CPCS Renewal Test

The CPCS Renewal Test is an integral part of the process for renewing CPCS cards. This article explores the nature of the test, and how candidates can best prepare to sit it. It also covers basic housekeeping elements, such as test costs and available booking processes. However, prior to reviewing the assessment itself, it’s worth briefly providing an overview of the CPCS card programme.


The CPCS, or Construction Plant Competence Scheme, is an initiative designed to support workers operating in the plant industry. Its various accompanying cards serve to highlight the competency, experience, and seniority level of the respective holder. Ownership of a card demonstrates that you’re proficient in completing tasks associated with a specific discipline or occupation. The CPCS card programme is a trade-specific extension of the CSCS card initiative (Construction Skills Certification Scheme).

CSCS cards and their associated variants (such as CPCS cards), identify the capability of workers right across the construction sector. The CSCS framework is the industry-approved approach to demonstrating that an individual has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform duties in their chosen trade. Although the CSCS lends its card structure to the CPCS, the Construction Plant Competence Scheme is technically affiliated with the NOCN, the National Open College Network.


The parent organisation of the CSCS is the CITB, also known as the Construction Industry Training Board. This is a reputable body that aids construction workers across all trades in a variety of different ways. One of its main purposes is to set out testing criteria, designed to maintain a desirable level of compliance throughout the construction industry. In addition, it supports individuals by facilitating training courses, offering learning resources, and creating safe forums for sector workers.

To acquire any CSCS-linked cards, such as CPCS cards, you’ll need to sit the industry-renowned CITB Health, Safety and Environment test, also known as the CSCS test. There are three different types of CITB test, pitched at different members of the workforce. The assessment you’ll need to sit depends on your on-site role and level of seniority. The three CITB tests are as follows:

  1. The CSCS test for operatives, aimed at general workers and labourers.
  2. The Specialists test, reserved for supervisors and those in advanced technical roles, and
  3. The CSCS test for managers and professionals, which is earmarked for those in on-site management and senior leadership positions.

Your pass certificate remains valid for two years, unless your assessment score contributes towards a CPCS/CSCS card application. In this scenario, the certificate remains ‘live’ for the duration of the card’s validity period.


Established in 2003, the chief purpose of the CPCS is to represent workers operating in the plant industry. The CPCS seek to drive sector standards in a number of different ways. Unlike many CSCS-related organizations, the CPCS places heavy emphasis on hosting ‘internal’ training courses. This is in contrast to other bodies, who tend to focus exclusively on ‘external’ qualifications, such as NVQs, NEBOSH diplomas or City and Guilds (C&G) qualifications. Therefore, when looking to secure a CPCS card, you’ll need to navigate training conducted by CPCS representatives, as well as studying for formal accreditation from an educational establishment.

The CPCS determines the principles and regulations of the plant industry, and therefore offers advice on how to complete plant-related activities in a safe and compliant manner. Therefore, if starting a career in the plant industry, it’s absolutely vital that you refer to CPCS guidance from day one. Given that plant workers routinely operate dangerous equipment on-site, adhering to industry-approved safety measures is absolutely essential. The CPCS regularly updates this guidance, with the CPCS card renewal process being used as a vehicle to share any industry developments. Therefore, if you allow your CPCS card to expire, you’ll not only be operating with an invalid card, but there’s also a chance you’ll be completing tasks to a sub-standard level, and this potentially puts yourself and your clients at risk.

There are three different types of CPCS card. However, only one of these cards adopts the Renewal Test as part of its card re-issuing process. The three cards, with a brief overview of their function and target audience are as follows:

The Trainer Operative Card (Red)

This CPCS red card is reserved for trainee plant operatives, and those with little industry experience. As per all CSCS-related ‘training’ cards, the trainer operative card is red. This universal approach to card colour allows those individuals who are not yet fully competent to be easily identified on-site, regardless of which discipline they’re currently training towards. Owning a red card will allow you access onto a construction site, and therefore give you the opportunity to learn and deliver new practical skills. The vast majority of employers operating in the plant sector demand that workers hold a relevant, valid CPCS card. Therefore, if you’re just starting out in the industry, please ensure you apply for a trainer operative card as soon as possible.

