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Taking the NEBOSH Diploma: Study Tips from a NEBOSH Award Winner

Tim Bates is the winner of the NEBOSH Best Student for Unit B Award 2017. He discusses his journey through the NEBOSH Diploma with us and shares his top studying tips.

June 2017

Tim is a Group Health and Safety Adviser for a water and civil engineering consultancy. In his role, he works with the Board and Directors to help them meet their legal responsibilities. He is active in a range of health and safety areas - completing risk assessments, accident investigations, audits and internal training. Tim is also responsible for improving health and safety performance across the business. He reviews current management systems offering advice on improvements.

Taking on a new challenge

Tim has always had a role in health and safety, particularly within the rail industry. He joined his current company in 2008 as a Project Manager. His aim was to improve the management of health and safety within its rail engineering projects. However, Tim's extensive background also enabled him to help the business with wider advice and internal auditing.

As the company grew, they offered Tim the opportunity to become a full-time Health and Safety Adviser. This is where his true passion lies, so he happily accepted the role with one condition - they allowed him to complete the NEBOSH National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals.

Good news for business

Tim had already brought up the possibility of taking the NEBOSH Diploma before, but there had never been a business case. Once he began his new role, he put forward the new benefits of the course. He insisted that the NEBOSH Diploma would provide him with a higher level of demonstrable competence. This would enable him to advise the Board on Health and Safety matters on both a technical and strategic level. On a personal level, Tim knew that the Diploma would provide him with valuable transferable skills. he would also have a qualification that would set him apart in his career for years to come.

The company agreed. They offered Tim the time to attend the classroom sessions, on the understanding that he would do any extra studying and revision in his own time.

Taking the NEBOSH Diploma

It's no secret that the NEBOSH Diploma is an intense course. It is, after all, equal to a foundation degree. Tim has a degree in Biology, so as a scientist by education, Unit B was the module that came most naturally to him. Even so, Tim had a lot of work to do.

Making use of resources

Tim already had a foundation level of knowledge from the NEBOSH General Certificate (NGC). Before starting the Diploma, he received access to the NGC online course. He used the interactive materials to refresh his learning throughout the summer. By the time he started his Diploma, Tim was up-to-date on the latest HSE developments and eager to get started.

The Diploma course notes were just a starting point. Tim spent a great deal of time reading sites like BBC Bitesize and the HSE website for extra information around specific subject areas. He also used YouTube, health and safety professional sites and web-based research.

“Reading around the subject is essential to the course (and to get the marks). There is no substitute for learning the subject and knowing the facts."

Fitting in time around his family

"I sacrificed spending quality time with my kids and family for nearly 2 years whilst I studied. It was hard, but I would not have passed if I hadn't done so."

With a family to care for and a full-time job, Tim had to fit studying in around other commitments. Over the 20 months it took to complete the course, Tim spent at least 8 hours studying throughout the week. This was as well as the 8 hours he spent studying on the weekend, and any other time he could find in the day around work. Sunday was his dedicated study day. Around that, he always made sure he carried his iPad or course notes with him wherever he went. He committed to spending every spare moment he had to his NEBOSH Diploma.

"I knew the course would be hard, but I never imagined just how much work it involved. To those thinking of taking the NEBOSH Diploma, I would say don’t think you can pass by only reviewing your notes in the last few days. Or that only reading the notes will be good enough. To pass, you'll need to commit all your free time to it. And you'll have to give up some of the things you enjoy to study - I had to give up spending time with my kids!"

Dedicating a specific time to studying each week is a great way of holding yourself accountable for your learning. Putting together a plan like Tim is easier than you may think. 

Preparing for the NEBOSH Exams

A note often observed within the examiner's feedback is that delegates fail to relate their answers back to the workplace. They don't show a true understanding of the application of concepts.

Tim took every opportunity to relate his day-to-day job activities back to his course. Whilst studying for the NEBOSH Diploma, Tim completed peripheral studies on Radon and Legionella in work. He used this to his advantage in his exams and related back to what he had learnt in the workplace.

When it came to revision, Tim preferred to write headings on specific topics and make sure he was able to talk confidently about them. For example, health surveillance or COSHH assessments.

The examiner's feedback report indicated the level of detail required in his answers. He then tested his learning using past papers.

"My key tip for exams was 'make a point to get a point'. If the question is worth 10 marks, make 15 points. State the obvious, as well as the more detailed. Then flesh the answers out with facts and understanding. Learn as much as you can as you can across the whole syllabus. Don’t focus on what you think could come up in the exam, as in reality, anything could come up."

Life after the NEBOSH Diploma

Areas within Tim’s organisation have already shown definite improvement. Staff are now more engaged in health and safety. The challenge within any organisation is to maintain that focus at a management level. Tim’s main goal is to continue to raise awareness of duties whilst trying to offer practical solutions. He commented:

 “My day-to-day responsibilities haven’t changed, but I feel I am better qualified to advise and challenge perceptions. I’m in a better position to offer professional and competent solutions.”

What’s next for Tim?

Since completing his course, Tim feels he is able to better plan where he wants to take his career. Although he hasn’t ruled out completing further training, his next big step is to become a Chartered member of IOSH.

“I will definitely complete some more training in the future, but I’m not sure what yet. At the moment, I’m thinking of becoming a member of a professional organisation and becoming Chartered. Now I have the NEBOSH Diploma there are many opportunities open for me.”

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