Research and plan to provide sustainable solutions
  • Deliver effective communication and capture feedback
  • Engage with stakeholders
  • Outline tools and techniques that identify opportunities and risks
  • Identify and propose ways to improve performance
  • Support change and transformation to improve sustainability

During the course, you’ll take part in group discussions, practical activities and exercises to develop your understanding and help you learn. You’ll also be expected to undertake some homework which, depending on your tutor, will be some form of written question or independent research to discuss with your group the next day.

Challenges of studying

The IEMA Foundation Certificate is designed for beginners, so you don’t need to be an advanced environmental professional to be able to pass it. That said, there'll no doubt be concepts and theories you’ve not heard of before and this will require you apply yourself.

Reading environmental journals and articles prior to your course will give you a great advantage so that you can be as prepared as possible before you start. If you haven’t studied for a while, try taking some time to also look at study guides to refresh your skills on taking notes and revision techniques.

By far, the biggest challenge most learners come across is time and commitment. You should expect to give your all for the duration of your course, which includes reading some notes in the evenings in preparation for the next class and carrying out revision for your exam. Although this may be hard with other work and family commitments, it’ll all pay off when you pass your course and can prove to your employer and potential employers that you know your stuff.

Remember, your tutor is always on hand to help you.  If you get stuck or are struggling to understand something, don’t be afraid to ask a question – you certainly won’t be the only learner in the room who needs help and others may be thinking the same as you. In fact, some of the most interesting environmental debates in the classroom have come as a result of someone asking what initially seems like a very simple question.  

IEMA Foundation Certificate exam

The IEMA Foundation Certificate exam consists of a 1-hour multiple choice online test. The exam is made up of 30 questions, each with 4 answer options, and you’ll need to answer 70% (21 questions) correctly to pass.

To take some of the pressure off, IEMA has made the exam open book. This means that you can refer to text books, notes and the internet to help you answer the questions. As an added bonus, you can take the online exam at home in your own time.

As with any type of assessment, you should always make sure you’re as prepared as possible by carrying out revision and practice papers before your take your exam. Don’t worry, you’ll also get lots of advice and support for your exam during your course. 

The exam must be taken in English, so you’ll need to have a good level of reading and writing skills. Reasonable adjustments will be considered if English isn’t your first language.

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