There are actually two cards aligned to this scheme, representing each step in its two-part training approach. Each card comes equipped with an eighteen-month learning programme. By the end of the three-year period, the CPCS expects you to have completed all relevant training modules. As a consequence, you should have also gained a suitable level of practical experience. This card is non-renewable, as it would be pointless to renew a training card once you’ve become fully competent in your chosen trade. However, this also means that if training has not been completed in the relevant timeframe, you’ll not be able to ‘re-hold’ a red card. Therefore, in this scenario, you would need to find an alternative avenue to progress your career. However, don’t worry! Three years is more than sufficient time to conduct all of your studies, and successfully sit the two mandatory assessments: the CPCS Theory and Practical Tests.

The Competent Operator Card (Blue)

CPCS CardThe CPCS blue card demands holders take the CPCS Renewal Test for renewal purposes. Once you’ve completed the trainer operative card programme outlined above, you’ll become eligible to apply for the competent operator card. This card demonstrates that you’re fully competent to perform the tasks aligned to a specific plant role or occupation. Simplistically, it demonstrates that you’re a fully-qualified operative. In similarity to deploying the colour red as a standardised marker for those in training, blue is used across all CSCS-related schemes to denote someone who has completed all of the required training in their field.

Competent operator cards are marked differently based on the activity you undertake within the plant industry. For example, your blue card may state that you’re a proficient signaller, or perhaps trained as an appointed person. Each time you become qualified to perform a new task, this ‘category’ will be formally added to your card. However, in order to demonstrate your competence in a different aspect of the industry, you’ll need to commence training from scratch. This means conducting the equivalent courses and assessments associated with your new discipline, as the ones navigated during your initial ‘red card’ training programme.

Additional competent operator card renewal requirements

This card is valid for a five-year period. In order to renew your card, you must pass the Renewal Test. Furthermore, you’ll need to complete at least one of the following requirements:

  1. Perform an ‘on-site assessment’
  2. Pass the CPCS Practical Test (as referenced, you will have previously sat this assessment when in ownership of the red card).
  3. Have at least 300 recorded hours of work entered into your CPCS logbook. This document is provided to you when first issued with a competent operator card. Clearly, you must present this evidence for each ‘category’ you’re hoping to renew.
  4. Complete the CITB ‘operative’ test. Once passed, you’ll not need to re-sit this test until the next renewal cycle. Please note that this test costs £22.50 when booked directly through the CITB.

You’ll need to take a Renewal Test for each ‘category’ present on your card. The questions in each test relate specifically to the discipline in question. However, if this new skill was gained within the two years prior to your card’s expiry date, you’ll not be required to take the renewal assessment.

The Tester Card (Black)

Highly-experienced plant operatives, and on-site leadership personnel, may decide to target a black tester card. This is the most advanced card of the three available CPCS cards. If you hold one of these cards, you’re able to assess workers undertaking the aforementioned CPCS Practical Test. As passing this assessment indicates that an individual can safely complete a dangerous, high-risk task, tester card owners carry a high level of responsibility.

This card has its own particular set of renewal requirements, due for completion five years from the date of issue. As alluded to earlier, candidates renewing their tester card do not need to take the CPCS Renewal Test.

The CPCS Renewal Test – Details

 The CPCS Renewal Test is a short, multiple-choice-based assessment. There are fifteen questions included, which are based on the technical aspects of the different plant operative ‘categories’. The exam takes just fifteen minutes, therefore permitting a response rate of one question per minute.

In order to understand which Renewal Test you should take, you need to consult the Renewal Test Tool. This is available on the official NOCN website. The tool is extremely easy to use, allowing you to swiftly identify which test accompanies your particular area of focus. Furthermore, each ‘category’ comes equipped with a factsheet. These important documents outline all key information linked to each plant discipline, offering guidance on regulatory procedures and highlighting best practice across the sector. Any item that will appear in your assessment will be referenced somewhere within this documentation. Therefore, it’s critical to review the factsheet relevant to your chosen category prior to sitting your assessment.

This test can be taken at any PearsonVue test centre, the company empowered to provide the testing software for the exam. The CPCS also has an approved list of ‘internet’ test centres, who have been authorised to stage the assessment. For more information on test locations, please visit the NOCN website, or contact the CPCS directly on 0300 999 1177.

