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How hard is the NEBOSH Diploma?

How hard is the NEBOSH Diploma?

11 June 2019

The NEBOSH Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is an intense qualification. So it’s no surprise one of the most common questions our course advisors get asked is “how hard is the course?”

Your ability to study and current level of knowledge will naturally play a big impact on how difficult you find the course. But, there’s also other barriers that you may come up against that will impact how hard you find the course.

Barriers to learning are common and are often defined as “anything that stands in the way of you being able to learn effectively". Don’t let that put you off though. Instead of barriers, think of them as obstacles to be overcome. Like so many things in life, there are various ways to overcome obstacles. Here are just a few that you may come across while studying for the NEBOSH Diploma and a few tips on how to get past them. 

Level of Health and Safety Knowledge

The NEBOSH Diploma is for health and safety professionals who want to expand their knowledge at a higher level. It's designed to give you a greater understanding of key health and safety issues, such as: workplace hazards, management systems, fault trees, reliability, event trees, fire prevention and occupational health.

To give yourself the best chance, it’s recommended that you complete the NEBOSH General Certificate first. This will make sure you’re familiar with key health and safety concepts, as well as the NEBOSH exam process.

The course is set at an academic level and is often compared to an honours degree standard. You'll have to absorb a lot of information, and you’ll have to prove that you understand it. Like any academic course, the taught element is only a small part it. You’ll also have to do your own independent reading on topics. Some topics you’ll have already covered in the NEBOSH General Certificate course, but the level of detail you need to put within your answers in the exams will be a lot more.

To give yourself an idea of what you'll be covering, it’s a good idea to look at the HSE website or ILO website. Download a document to see if you can understand it, or more importantly, how long it has taken you to understand it.

Language Obstacles

You’ll need to have a good level of English to pass the NEBOSH Diploma, especially in reading and writing. You’ll be expected to read and understand technical journals written in English and relay what you’ve learnt by answering long, essay-type questions. Remember, if the examiner can’t understand your answer, they can’t award you any marks.

Ask your course provider for a sample of the course to get an idea of the language used. Examiner reports on past exam papers are also available which will show you how much detail is required in your answers.

Time to Study

To do well in the NEBOSH Diploma you'll need a desire to learn, dedication and perseverance. Time is by far the biggest obstacle to overcome as the course has a recommended study time of 466 - 500 hours.

Planning your study time is essential to getting the most out of your learning experience, so you’ll need to be organised. Short, regular study sessions are more effective than long, sporadic ones. You should expect to dedicate an hour or so to studying every day…and more on the weekend.

We’ve designed our online course to include progress checks, course maps, webinars and regular check-ins from your tutor to help with this obstacle, and to make sure you’re on track with your learning. If your employer is supportive, it’s also worth asking them if they could spare you some time at work to help with your studies and revision.

If you haven’t studied for some time, take look at some of the study guide books that are out there. These will refresh your skill sets on studying, taking notes and revision techniques.

Above all, you’ll need to have a willingness to make sacrifices, especially with your free time. But we promise you it'll be worth it.


To achieve your NEBOSH Diploma you’ll need to pass 3 x written exams. These must be taken under exam conditions in an approved NEBOSH exam centre. Before you sign up to the course, make sure you check where your nearest exam centre is; you may have to factor in time and cost for travelling.

As we’ve mentioned, to pass the exams you must be able to both understand and articulate the concepts contained in the syllabus. At the start of each unit there are the learning outcomes set out for the topic. It’s these learning outcomes that the examiner can ask questions on, so master these and you’ll be well on your way to passing the exam.

Many learners get nervous over the thought of sitting exams. This is completely normal, especially if you haven’t studied in a long time. But don't worry, you'll get plenty of support and exam preparation with your course. 

Despite these obstacles, research carried out by NEBOSH of successful NEBOSH Diploma students showed that 100% of respondents would recommend the qualification to others. Although a challenge, the NEBOSH Diploma rewards your efforts by opening doors to exciting new job opportunities, on-the-job development and recognition by employers all over the world. 

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