Passing your NEBOSH General Certificate exam… Learn this useful examination technique

NEBOSH often give you clues in their exam questions as to what they expect from your answer. All you have to do is learn to read the question to ascertain exactly what is being asked of you. NEBOSH are not trying to catch anyone out, and learning these examples, will help you to achieve exam success.


When asked to define something, give a generally accepted definition
Example: Define the term ‘accident’
Answer: An accident is an unplanned unwanted event which results in loss.

When asked to describe something, give a word picture, a detailed description of what the thing is, what it looks like, how it works etc.
Example: Describe four elements of a health and safety management system.
Four elements of a health and safety management system may be described as:

Plan: Planning for health and safety involves setting objectives, identifying hazards, assessing risks and implementing standards of performance to achieve organisational goals. An effective system for health and safety management requires organisations to control risks, react to changing demands, and to sustain positive health and safety attitudes and behaviours.

Do: Identify the organisation’s risk profile, organising for health and safety and implementing the plan:
-  Decide on the preventive and protective measures needed and put them in place
-  Provide the right tools and equipment to do the job and keep them maintained
-  Train and instruct, to ensure everyone is competent to carry out their work and
-  Supervise to make sure that arrangements are followed.

Check: Measuring performance is a key step in the management of health and safety. There are two ways to generate management information on performance:
-  Proactive
-  reactive

Act: Reviewing performance is a process of analysing data gathered through monitoring techniques to make judgements about whether performance is adequate. Of course, the most important aspect of reviewing health and safety performance is so that lessons can be learnt and appropriate actions can be taken to improve it further.

When asked to explain, give a clear account of, reason/s why, reason/s for, how it works
Example: Explain the significance of reporting and recording near misses as an aid to accident prevention
According to Bird and other studies in relation to accident triangles there is a correlation between the number of near misses that occur in an organisation and the number of accidents and serious accidents that occur. The correlation is usually depicted as a triangle with the number of near misses/incidents at the base of the triangle as the number of serious accidents at the top. Therefore by understanding the number of near misses one can act to reduce the number of such events through good investigation and preventative activities and subsequently reduce the overall size of the triangle, leading to fewer accidents in the workplace.

Provide an answer without explanation (used normally with the instruction ‘give an example , or examples, of…’
Example: Give examples of how employees may misunderstand a verbal instruction
Misinterpreting the message due to lack of understanding of vocabulary;
Misunderstanding the message due not being able to speak the language;
Not hearing the message as a result of background noise;
Not hearing the message due to distractions as result of a busy work area

Provide a list without detailed explanation
Example: List external sources of health and safety information
Health and Safety Executive Guidance
Approved Codes of Practice
Statutes and legal standards
Providers of insurance cover
Suitability competent consultants

Give the most important features of (less depth than either explain or describe but more detail than a list)
Example: Outline the key elements of a permit-to-work system.
The key elements of a permit to work (PTW) system would include the relevant documentation on which the permit activities, hazards and subsequent precautions are recorded. The system which supports the PTW would include the need for issue, receipt and return. Additionally there should be a system in place for the transfer of permits between shifts where appropriate to ensure that activities are not missed or precautions unnecessarily removed. There should also be systems in place for the cancellation of the permits where the permit issuer should:
-  Check that the work is complete
-  Ensure that operations may be returned to normal service, e.g. All isolations have been removed and the equipment is safe to operate and
-  Sign the permit off

A less demanding form of define, where there is no generally recognised definition
Example: State the meaning of the term ‘competent person’.
The meaning of competent person is one who has the necessary knowledge, attitudes, training and experience to complete a given task to a specified standard consistently over time.

Remember the differences between these types of questions and it will help you in your NEBOSH exams.

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Post date: 27 Apr 2015

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