NEBOSH Certificate Exam Day Guidance - Part 2

9 minute read | 16 March 2016 13:44:02 GMT

Revising for exam

Please note that NEBOSH has now introduced an open book exam, therefore the exam is no longer applicable. You can find more information about the new open book exam here:

Following on from NGC/IGC exam day guidance part 1 covering the first 2 bullets points below, let us now look at the nitty-gritty of the NEBOSH exam questions and your answers to make sure you are fully prepared for exam day and not overcome by nerves. We will look at points 3 and 4 in this blog.

  1. What are the arrangements on exam day? Covered in Part 1
  2. What will the exam paper look like? Covered in Part 1
  3. The command words – how do I ensure my answer is in line with these? Relevant only to people who have taken the NEBOSH Certificate 2014 spec
  4. How do I ensure I answer the questions fully and not go off on a tangent?

3. The command words – how do I ensure my answer is in line with these?

Command word are covered only in the 2014 NEBOSH Certificate syllabus. 

For more detailed information visit the blog  “NEBOSH Certificate Command Words on how to answer questions containing these command words.

Following the guidance will help to ensure that you have given enough detail in your answer to obtain good marks.

4. How do I ensure I answer the questions fully and not go off on a tangent?

Answer planning

When answering exam questions, there may be so many points you are trying to remember to put in your answer, that as you progress you forget one or two points. It is also common that you get so involved in talking about one point in your answer that you stray off the question being asked and go off on a tangent which is not relevant to the question. This can easily happen when you are answering a question which is not broken down into sections and has a lot of marks allocated. For example:

N/IGC exam question

“Outline the factors that may increase risks to persons who are required to work on their own away from the workplace. (8)”

Prepare your answer plan

One way to avoid this is to prepare an answer plan before you start your answer. This can take many forms.Prepare your answer plan in the NEBOSH Certificate exam

  • A simple list of topics or key words you want to include
  • An acronym which applies to the question
  • A mind-map or bubble diagram (see my previous blog “Preparing for NEBOSH NGC/IGC Exams” for more info on mind-maps etc)

This plan should be written in your answer book by starting on the page where you are going to write your answer and clearly writing the word “PLAN”. This will indicate to the examiner that this is your plan for the answer. Then write your plan under this heading. Make sure your plan is brief and to the point; you don’t want to spend 5 minutes doing your plan and then find there is only about 4 minutes left to write your answer. Once you have finished your plan, draw a horizontal line across your answer page and then write the word “ANSWER”. The examiner can then clearly see that you have now started your answer and they can see where your plan finishes and your answer begins.

Plan as an answer guide

Use your plan to guide you through your answer. You can tick off the topics in your plan that you have included in your answer and you can also clearly see the next topic or issue you need to talk about. This will help you to keep on track in your answer and not digress. You are also not trying to keep a lot of things in your head while you are writing and this will help to keep focused during your writing. It enables you to re-read the question while you are answering and check you are still on track.

When you have finished your answer don’t cross out your plan. You won’t get marks for your plan but the examiner will look at it whilst reading your answer, which may help in understanding your answer.

Start the next question on a new page.

If your previous answer finished at the bottom of a page, it’s a good idea to leave the next page in your book blank and start your next answer on the next clean page. This means that if you want to add anything to your answer later you have a clear page to do so before the next answer starts.

Answering the question that has been asked

This may sound obvious but make sure you answer the question that has been asked. Using the previous question as an example:

NG/IG exam question

“Outline the factors that may increase risks to persons who are required to work on their own away from the workplace.” (8)

This question is asking for “factors that may increase the risk”, or another way of saying it is “issues, situations or things that may increase the risk”. In other words, if you are assessing the risks to persons in this situation, what would you take into consideration?

With these types of questions it is very easy to tell the examiner in your answer what should be put in place to reduce the risks rather than what factors may increase the risk. Answering the question in this way will not attract any marks. If the examiner wanted details of what should be done to reduce the risk they would have asked a question something like “Outline precautions that may reduce the risk …..”

Answer this exam question:

The factors to consider that may increase the risk could be issues including:

  • The nature of the work being carried outN/IGC exam questions
  • Their state of health
  • The communication systems currently used etc.

Whereas precautions may include:

  • Rules for no lone working
  • Provision of radios or mobile phones
  • Provision or lone working / man down systems
  • Appropriate training and information on what to do and what not to do etc.


What happens on exam day and the use of good exam technique can often be the difference between you passing the exam or having a referral. You have put in a huge amount of work in the form of revision to get ready for the exams and the last thing you want is for your exam technique to let you down.

Remember to:

  1. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the exam venue
  2. Try to relax whilst waiting for the exam to start and during the exam
  3. Read the questions carefully and plan your answers, particularly for those longer questions
  4. Keep an eye on time and plan your time accordingly
  5. Trust the knowledge that you have gained from your studies and revision
  6. Remember that the questions are not set with the intention of tripping you up. They are there to give you the opportunity to demonstrate what you know.

Never assume that the examiner knows about a particular issue. Imagine that the examiner knows very little about health and safety and it is up to you to tell them through your answer. If it’s not in writing in your answer then they can’t give you a mark for it.

NEBOSH don’t operate a negative marking policy so the examiner is looking to give you marks. Make sure therefore that you do yourself justice and demonstrate your knowledge.

Good luck!

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Tags: NEBOSH General Certificate, Advice for learners

Andrew Froude B.Eng (Hons), CMIOSH, MIIRSM, OSHCR

Andrew is a Chartered Health and Safety Consultant with 23 years experience in the production, processing and training environments. Areas of expertise include production and machinery safety, mobile plant, maintenance, management systems and auditing. Andrew teaches IOSH courses (including Safety for Executives and Directors), NEBOSH Certificate courses and NEBOSH Diploma courses, as well as undertakes consultancy work including health and safety policy reviews, risk assessment guidance, auditing and designing and delivering bespoke training solutions.