Field Skills

Sit a Field Identification Skills test

Dates for FISCs in 2017 have now been finalised. Please click on the links below to contact the FISC centres in Leicester, Maidstone and Shrewsbury. You can also email the FISC Support Team for more info on sitting a FISC in 2017.

*NEW* Most FISCs are now fully booked, but several spaces have just become available on a FISC being held on Wednesday 21st June in Shrewsbury. It's a private FISC for a consultancy (so doesn't show up in the list below right), but as not all spaces have been filled,  we are able to offer the few vacant slots  on a first come, first served, basis. If interested, please email Jenni as quickly as possible.

The skills pyramid

Explore the Skills pyramid

How do you know how good you are at botany? How does a potential employer know what you are able to do? There are now few university degrees in Britain that provide the field identification skills that ecologists, conservationists and naturalists need, so it is difficult for employers to recruit suitably qualified people.

The situation is not much better in the voluntary sector. How can the BSBI know who is competent to do what? Botanical organisations have found it difficult to run ‘citizen science’ projects in recent years because few people have reliable identification skills, and many people do not have an accurate assessment of their abilities.

To address this deficit, the BSBI offers the Botanical Skills Pyramid, created for us by Sarah Whild and Sue Townsend. Everyone can be assigned to a level of the pyramid, from beginner to expert  and, once you know what skill level you are at, you can receive guidance on what you are qualified to do, and what you need to do to progress to a higher level.

We have also used FISC data to study the accuracy of recording by people of all skill levels, which is summarised in the poster below:

What is  a FISC

A Field Identification Skills Certificate is a simple, affordable test that determines your botanical skill level on a scale from 1 (beginner) to 5 (professional) with 6 being awarded in exceptional cases. It is becoming established as the industry standard for assessing botanical survey skills.

The aim of the FISC is to measure your skills in real-life situations. It must not form part of a training course because a FISC tests your long-term botanical ability on a wide range of plants, not your short-term memory.

A FISC lasts a day and is fun to do. One of our aims is to make people less fearful of being assessed. Our evidence shows that there is no-one who can identify all plants correctly, so you do not need to worry that you might not be perfect. Your results will be confidential. Some consultancies send their staff on a FISC every year, to encourage them to gain skills and make progress.

Each test starts with a lab session, where the candidates are asked to name fresh specimens of 30 species collected around the British Isles.

Next there is a site survey, where you spend a couple of hours recording as much as you can in a small, interesting site. We then compare what you have identified with what we know occurs there and work out what skill level you have.

For academic or research enquiries into FISCs, please contact Dr Sarah Whild at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Find out more...

Leicester: Saturday 24th June. Contact the organisers here.
Maidstone: Thursday 1st June; Thursday 20th July; Thursday 7th September. Contact the organisers here.
Shrewsbury: Wednesday 12th July; Wednesday 26th July; Wednesday 2nd August. Contact the organisers here.
There are also several FISCs scheduled in 2017 for Natural England staff and each has some spaces for external applicants. Dates and locations are below and if you wish to book, you can contact the organiser Andrea Perkins here:
  • Yarner Wood NNR, Devon (5 June)
  • Keswick, Cumbria (21 June)
  • Lymington, Hampshire (12 July)
  • Norwich, Norfolk (2 August)
  • Newcastle (15 August)


Because there is no failing, you don’t have to be brilliant to take a FISC. The outcome will be a certificate from the BSBI showing your level of skill, with advice about what sort of activity you are competent to undertake and what further studies you need if you wish to progress up the skills ladder.

Once you have taken a FISC, we take a couple of weeks to mark them and send you your certificate. We keep the results confidential, but you may publicise them to potential employers and colleagues if you like. Each certificate is signed by the chair of our Training & Education Committee, and it says what level you have attained and what you are qualified to do.