- 1 What is a CSCS Test?
- 2 CSCS Cards
- 3 The CITB
- 4 What health & safety-based topics are included in the CSCS test?
- 5 Structure and format of the CSCS test
- 6 What are the different versions of the CSCS test?
- 7 Which CSCS test should I take?
- 8 CSCS Test Booking
- 9 What do I do if I have special requirements that need to be met?
- 10 Is there anything I need to bring with me to the test centre on test day?
- 11 What other CITB courses are useful for those working in the construction industry?
- 12 Summary
What is a CSCS Test?
The CSCS test, professionally referred to as the CITB Health, Safety, and Environment Test or CITB test in the industry, is an important assessment tool used in the building and construction sector. Ultimately, its function is to determine whether a worker is equipped with adequate enough health & safety knowledge to carry out their on-site role. Therefore, if you’re in ownership of a CSCS test pass certificate, you’ll be able to demonstrate to employers that you can execute work safely.
The assessment is chiefly sponsored by the CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board. However, its close affiliation to the CSCS, or Construction Skills Certification Scheme, means that it adopts both of the aforementioned names. Indeed, given that the CITB is the parent organisation of the CSCS, these two bodies are often referenced interchangeably.
The CSCS test is a key ingredient in the CSCS card programme. All applicants that apply for a CSCS card, must have passed an appropriate CITB test in the two years previous to their application. CSCS cards, in similarity to the role played by the CSCS test, serve to identify a worker’s capability level. However, the card scheme not only relates to their health & safety awareness, but also their skill-set, experience, and specialist knowledge they’ve acquired in their chosen field.
Many CSCS cards are specifically linked to a trade or occupation. Therefore, their respective qualifying criteria often carry specific requirements linked to a particular discipline or role. The main objectives of the CSCS card programme are to drive industry standards, promote health & safety considerations, and ensure trade rules and regulations are being adhered to whilst on-site.
CSCS cards also offer more specific benefits to construction companies operating in the building sector.
Firstly, because cards advertise a worker’s competencies and skill-set, employers can efficiently allocate tasks to their labour forces. There are various coloured cards available, with each colour representing a specific scheme. Therefore, cards provide an incredibly visual identifier of an individual’s particular capabilities. Thus, when it comes to distributing work, site leadership teams can efficiently set tasks to the right workers, in the right place, at the right time. This ensures that individuals conducting works are appropriately trained to do so.
Secondly, and most importantly, CSCS cards can be utilised to show employer commitment to Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. This legislation, which was recently established in 2015, dictates that construction firms must create safe and compliant workplace environments. By ensuring that all employees are equipped with a relevant CSCS card, they can evidence that steps are being taken to achieve this goal. True, if a worker holds a valid card, it proves that they have the credentials to operate in their on-site position. This legislation does not demand that workers possess a CSCS card in order to gain access to a building site. However, most employers will mandate that staff do own a card relevant to their occupation.
Please note that CSCS Cards are available for trainees, skilled workers, supervisors, and managers/senior leadership personnel.
Both the CSCS, and CITB enjoy a highly reputable status amongst sector stakeholders. Indeed, all of their initiatives are industry-approved, and therefore any CSCS/CITB course or test is assumed to be credible. The CITB, much like its subsidiary CSCS organisation, supports businesses and workers across the construction industry. It does this by facilitating training modules, distributing learning materials, and establishing fair and consistent testing criteria. The organisation’s Health, Safety, and Environment Test (CSCS Test) is its best-known assessment.
If you work in a construction-related trade, it’s extremely likely you’ll need to sit this test on several occasions throughout your career. We’ll now touch upon the different versions of the assessment, of which there are three available.
Furthermore, we’ll review the structure and format of the exam itself, analyse the different subjects covered, and offer advice on how to book your assessment, including how to inform the CITB of any special requirements you may have.
What health & safety-based topics are included in the CSCS test?