Book CPCS Renewal Test

You can book the Renewal Test online (through the relevant page on the PearsonVue website, located here). Alternatively, you can arrange this by calling the CPCS directly. To organize your test via phone, please call 0344 499 1900, ensuring you do so between 9 AM-5 PM, Monday to Friday. Please note that post-December 2019, the CPCS have installed a new registration procedure. Therefore, if this is your first time booking a test since the date, you’ll need to sign-up for an updated account.

The test is priced at £28.00, but this does include the cost of creating and issuing your CPCS card. Please be aware that the £28 fee entitles you to take up to five plant ‘category’ assessments; you’ll complete these one after the other on test day. If you require assessments for more than five categories, you’ll need to pay an additional £28. Once again, this will allow you to sit a further five Renewal Tests (this charging structure continues until all required tests are accounted for). If you need to re-arrange or cancel your test, you must do this at least 48 hours prior to your exam slot. Failure to do this will result in charges still being applied.

Test Centre information

On arrival at the test centre, it’s essential that you can present a valid form of ID. Ideally, you’ll have a ‘primary’ form of ID available, displaying your photo and signature (driving licence/passport etc.). If you’re not in possession of this style of identification, you’ll need to provide at least two items of ‘secondary’ ID. These could be either something with your name and signature on or alternatively a document carrying your photograph and name. In all cases, the ID presented must be the original; copies will not be accepted as satisfactory evidence. If you fail to provide appropriate identification on test day, you’ll be unable to complete your assessment, and your booking costs will not be reimbursed.

Assistance and support

If you believe you’ll require some form of assistance when sitting your test, please inform the CPCS at the booking stage. There are various procedures in place to support those who require additional help. These include:

Voiceover: Questions and answers will be read out to you via the use of a headset. If this is a service you require, you can request this without the need to present evidence as to the reason why.

Reader-Recorder: An assistant will read out each question to you, and record your responses accordingly. In order to access this support, you’ll need to send a note to the following e-mail address: [email protected]. Once your request has been received and hopefully approved, a customer service representative will call you to arrange your booking.

Separate room: This often accompanies a reader-recorder request, and serves to provide you with some extra space to complete your test. Again, in this instance, a request needs to be sent to the mailbox referenced above.

Please note that all support functions are only available in English, and exclusive to PearsonVue test centres.

Additional considerations

If you’re returning to the industry after a period of absence, or haven’t renewed your card prior to expiry, you’ll be able to apply for a new blue card under the same qualifying criteria highlighted in the ‘competent operator’ notes. However, this is based on the assumption that you submit your application within five years of your original card’s expiration date. Clearly, you’ll need to take the CPCS Renewal Test as part of this re-application process. However, if you’ve let the five-year timeframe elapse, you’ll need to re-commence training from the very beginning.

Previously, the plant industry facilitated a separate card acquisition process. The Industry Accreditation scheme permitted workers to apply for a CPCS card, solely based on sector experience, and the support of their employer. This initiative was brought to a close in 2003. However, those who had qualified via this programme were able to renew their cards in alignment with the previous renewal criteria attached to the Industry Accreditation Scheme. Nevertheless, the phasing out of this renewal approach commenced in January 2020. It will be completely withdrawn by the end of 2024. Therefore, if you’re in an industry-accredited card holder, you’ll need to deliver on the renewal requirements outlined in this article when next updating your card.


The CPCS Renewal Test is an extremely important tool deployed by the plant industry. It allows employers to make sure their workers are up to date with the latest guidance. Therefore, by extension, it serves to maintain compliance and safety standards in the workplace. It also helps individuals to sense-checks whether they’ve retained key knowledge covered in their initial training. As a consequence, workers have the opportunity to re-visit important information relating to their role.

Although the test itself is relatively short in length, it’s absolutely essential that you prepare appropriately before sitting your exam. As discussed, please head to the NOCN website to access the factsheet revision materials, available via the Renewal Test Tool.

Remember, when booking your Renewal Test, you can include up to five ‘category’ exams within each payment block. Please also ensure you share any additional support you feel you might need on test day, and don’t forget your ID!

Lastly, please ensure that you’ve familiarized yourself with the rest of the card renewal criteria, as you’ll be unable to acquire your card without completing all of these requirements.

If you’re due to sit your CPCS Renewal Test, we wish you the best of luck, and hope that it supports a successful renewal application for your competent operator card!