Are you currently working towards a NEBOSH exam? If so, here’s some top tips from from my team of RoSPA trainers (who also have experience marking NEBOSH exams) and recent RoSPA delegate, Roxanne. They helped her to pass her NEBOSH exam – with disctintion no less – so hopefully they’ll help you too!
1.) Keep your eye on the prize
Yes, it’s a lot of work, and yes it’s usually on-top of all your work work, but the reality is that these days, and in this economic climate, the right qualifications are more important than ever.
In the latest poll, 88% of RoSPA Members’ agreed that a nationally recognised health and safety qualification helps career progression, and you only need to spend a few minutes scouring the Institute of Safety and Health’s jobs pages to be reassured that a NEBOSH qualification really will help open doors.
With this in mind, focus on the task in hand and prioritise accordingly. Far better to pass first time than to waste time re-sitting.
2.) Know what you’re getting yourself in to!
The National General Certificate is divided into 3 units, the first two of which, NGC1 and NGC2 are assessed by written exam. In order to maximise your point earning potential you need to understand how scores are generated. Remember:
- Each exam lasts two hours
- Each consists of 10 short answer questions and 1 long answer question
- The short answer questions are each worth 8 marks, and the long answer question is worth 20 marks
- Time wise, this means that you should give yourself 8-10 minutes for the short answer questions and 20 minutes for the long answer question. Our delegates tell us they find it useful to take their own watch into the exam, and have it visible on their desk, it helps them keep to time
- All questions are compulsory.
3.) Remember that the examiner is looking to give you points
The NEBOSH Certificate exam is positively marked, with points awarded for the correct application of knowledge, rather than deducted for incorrect answers. Therefore, if in doubt, have a go! You really don’t have anything to lose.
This marking system means that it’s your job to make it as easy as possible for the examiner to find places to award you marks. This means legible writing; clearly numbered answers (if a question consists of different sub-sections make sure you number each sub section and address it separately within your answer, e.g. 1a, b and c.); and an answer for every question (though you may ‘warm up’ by starting with those that you feel most confident about rather than working chronologically through the paper).
4.) Attend a NEBOSH Certificate Revision course
If at all possible we strongly recommend candidates attend a revision course. By putting you in an environment where you’re face to face with both an expert tutor and your peers, a revision course allows you to practice exam questions; get feedback on your performance and to ask any outstanding questions. Tutors expect there to be things that you’re still unsure of, so if in doubt, just ask. Many organisations, including RoSPA, will accept candidates on their NEBOSH Certificate revision courses even if they studied elsewhere and, for the reasons outlined here, attendance is something that we can’t emphasise enough.
5.) Answer the question that has been set, not a question that you’d like to answer
A quick look through NEBOSH’s Examiners’ Reports reveals that it is frustratingly not uncommon for candidates to miss marks simply by failing to answer the question as set. Comments such as: “Some candidates fail to answer the question set and instead provide information that may be relevant to the topic but is irrelevant to the question and cannot therefore be awarded marks”, or variations thereof, regularly feature in the ‘Common pitfalls’ section. A good Revision Coursewill again help you with this, as indeed will a few deep breaths to calm yourself before reading each question – twice.
6.) Apply the command words!
Another common pitfall is failure to apply the command words, or action verbs, when answering a question. Taken from RoSPA’s National Certificate Revision Course, the following guide should help you steer clear of this.
RoSPA’s Guide to NEBOSH National Certificate Command Words:
- Define − Provide a generally accepted definition
- Describe − Give a detailed word picture
- Explain − Give a clear account of, or reasons for
- Give − Provide without explanation (normally used with the instruction to give an example, or examples of…)
- Identify − Select and name
- Outline − Give the most important features (less depth than either ‘explain’ or ‘describe’ but more depth than ‘list’)
- State − A less demanding form of ‘define’ or where there is no generally accepted definition.
7.) Condense your notes as the date approaches
There’s a time for reading through reams of notes with a highlighter in hand but the days immediately prior to the exam are not this time. As the date approaches you should concentrate on condensed excerpts that you can actually commit to memory. Use your own revision cards to create these, or purchase Ed Ferrett’s revision cards to augment your course notes. Remember, minutes of concentrated learning will prove more valuable than hours of reading that you can’t later recall.
8.) Revise the subjects that you like least
That says it all really, but suffice to say that although it’s tempting to delve further into the topics that you enjoy and understand, when it comes to revision it’s the areas that you don’t like, or even understand, that really deserve your attention.
9.) ‘Always be prepared’
Take the pressure off yourself by alleviating the potential for niggling anxieties. Make sure you’re equipped with pens and a watch and that you’ve double checked the exam date, time and location and are fully au fait with travel arrangements. Do this thoroughly, and then put it out of mind, so that you can better concentrate on the substance of the exam.
10.) Use past papers to practice your exam technique
I recommend that you take a look at our recent post on how to craft killer answers in NEBOSH exams as this should really help. You will also look at past papers as part of RoSPA’s NEBOSH Certificate course. These are obviously the best way to assess the type of questions that you will face. Moreover, by practicing answers and submitting them to your tutor you’ll be able to gauge the depth of response required. We also recommend that you take the opportunity to sit a mock exam in its entirety prior to the actual exam as this will help you understand how much time you have per question, as well as to allow you to practice writing for that length of time!
11.) Keep up-to-date
Try to keep abreast of developments within the safety community, as doing so will mean you can stand out from the crowd by including topical examples and pertinent issues into your exam answers. Free news e-bulletins, such as SafetyMatters (RoSPA’s free fortnightly e-newsletter) are useful for this.
Thank you for taking the time to read our top-tips. I wish you the best of luck in your NEBOSH exams, and for your continued journey as a safety professional. If at any point myself, or member of my training team can be of assistance please don’t hesitate to get it touch.
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