There are five core principles covered in the assessment. These aim to encompass all possible health & safety elements that need to be considered when operating in a construction site environment. These content areas are categorised under the following headings:
- Legal and Management
- Health and Welfare
- General safety
- High-risk activities
You’ll be expected to answer in-depth questions about each of these focus areas, regardless of which version of the test you’re taking. Having sufficient knowledge of the above subjects is seen as a minimum requirement towards keeping yourself, colleagues and clients safe in the workplace.
Indeed, if you do attempt to enter site without having acquired a suitable level of proficiency in these disciplines, you could be putting yourself and others in serious danger.
Although these themes have appeared on testing papers for an extended period of time, the CITB regularly reviews what specific materials should be included in the assessment. This helps to ensure workers are tested on relevant, up-to-date information. Therefore, workers can feel reassured that their knowledge base is fit for purpose, and in line with the latest guidance and legislation.
Structure and format of the CSCS test
There are 50 multiple-choice questions contained in the test. The questions are associated with the theoretical elements of the core principles mentioned earlier. You’ll have 45 minutes to answer these questions. The clearly leaves less than one minute to provide your answer for each question. Therefore, you’ll need to work through this test relatively efficiently. However, please don’t rush!
It’s often assumed that multiple-choice format exams are easier than those that require longer, written responses. This is a myth! Often, multiple-choice questions encourage the reader to take into account various scenarios, apply logic and sometimes physical calculations, before honing in on the answer through a process of elimination. This requires a significant degree of skill, knowledge, and patience. Therefore, when approaching this test, please don’t fall into the classic trap of being overly complacent!
You should also ensure that you take time to fully read the content of each question. The CSCS does not design this test to trip-up candidates. However, on occasion, there will be questions that may encompass slight variations to a straightforward question/answer scenario. This could be in the format of having to provide several answers rather than one, or highlighting an answer that does not apply, rather than does apply, to a certain set of circumstances.
Lastly, please also resolve to answer each and every question. If you’re unsure about what the correct response is, it’s always worth making an educated guess. Whose knows, an odd extra point or two could be the difference between passing or failing!
What are the different versions of the CSCS test?
There are three separate ‘tiers’ of the Health, Safety, and Environment test. The assessment a candidate takes is entirely dependent on the CSCS card scheme they’re applying for. Indeed, you’ll need to undertake the particular version of this test that directly addresses your chosen card’s qualifying criteria. Clearly, the more demanding the card requirements are, whose holders occupy advanced technical or senior roles in the industry, the more challenging the accompanying CSCS test will be.
A brief overview of the different types of CITB test are listed below:
This assessment is for those who are currently in ownership of or applying for either, a ‘red’ training card, a green ‘labourer’ card, or a ‘blue’ skilled worker card. This is the least complex exam, and exclusively tests candidates on the five principal areas mentioned earlier. Workers who pass this assessment will be deemed to have, at the very least, a basic understanding of key construction-related health & safety topics.
The pass mark for this exam is 90%. Therefore, you’ll need to answer at least 45 out of 50 questions correctly in order to successfully navigate this assessment.
If applying for an advanced craft or supervisor gold card, you’ll need to sit this assessment. The specialist test covers all of the core health, safety, and environmental principles. However, you’ll also need to answer a set of more advanced questions, directly associated with your chosen discipline or field. Therefore, this is a more difficult assessment than the Operatives test.
There are a number of specific focus topics included in the Specialist test, each targeted at workers operating in various industry roles. Although there are multiple sections available, you’ll only need to sit questions on the subject that specifically relates to your particular area of expertise.
All specialist areas are cited below, with their section codes highlighted in brackets:
- Supervisory (SUP)
- Demolition (DEM)
- Plumbing (JIB-PLUM)
- Highway works (HIW)
- Working at height (WAH)
- Lifts and escalators (LAEE)
- Tunnelling (TUNN)
- HVACR: Heating and plumbing services (HAPS)
- HVACR: Pipefitting and welding (PFW)
- HVACR: Ductwork (DUCT)
- HVACR: Refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAAC)
- HVACE: Service and facilities maintenance (SAF)
Therefore, for example, a worker currently operating as, or aspiring to become an on-site supervisor, would be presented with questions included in the ‘supervisory’ section.
