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How to pass your NEBOSH exam

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
29th March 2021
NEBOSH exam

If you are feeling uneasy about having to sit an exam for a NEBOSH qualification, help and reassurance are at hand. Your Phoenix tutors are experts at successfully preparing exam candidates from all kinds of professional and educational backgrounds. We have tapped into all their experience and expertise to create this article, which will help you to take the exam in your stride.

Above all, don't worry. Taking an exam may seem daunting before you have started the course, but there are three important things to remember: 

  1. You'll have had lots of expert coaching and plenty of preparation from practice papers by the time you take the exam for real.
  2. The examiners want you to pass. They are looking for positives, not for reasons to fail you.
  3. There's no quota on NEBOSH exams. If you reach the required standard, you'll pass, regardless of what other candidates do.

How is NEBOSH assessed?

The NEBOSH National General Certificate and other certificate-level courses are now examined using the Open Book exam format. This means you sit the exam online at home within a set period, and can use any resources you wish, including textbooks, study notes and the internet. 

To gain the NEBOSH qualification, you will also have to carry out a practical risk assessment project based on your workplace, for advice on this aspect, read our guide ‘how to complete a NEBOSH risk assessment’. 

How to revise for NEBOSH

Revision and practice are crucial for exam success, and NEBOSH exams are no exception. Here are a few suggestions on how to approach your studies and revision.

  • The advice of your Phoenix tutors is invaluable. Their knowledge and experience of NEBOSH is unparalleled, so do contact study support if you have any specific questions. 
  • Make sure you use previous exam papers available to you, to check your progress. These practice papers also help to prepare you for the format of the exam.
  • Plan your revision programme – your tutor will advise how much revision you need and when to start — for example, 40 hours of revision is recommended for the NEBOSH NGC.
  • Create a revision timetable and you won't find yourself over-focusing on one part of the course at the expense of others.
  • Revision for an Open Book exam is not primarily about memorising facts, it’s about understanding the course content, being aware of health & safety methodologies, and practicing your exam technique. 
  • Organise any exam reference materials. Every second counts during the exam, so there's no time to waste searching for that all-important fact. Make sure you have all the relevant laws, regulations, statistics, BS and IOS numbers available at a glance, and that their significance is clear in your mind.

On the day of the exam

You'll be much more focused and relaxed if you are in a space with enough privacy and no distractions or interruptions. Sit in a comfortable chair with a desk, plenty of space for your reference materials, notepad and pens. Check that the screen and keyboard are well-positioned and at the right height. 

You also need to be sure that your internet connection won't let you down. Have a clock or watch to hand so you can keep to your schedule and don't lose track of time.

Answering scenario-based questions

In the NEBOSH open book exam, the paper will describe a scenario and pose questions related to this scenario. Here are some tips on how to answer these:

  • Read the scenarios and questions very carefully, and highlight key information provided.
  • Make note of the command words, especially action words such as "comment" (give opinion and justification), "describe" (provide a detailed account), “define” (give the meaning) or "discuss" (give a critical review). 
  • Check how many marks each question is worth and distribute your time proportionately, spending more time on the questions with a higher mark. Remember, you can work on the questions in any order.
  • Keep track of your word count. There's an overall limit of 3000 words (plus or minus 10 per cent) for the exam, so it makes sense to plan this out first and allocate the most words to the most valuable questions.
  • Never cut and paste passages from textbooks or web pages, always write your answers in your own words. The only way you can use word-for-word phrases from those sources is as quotations, with a clear reference at the bottom of the paper.

Feeling more confident? Here's one final, vital piece of advice. Get a good night's sleep before the exam. That will do you far more good than sitting up revising until all hours!