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NEBOSH Open Book Exam (OBE) - What they are, how they work and what you need to do

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
16th October 2020

The new NEBOSH open book exams (OBE) came into force in July 2020, with the first of its kind taking place on 6th August 2020.

Due to Covid-19, students were unable to visit classrooms for either their studies or examinations. In turn, NEBOSH created the OBE to replace traditional classroom-based exams, allowing students to participate from anywhere in the world.

The open book exam format only applies to the following NEBOSH courses:

Fancy answering some sample questions? We have created an interactive e-learning platform, specifically for the NEBOSH open book exam that contains a mock interview.

Go to interactive e-learning

What is an Open Book Exam (OBE)?

 An OBE is an examination that allows candidates to use study materials and research resources, such as the web, to when answering questions.

OBEs are commonly used in colleges and universities, and they are a valid means of assessment. In no way will it diminish the quality or standard of your qualification. The OBE will now be the only formal assessment option for the General Certificate in the future.

The NEBOSH open book exam paper consists of two parts. Part one being a scenario; part two being the questions. Below are some tips on how to answer the scenario-based questions.

You have 24 hours to complete the examination (48 hours for the Construction Certificate), giving you as much time as you need to complete your answers. What’s more, this time does not have to be all in one go; you can spread it over the 24 hours, or you can do it in one sitting. Most students complete the OBE in around 4 hours.

Where do I sit the exam?

 The OBE can be completed at your home, place of work, or any other venue where you are comfortable and alone. It’s best to choose somewhere quiet. Although you’re allowed to access your resources, you aren’t permitted to contact your tutor or anyone else to help you with your answers, either by e-mail, phone or text.

We recommend choosing a location that:

  • Is comfortable, ideally with a desk and chair
  • Has space for your notes and study resources
  • Has a strong Wi-Fi signal
  • Is private, quiet, and free from distractions
  • Has a clock, so you can monitor your time

How to book your NEBOSH exam

Exam dates are released by NEBOSH periodically, and typically about six weeks before the exam date. If you are a Phoenix student, we will contact you via email once the dates are released. Please regularly check your spam folders and look out for the e-mail as it will inform you on the next steps.

If you are not a Phoenix student and you wish to book the exam, you can still do so by using the below contact details.

You will need to complete a booking form, this can be obtained from or on the NEBOSH Exams page.

Once we have received your booking form, you will then be sent an e-mail confirmation with information regarding the exam. If you do not receive the confirmation e-mail within three days of placing the booking please contact

NEBOSH will contact you 2-3 days before the examination date with an e-mail that contains your login details. We advise that you log in, change the password, and familiarise yourself with the platform the day before.

You will need to download the Moodle app using the login details sent to you by NEBOSH.

If you experience any issues with this app, please contact Please be advised that this is not a Phoenix platform, so we may not be able to help you.

Follow the on-screen instructions. There will be two downloads available: a question paper (containing the scenario and the questions) and an answer template. It’s preferable to complete the answer online, although you can print it off if you wish.

The Moodle app will tell you how much time is remaining to complete the exam.

Open Book Exam preparation

Planning your study days on a calendar will help you to stay organised in the lead up to your exam. Get in touch with our team at if you would like to complete our NEBOSH mock exam papers.

For face-to-face classroom courses, your tutor will discuss mock papers during your study sessions. There will also be online revision sessions available to you in the run up to the exam. Distance and e-learners can access the study support forum.

From these revision sessions, you will gain crucial feedback and information on how to answer scenario-based questions. Try to complete one paper a week; however, only submit 2-3 questions at a time to focus your learning in various topic areas.

What is a Scenario-Based Question? 

In the Open Book Exam, you’ll receive a scenario and a set of ten questions.

The scenario will be a hypothetical workplace situation including some background information about the role you play. You need to carefully consider the details of the role and relate to the scenario in your answers.

An example of a scenario-based question can be found in the e-learning and revision resources. Please beware, however, that the scenario given to you on the exam day will not be the same as the sample paper.

What type of questions are in the NEBOSH exam?

All the questions will be derived from syllabus elements 1 – 4. All questions in the NEBOSH exam will include a scenario and require you to complete a task.

Some examples of a question in the exam could be:

  • “Prepare notes of the moral arguments you will use when chairing the health and safety committee meeting”. (The key words are “prepare notes”, this is giving you some indication of what is expected.)
  • “Comment on how effectively the policy has been implemented.”
  • “What financial arguments can you give to justify your proposed recommendations?”

How to answer the questions

 You could gain more marks by following these best practice steps:

  1. Read through the scenario and familiarise yourself with the content.
  2. Read through it again and highlight or underline the key areas within the scenario.
  3. Read through the questions and highlight the key words in the question. For example: “Discuss the moral argument for implementing safety and health.” The focus is on “discuss” and “moral.” So, you need to ensure your answers are written in full paragraphs, not just bullet points. We recommend writing a minimum of 300 words for each question (approx. for a 10-mark question) to make sure you go into the right amount of depth. Do not use financial or legal arguments in your answers, as you will not get any marks for this.
  4. The word count for the full paper is 3,000 words — with an allowance of 10%. Distribute the word count according to the marks available across all tasks i.e., if an answer is worth more marks, you should allocate a larger word count than the smaller value questions.
  5. When answering, start with some key words to help structure your answer, e.g. for moral arguments you may use the, “effects of an accident, injury and ill health.”
  6. Then go back and formulate your discussion, relating it to the key points in the scenario — do not quote the scenario word for word.
  7. Do not copy and paste answers from textbooks or the web. All answers must be in your own words. If you do use any material word for word from your textbooks or the web, then you MUST reference it as the bottom of the paper.


The day of the exam

On the exam day, you will hopefully be fully prepared and ready — that includes downloading the question paper.  Don’t forget, you have 24 hours to complete the exam, so use the time wisely.

To avoid plagiarism, make sure you reference any quotes or comments taken directly from your study materials or online sources. You can add references to the end of your paper. We suggest that you keep referencing to a minimum, as the majority of your answers should be in your own words.

Follow all the instructions for uploading and submitting your answers. You can update, amend, or replace your submission at any point until the exam deadline, after which the option will unavailable.

Closing interviews

Following the open book exam is a short closing interview. These interviews are a NEBOSH requirement and confirm that you were the person that took the exam and the work submitted is your own.

The closing interview does not form part of your exam results. You must complete the interview via video call, within 2-3 weeks of completing the exam. You will need access to an internet-connected device with a camera (e.g. smartphone, tablet or computer).

The interviewer will ask you to confirm your identity. You will also need to show there is no one else in the room with you and that you do not have access to your study materials. You will be asked a few questions about your exam paper answers — again this is only to confirm that you were the person completing the exam.  The interview will take a maximum of 15 minutes.

You can book your closing interview by contacting our team by email at

Your results

NEBOSH will email your exam results to you within 50 working days of the exam. If you have passed, you will receive a certificate within 20 working days of your results.

You can now relax; you’ve done the very best you can. Phoenix wishes you the very best of luck, and we hope you’ll think about your next career development options with us.

NEBOSH Open Book Exam checklist

Use this checklist to ensure that you have:

 Booked your preferred exam date

  • Received confirmation
  • Obtained mock exam papers
  • Created a study plan
  • Contacted a tutor or study support
  • Familiarised yourself with the Learner Guide, and app and interview process
  • Completed the e-learning
  • Booked your interview

DO NOT FORGET to book your interview date with Phoenix – this is a separate process to the NEBOSH platform for the exam. 

The Learner Guide, Interview Guide and Mobile app guide and are available from