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The Dangers of Overconfidence in a NEBOSH General Certificate Exam


Rather than a lack of knowledge, one of the primary reasons for a candidate failing one or more of the assessments which accompany NEBOSH General Certificate courses is because of overconfidence, and the subsequent problems which this creates.

Confidence in Exams is Not Always a Bad Thing

Of course, being confident when going into examinations is typically a good thing. Feeling nervous will frequently lead to forgetting vital information and/or failing to answer the questions in the specific way in which they are asked (state, list, explain, define etc - see more on this on Point 2 - Not answering the questions according to how they are asked). No matter how much self study has been undertaken before sitting down for the course exam, nerves have been the nemesis of many a student.

Overconfidence can be Detrimental to Exam Success

At the other end of the spectrum, overconfidence can be just as damaging. Even before setting foot in the building for day one of the NEBOSH General course, some delegates will believe that they already know all of the information, perhaps even more than the course tutor, and that everything taught on the training course will either be simple common sense or a re-cap of what they already know. This can be particularly true of those who have been working in an industry for many years where they have the potential to encounter numerous hazards, and so feel that they have already acquired sufficient knowledge regarding health and safety during their career. The fact that their manager and employer has deemed it necessary to enrol them on the course suggests otherwise though.

The NEBOSH General Certificate Comprises a Lot of Information to Learn

Not only is the delegate likely to approach the exams in an overconfident or even dismissive manner, but they will probably also take the same attitude towards the course tuition too. The amount of information contained on the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus is substantial, with the course duration typically 10 days of full time training. Some individuals resent having to sit through a two week course, even if work are picking up the cost and they are still being paid for attending, believing that it is a waste of their time and like being back at school.

Whatever their attitude towards the course or exam, the simple reality is that in all likelihood they will need to achieve this qualification in order to either continue in their current employment with the company, or to move on to a higher position with that company or another employer. Overconfidence or arrogance is likely to result in one or both of the following two consequences:

Missing critical information

A person may think they know everything there is to know about health and safety in the workplace, but the topic is so vast that this is highly improbable. Consequently, not paying attention in class to the course tutor will result in missing vital information which will not only be required for the exam, but would also serve the person well when they are back in the workplace in regards to keeping themselves and others free from coming to harm. The NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus will also teach subjects which the individual had not even considered before as a potential issue such as psychological health hazards or the moral reasons for implementing health and safety standards and procedures.

If the candidate misses this information when it is taught due to not paying attention during the class, they will not be able to put it down on the exam paper should a question on this topic come up. These lost marks can be the difference between a pass and a fail.

Not answering the questions according to how they are asked

Passing the examinations is not just a matter of learning all there is to know about the subject. NEBOSH exam questions beginning with verbs such as explain, define, list, outline etc will need answering in different ways, and the number of marks available will also serve to determine the length and type of answer demanded.

This is information which a person will not know unless they have been taught it by the course tutor. It is therefore not sufficient to just go straight into the exam thinking that it can be easily passed, as even with all of the knowledge in the world, if the candidate does not answer the question in the format required by the question, they will receive little or no marks for their efforts.


So in conclusion, whilst confidence is important when it comes to the NEBOSH General Certificate exam, overconfidence and arrogance which results in a person not giving the course syllabus the attention and respect it necessitates will find themselves at a major disadvantage when it comes to sitting the exams; so much so that it may result in failure and non-achievement of this sought-after health and safety qualification.

Related Link:

  • NEBOSH General Certificate Pages and Articles Index

  • NEBOSH General Certificate Pages