How To Revise Effectively For The NEBOSH General Certificate Exam

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When you sit the NEBOSH National General Certificate exam, you should revise for the recommended 40 hours beforehand.

You don’t need to remember any information for an open book exam, but it’s a good idea to know some details off the top of your head. Leafing through your notes will raise your stress levels and waste time.

This guide will help you to remember the critical details and organise your notes in preparation for the exam.

Key points

  • The NEBOSH General Certificate proves what you know – to pass the open book exams you must demonstrate you understand how the theory applies to the real working world.
  • You should revise for at least 40 hours. That’s around two hours per topic.
  • It’s an open book exam, but with a vast amount of information at your fingertips, you must still revise to know where the relevant course information is, so you’re prepared for any type of question.

Download your free guide to the NEBOSH General Certificate

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#1. The NEBOSH game show

This is a card game based on the Leitner system. Use flashcards to help you revise and focus on the stuff you don’t know.

You’ll need:

  • Four empty boxes
  • A stack of blank flashcards
  • A selection of coloured pens

To get started, grab a card and write a keyword on the front and the definition on the back. Here’s one we made earlier:

Then, sort your cards into three ‘confidence’ boxes:

  • Box one: Can’t remember
  • Box two: Not sure
  • Box three: Memorised

Make a fourth and final box called ‘got it!’.

Now you’ve made the cards and boxes, you’re ready to play.

Rules of the game

This is a quick-fire NEBOSH game show – you can play on your own, or ask a family member to become your Bradley Walsh, Alexander Armstrong or Victoria Coren-Mitchell.

The aim of the game is to get every flashcard into the ‘memorised’ box.

Here are the rules:

  1. The first time you play, put all the cards in one pile.
  2. Pick up the top card, read the question and answer it.
  3. If you get it right, put the card in the ‘memorised’ box. If you half-remember the answer, put it in the ‘not sure’ box and if you get it completely wrong, or draw a blank, put it in the ‘can’t remember’ box.
  4. When you get through the entire stack, you can see how much work you still need to do based on how full the ‘can’t remember’ and ‘not sure’ boxes are.
  5. In your second session, only answer the cards in the ‘can’t remember’ and ‘not sure’ boxes.
  6. If you get the question right, you can move it forward to the ‘memorised’ box. If you get it wrong, move it back to the ‘can’t remember’ box.
  7. In your final revision session in the days before your exam, ask every question in the ‘memorised’ box again. If you get the question right again, move the card into the fourth ‘nailed it’ box – you’re ready.

#2. Legislation, stats and facts sticky notes

The NEBOSH National General Certificate course is chock-full of legalities, compliance, quality and legislative stats and facts that are bound to crop up in the exam in one form or another.

A tried and tested way of remembering all these fiddly details is to write them on sticky notes and plant them around your house.

On door handles, shower doors, next to the phone, on the mirror, in the fridge, by the kettle – spots on your regular flight path. Not only are you reading the information more regularly, but you’re also making colour associations and a physical revision map around your home.

#3. Read, cover, remember, retell

This repetitive, but tried and tested method, will force you to go over and over the details until you remember them.

  1. Read it to yourself
  2. Cover it with your hand
  3. Remember it
  4. Retell it out loud

It’s not the easiest method to start with because you can’t remember something you don’t know. Try not to get disheartened if you can’t remember or retell the information on the first few goes.

The exam asks you to demonstrate what you know, so you must be able to recall the syllabus fully and accurately – this is one way to make sure you know the details.

#4. Your NEBOSH ‘Power Hour’

The NEBOSH exam is equivalent to an A-Level. Just like an A-Level, you must prepare for how you’ll tackle the exam, as well as revise the NEBOSH syllabus.

Usually, the exam paper will tell you how long to spend on the first question. It could be 30 minutes on a question worth eight marks.

How do you get prepared for managing time under exam conditions?

Author of ‘the A Level Mindset’, Martin Griffin, and creator of Life More Extraordinary revision blog, Lucy Parsons, recommend a technique called ‘the Power Hour’ to polish and practise your exam technique.

Here’s how it could be applied to the NEBOSH General Certificate exam:

  1. Pick an exam question – we’ve got a selection to choose from on our how to do the NEBOSH General exam page
  2. Spend 20 minutes revising it
  3. Set a timer and answer the question in 30 minutes
  4. Open up your course materials and spend five minutes marking your answer
  5. In the remaining five minutes, note down the points you missed

The power hour breaks up long periods of reading, gives you a balance of revision and exam practise, and it forces you to get under the skin of an assessor and spot what you’re missing.

#5. Ask an expert

If you study for the NEBOSH General Certificate with us, you’ll be able to ask your trainer (who’s not only a qualified NEBOSH tutor but an industry expert) questions outside of training time.

You’re also given access to the exclusive TSW Training Health and Safety Masterminds Facebook group – our alumni of a qualified health and safety professionals ready and waiting to help you out.

#6. NEBOSH audiobooks and podcasts

If you find that you learn best by listening, there’s no harm asking your trainer if you can record their sessions for you to listen back to. You don’t need expensive equipment – just use an app on your smartphone.

If you struggle with reading and writing, it’s just another way to support your learning and make the whole process a bit easier.

In all likelihood, you’ll have to sign something to declare you won’t sell or distribute the materials.

There are audiobooks available from third parties on Amazon and eBay, but use these with caution. You’ve already paid for a qualified trainer. If you download an unreliable and unverified audiobook, it could be out of date – the NEBOSH syllabus was revised in 2019.

Another option is to read your notes aloud, record them and listen back. That extends your opportunities to revise. You can listen and get on with your life, which doesn’t stop just because you’ve got an exam coming up.

How to revise the night before your NEBOSH General Certificate exam

  • If you’ve ticked off the 40 hours of revision, use the day before the exam to limber up your brain and get focused.
  • Don’t cram. The NHS recommends a good night’s sleep rather than ‘than a few hours of panicky last-minute study’ to cope with exam stress.
  • As a final bit of prep, play the NEBOSH game show and move your flashcards into the ‘nailed it’ box.
  • Wander around your house and pick up the stats and facts sticky notes. Say them aloud to yourself, explain what they mean to your housemates and family.
  • If you want to do a bit of exam prep, do a NEBOSH ‘Power Hour’ but don’t work too late into the evening – it’ll raise your stress levels and stop you getting a good sleep before the exam.
  • If there’s anything you’re not sure about, ask our Facebook community, or drop your trainer a message – they’ll talk you through any last-minute nerves.

Get started by downloading your free guide to the NEBOSH General Certificate today

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Any further questions?

If you’d like to know more about NEBOSH, the courses they offer and whether they’re the right course for you and your organisation, take a look at our NEBOSH FAQ page, or get in touch with our team of NEBOSH experts. 

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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