Again, in similarity to the Operatives test, you’ll need to score 45 out of 50 (90%) to pass this assessment.
Managers and Professionals (MAP) test
The MAP assessment is exclusively targeted at those applying for black and white CSCS cards. If you’re hoping to join one of these schemes, you should already hopefully have a developed understanding of health & safety processes and procedures. This is because, in most cases, you’ll have previously accrued experience of working in on-site management positions.
This exam is easily the most difficult out of the three versions of the CSCS test. As well as encompassing questions on all subjects covered in the Operatives assessment, it will also require you to provide responses on a selection of the Specialists areas listed above. Furthermore, in two of the Specialist sections, ‘demolition’ and ‘highway works’, you’ll be allocated advanced, management-based questions.
You’ll also be quizzed on the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. You’ll need to answer questions based on the regulations’ role and relevance, and additionally how they’re enforced and monitored throughout the construction sector.
As if this assessment wasn’t already challenging enough, the CITB has also set a higher pass threshold for this exam. If sitting this version of the CSCS test, you’ll need to submit 46 correct answers for the 50 questions asked. This equates to a required pass mark of 92%.
Which CSCS test should I take?
If you’re unsure about which CSCS test relates to your occupation or skill-set, it’s worth either liaising directly with the CITB or discussing this with your employer. You can contact the CITB by phone on 0344 994 4488. Alternatively, you can reach out to them via e-mail at email@example.com
If you’re unsure about which CSCS card to apply for, this will also clearly cause confusion with which CITB test is right for you. If this reflects your current situation, we would encourage you to utilise the CSCS Card Finder Tool. Simply enter your occupation and/or qualification details, and you’ll be able to identify the card most suitable for your needs.
If you would then like any further information on your chosen scheme, such as qualifying criteria, validity lengths, or renewal terms, it’s worth heading to the CSCS’ ‘Types of cards’ page. This offers extensive detail on all of the CSCS’ respective card programmes.
CSCS Test Booking
There are multiple ways to book your CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test. The most efficient method to do this is online. In order to make a digital booking, you’ll first need to register for a Pearson VUE account. For reference, Pearson VUE is the organisation that produces CITB’s computerised testing platform. After you’ve completed this process, you’ll then be able to book your assessment slot, and testing location, via your account’s booking page.
You can also make your booking by contacting the CITB over the phone. To use this booking channel, please call the organisation directly on 0344 994 4488, as per the number provided earlier. Please note that CITB’s contact centre team is available between the hours of 8.00am-8.00pm, Monday-Friday, and 8.00am-12.00pm on Saturdays. Unfortunately, this line is not in use on Sundays.
Alternatively, you can also arrange your test slot through a local Internet Test Centre (ITC). These centres have been approved by the CITB to host tests within their respective venues.
When booking through any of the above methods, you’ll be charged £22.50 to sit the test.
If you’re currently undergoing a training module which encourages you to sit the CSCS test as part of its curriculum, then your learning provider may offer to book the test on your behalf. However, in some cases, please be aware that your course facilitator may charge extra to provide this service.
For those who have applied directly through the CITB, either online or over the phone, you’ll be able change your test appointment free of charge. This is providing you lodge your change request more than 72 hours before you’re due to sit your assessment. If you’ve booked via an Internet Test Centre or private learning provider, you’ll need to consult their specific rules and regulations with regards to test re-scheduling.
Please note that the CITB Health, Safety, and Environment Test is only available in physical testing centres. Indeed, unlike most other CITB testing modules, you’ll be unable to take this assessment online. However, there are plenty of approved test centres located throughout the UK. So, wherever you’re based, you should be able to conveniently access one of these buildings.
What do I do if I have special requirements that need to be met?
At all CITB-endorsed test centres, there are various adjustments that can be made to accommodate a candidate’s specific needs. These range from facilitating disabled access, supporting those who do not use English as a first language, and offering services to those who need some extra help with reading and writing.
