Do You Want To Be Certified?

If you’re thinking about studying for the ISEB Certificate in Data Protection  or Freedom of Information to enhance your career prospects, there are a few things you should consider.

It’s the only externally examined qualification in the sector specifically targeted at current and potential DP and FOI practitioners (although there is a company that has created its own qualification which isn’t accredited by ISEB). Some organisations, when recruiting for an information governance vacancy, ask for candidates who have the ISEB Certificate. Others list it as a desirable qualification.

So what do you look for in a training provider? 

First of all is it accredited by ISEB?  This is a process that takes time and costs money. Every provider has had their company examined; their course director examined, their tutors examined and the course material scrutinised by experts. So choose an accredited provider – there are a few to choose from and you can find them on the ISEB website.

Next check out each provider’s website. Here are a few indicators that will give you some idea of their quality.


You need to know who is going to teach the course. Are trainers better than lawyers? Is it a name you know who has worked in the field, who contributes to bulletin boards, who speaks at conferences, who is active in the DP/FOI community? Is it a trainer or a legally qualified person? There are trainers who are also legally trained but  they are rare. However in our extensive career in the sector we have been delegates on courses where very highly qualified legal people (barristers no less) have failed miserably to get across simple concepts because they couldn’t descend from their ivory towers.

While we’re on the subject some training providers don’t tell you who will be teaching the course. Some say “qualified lawyers” (are there any other type of lawyers?) Some don’t say even when you ask them. One declined to tell our researcher on the grounds of (are you ready for this…) Data Protection!

Training Methods

It’s not just  “here’s a booklet – read it” nor is it “watch these 500 PowerPoint slides”. You should expect to see a breakdown of what each day involves; whether it’s exercises, case studies, role play, videos, online sessions; quizzes; sample questions; homework, mock exams with tutor feedback. One training provider describes its teaching method as “Course” – that’s it, just one word!

Mock Exam

Many ISEB candidates last did an exam before the age of the Internet. Many have never used a pen to write for half an hour continuously let alone three hours.  We think it is crucial that candidates sit a full mock exam before the final exam. This allows candidates to hone their exam technique and expose any gaps in their revision.

Pass Rates

Look for them (ask for them). Some will go on at length about how they are the best but the basic pass rate should tell you a lot. The ISEB pass rate for DP is about 68%. FOI is a little higher. Your training provider should tell you how well their candidates  do. If they don’t then ask yourself why they don’t. Maybe they’re new; maybe they don’t get many delegates through.


There’s a law not dissimilar to Murphy’s Law, which we haven’t quite tied down that says something like… “There’s nosuch thing as a poor testimonial.” It could be Finagle’s constant or Sods law but don’t put too much faith in glowing testimonials. Everyone gets good ones. Few get bad ones. No one publishes a bad one. If you really want to know what an ISEB course was like ask someone who has done one with the same training provider. If you don’t know anyone, ask the provider for details of a previous candidate from your sector who does not mind giving a reference.


You get what you pay for; the cheapest may not be the best. You may save a couple of hundred pounds on a course by going for a cheap provider. But the quality and content of the course may mean that you end up failing and spending more on a resit.


Pick a training provider who knows what they’re doing, with experienced well known speakers, who give you all the information you need to know on their website to take the course and who has a good pass rate.


ISEB has been renamed BCS Professional Certification but I think we’ll still call it ISEB

For more on more on how to pass the ISEB exam see our earlier blog post  


Our next ISEB courses start in London and Manchester in June

For more Information on our website or email us.

Author: actnowtraining

Act Now Training is Europe's leading provider of information governance training, serving government agencies, multinational corporations, financial institutions, and corporate law firms. Our associates have decades of information governance experience. We pride ourselves on delivering high quality training that is practical and makes the complex simple. Our extensive programme ranges from short webinars and one day workshops through to higher level practitioner certificate courses delivered online or in the classroom.

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