Archive for July, 2012

9 July, 2012

How to pass your NEBOSH National Certificate exam – RoSPA’s top 10 tips!

Watch the video at the bottom of this blog to hear recent RoSPA NEBOSH Certificate candidate Roxanne share her tips for success. For more Workplace Safety related posts visit our dedicated blog at

The NEBOSH National Certificate is the UK’s most widely held health and safety qualification, currently held by 150,000 successful candidates. So, if you’re currently studying for your exams then these top tips, assembled from my team of RoSPA trainers, who also have experience marking NEBOSH exams, are for you.

Rob Burgon RoSPA's workplace safety team leader NEBOSH

Offering top 10 tips on how to pass your NEBOSH National Certificate exam is Rob Burgon, RoSPA’s workplace safety manager.

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 our latest poll, 88 per cent 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 Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) 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. It is 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 three 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 one long answer question
  • The short answer questions are each worth eight marks, and the long answer question is worth 20 marks
  • Time wise, this means that you should give yourself eight to 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 to help keep track of time
  • All questions are compulsory.

    Roxanne Woodiwiss NEBOSH pass distinction

    These top tips certainly helped recent RoSPA candidate Roxanne Woodiwiss, who passed with distinction in March 2012!

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 means that it’s your job to make it as easy as possible for the examiner to find places to award you marks. Keep writing legible, with 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 provide an answer for every question (although you may want to “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 yourself 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 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 below, 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 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”, regularly feature in the common pitfalls section. A good revision course will 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 failing to apply the command words, or action verbs, when answering a question. Taken from RoSPA’s National Certificate Revision Course, the following guide to NEBOSH National Certificate command words should help you steer clear of this:

  • 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.

    NEBOSH National Certificate Exam RoSPA

    Look at past papers in preparation for your exam. Practice answers and submit them to your tutor. You could also sit a mock exam.

7)    Condense your notes as the date approaches

Days immediately prior to the exam are not the time for reading through reams of notes with a highlighter in hand. 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 revision cards to augment with 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

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 briefed with travel arrangements. Do this thoroughly, and then put it out of your mind, so that you can better concentrate on the        substance of the exam.

10)  Use past papers to practice your exam technique

You will 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 allowing you to practice writing for a significant length of time.

And finally,  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 HSW (the free weekly e-newsletter of the popular Health and Safety at Work journal) 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 a member of my training team can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to get it touch.

Rob Burgon, RoSPA’s workplace safety manager

Tel: 0121 248 2233

Further reading:

How to craft killer questions for NEBOSH exams

NVQ v NEBOSH Diploma – Which is right for you?

2 July, 2012

Safety behind the wheel: don’t let tiredness put a full stop to your festival fun!

The summer festival has drawn to a close and you and your friends have had a great time enjoying the live music and electric atmosphere. As the designated driver, you are responsible for ferrying your fellow festival-goers home…safely! But you’re feeling shattered, worn out from the festivities and not looking forward to the long drive ahead. What do you do?

Young people car festival tired teenagers

Driving when tired is not a smart move. Not only are you gambling with your life, but also the lives of your passengers and potentially other road users.

You may feel you can risk it and get behind the wheel anyway. This is a bad idea, not only are you gambling with your life, but also the lives of your passengers and potentially other road users. Driving when tired reduces your reaction time, which is a key element of safe driving, and with your friends in the car with you, there is bound to be plenty of chatter which will only serve to distract you further.

Driver fatigue is no laughing matter; it is a serious problem which results in thousands of road accidents each year. Research shows that driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20 per cent of road accidents, and up to one quarter of fatal and serious accidents*. These types of crashes are about 50 per cent more likely to result in death or serious injury as they tend to be high speed impacts. A driver who has fallen asleep cannot brake or swerve to avoid or reduce the impact.

The first thing that may cross your mind to help you stay awake is to reach for an emergency cup of coffee. Drinking at least 150mg of caffeine and taking a nap of around 15 minutes are the only measures that help to reduce sleepiness. But even these are temporary measures; sleepiness will return if the driver does not stop driving within a fairly short period of time. By planning ahead, particularly when driving on motorways, you can work in a series of breaks to give you time to pull over in a safe place and have a rest. A minimum break is recommended of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving. Remember not to stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Alternatively, plan in advance an overnight stop, as this will then give you the welcome option of driving for a few hours, with a break, to a hotel, for example, before waking up fresh to complete the journey the following day.

You may decide that the chances of you falling asleep at the wheel are slim, but can you afford to take the risk? Driving whilst tired makes you less vigilant and alert. It also affects your concentration levels and the quality of your decision-making.

Crashes caused by tired drivers are most likely to happen:

  • On long journeys on monotonous roads, such as motorways
  • Between 2am and 6am
  • Between 2pm and 4pm (especially after eating)
  • After having less sleep than normal
  • After drinking alcohol
  • After taking medicines that cause drowsiness
  • After long working hours or on journeys home after long shifts, especially night shifts.

Here are RoSPA’s top tips on how to avoid the risk of falling asleep at the wheel:

  • Plan your journey. Write out a route that you can read easily and/or programme the SatNav to its destination prior to setting off
  • Check your vehicle is in a safe condition before heading out on the road. Check the tyres, lights, windscreen wipers and all fluid levels
  • Decide in advance where to stop for regular rest breaks
  • Consider having an overnight break so that you don’t get too tired, but plan this in advance
  • If possible, share the driving with a second driver
  • Try not to drink the night before a long car journey. Alcohol stays in the body for several hours and will make you more sleepy
  • If you are taking any medication, check whether it causes drowsiness. If it does, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an alternative that does not cause drowsiness.

Next time you are faced with the daunting task of driving home after a festival, take time out to make sure you are fully awake and prepared – try not to give into peer pressure if you are not feeling your best. One moment’s lapse in concentration while out on the roads could be your last, but by making changes to your driving behaviour the risk of an accident can be reduced.

For more information on road safety, visit

For other festival-related safety advice, visit

*Figures quoted by the Sleep Research Laboratory at Loughborough University (“Sleep Related Vehicle Accidents”, Jim Horne and Louise Reyner, 2000) and the Department for Transport’s Road Safety Research Report No. 52, October 2004 (“Sleep-Related Crashes on Sections of Different Road Types in the UK, 1995-2001).

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety

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