The CITB will always aim to support any request given. However, please find a list of pre-existent available services below:
Voiceover and language support
If you have a visual impairment, you’ll be able to access a voiceover audio service, available in both English and Welsh. This platform also allows candidates to have test questions, and answer options, read out to them in twelve other possible languages. However, please note that the on-screen information will always be presented in English.
Furthermore, the alternative language service is only available for the Operatives test, and therefore not an option for those conducting the Specialist or Managers and Professionals test.
Additional languages offered are as follows: Bulgarian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish. If none of these languages is suitable, the CITB can provide you with a translator. However, this option is only available for those either sitting the ‘operative’ or ‘specialist’ test.
British Sign Language (BSL) support
For those who are hard of hearing, there is a BSL-friendly video recording available. This features an on-screen signer, who communicates each question, and each answer option, via standardised British Sign Language. However, again, this facility is only available if taking the Operatives test. Nevertheless, if you would prefer to have a BSL interpreter present with you throughout your exam, the CITB will look to support this request, regardless of which version of the assessment you’re navigating.
Reading and writing support
If you have dyslexia or a condition which limits your reading and writing capability, the CITB facilitates a reader/reader-recorder service. However, in order to access this, you’ll need to present evidence to demonstrate your requirement for this additional support. The ‘reader’ service involves having an accompanying individual during your test, who will read each question, and possible answer, at a pace that suits you. A ‘Reader-recorder’ will support you in exactly the same way as a ‘reader’, but will also physically write the answers you give on your behalf. In cases where either of these services are required, candidates will be expected to offer evidence to confirm the reasons for their request.
The level of disability access will be entirely dependent on the test centre you use. However, please be rest assured that most offer adequate facilities for wheelchair and other disabled users. Furthermore, building staff will always endeavour to provide any additional support as and when it is required.
N.B. If sitting your test with the support of a language translator, BSL interpreter, or either of the roles discussed in point 3, you’ll be allocated a private room and some additional time to complete your assessment.
Special Assistance Team
If you are in need of any of these services, you’ll need to reach out to the CITB’s Special Assistance team. They can be contacted by phone on, 0344 994 4491 (please note that this is a different number to the one provided earlier), or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (again, this is a separate address to the one given previously).
When discussing your requirements with the Special Assistance team, you’ll be asked to provide the following information:
- The version of CITB test you’re planning to take
- The location of the Test Centre you’re using
- The type of special assistance you require
- A suitable piece of evidence to validate your request. This could be a formal doctor’s letter, or assessor documentation provided by a qualified consultant.
At this stage, you’ll also be able to ask questions on building accessibility.
Once you’ve referenced any additional needs required, they’ll then review your request, and reach back out to confirm your arrangements. Assuming all parties are happy, they’ll then formally book in your assessment.
Is there anything I need to bring with me to the test centre on test day?
On arrival at the test centre, you’ll need to be able to present a suitable form of ID. This ideally should be a valid passport or driving licence. The CSCS will accept any of these forms of ID, providing they’re no longer than six months out of date.
If, for whatever reason, you’re not in possession of either a passport or driving license, you’ll need to provide two alternate forms of identification. To ensure you pass this security check, you must select one item from each of the two lists referenced below.
- Non-UK Driving License
- Passport without signature
- Work ID Card
- EU Country Card
- CITB Scheme Card
- Student ID card
- Citizen’s Card
- Trade Union Card
- Credit Card
- Debit Card
- Paper Driving License
- UK Travel Document
- Inland Revenue Card
- National Insurance Card (or HMRC letter with National Insurance number included)
- B79 Notification of Discharge Letter
- Bank Statement
- Building Society Passbook
- Cheque Guarantee Card
If you fail to produce the relevant ID when reporting to your test centre, you’ll be unable to sit the exam. Furthermore, you will still incur the booking fee, and not be entitled to any form of refund. Therefore, it’s critical that you remember to bring the appropriate documentation with you on your test day.
However, the most important thing to have with you on test day is a well-informed mind! It’s essential you use the days preceding your exam to make sure you’re fully prepared. To do this, you may want to scope out some revision materials, or conduct a CSCS mock test. Please note that there are plenty of helpful, free resources available online that will help you in your preparation.
Remember, passing this exam could be critical to supporting your next career step. Therefore, it’s essential that you give this assessment the time and respect it deserves.
What other CITB courses are useful for those working in the construction industry?
The CITB offers various training modules, designed to support individuals at different stages of their careers. Many of these qualifications will enable workers to gain the credentials they require to step into new roles, advance their skills, and become more confident within their workplace.
Furthermore, many of these courses join into the CSCS card scheme, with certain qualifications earmarked for those holding specific cards. These are produced with the card owner’s current occupation in mind, and target particular skills, attributes, and experiences they require to be successful in their roles. As well as facilitating full, all-encompassing health & safety courses, the CITB also offers condensed modules for those looking to update or refresh knowledge.
To understand which CITB qualification best complements the CSCS card scheme you’re currently affiliated with, we would recommend speaking to your course tutor, or a trusted industry professional. Some examples of potential courses which could be taken by construction industry stakeholders are noted below:
- Health and Safety Awareness (HSA)
- Site Supervision Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS), refresher course also available (SSSTS-R)
- Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS), refresher course also available (SMSTS-R)
- Temporary Works Co-ordinator Training Course (TWCTC)
- Temporary Works General Awareness Training Course (TWGATC)
- Site Environmental Awareness Training Scheme (SEATS)
- Director’s Role for Health and Safety (DRHS)
- Achieving Behavioural Change (ABC)
Please note that many private learning providers facilitate these courses. With so many providers available, the best way to approach this is via performing a simple Google search. From here, you’ll be able to review a course’s qualification content, price structure, and training format.
Hopefully, you’re now fully aware of the role, function, and importance of the CSCS test within the building and construction sector. Not only does it qualify workers to operate safely on construction sites, it also gives employers reassurance that their own workplace environments are compliant with industry standards.
As we’ve seen, the CSCS test is a key component of the CSCS card scheme. It demonstrates that individuals have a suitable level of health & safety knowledge, and serves to complement the skills and disciplines required to successfully apply for a CSCS card. Remember, the version of CITB test you’ll sit is contingent on the card programme you’re targeting. Therefore, ensure that you review your chosen card’s qualifying criteria thoroughly before booking this assessment (or, for that matter, any other associated training!).
It’s extremely useful to familiarise yourself with the content, structure and format of your respective Health, Safety, and Environment Test, prior to entering the exam hall. Therefore, please ensure you’re fully aware of the topics covered, and are comfortable with the style of multiple-choice testing. The pass rates across all three tests are high, but with the correct preparation, you should feel confident navigating your assessment.
Plan your test day
The booking process is relatively easy, but is nevertheless an important thing to get right. Not following the correct procedure may result in you receiving a later testing date than you desired. This would also subsequently delay any CSCS card application, which could become a substantial headache. Most construction companies expect team members to have relevant, valid CSCS cards when entering sites. Therefore, if you’re not in possession of a card, your employer may restrict access to your workplace, which could consequently result in a loss of earnings.
Should you need any special adjustments in order to sit your test, please take time to review the options on offer. The CITB will always work hard to support any personal requirements. So, if you have any needs outside the parameters of what has been previously referenced, then we would encourage you to engage directly with the Construction Industry Training Board. To do this, please refer back to the contact details shared earlier. Oh, and don’t forget your ID!
Lastly, if you’re keen to progress your career to the next stage, it’s certainly worth contemplating attending a CITB course. Within its extensive training suite, the CITB has various qualifications available, pitched at workers in variant roles and occupations. Each is ultimately designed to help further develop your skills, knowledge, and competencies, and prepare you for your next industry challenge.
We really hope that you’ve found this article useful, and now feel confident in addressing all matters relating to your CSCS test.
If you’re due to take your assessment soon, we wish you the best of luck, and hope that it serves to provide another step towards realising your future career ambitions!