NEBOSH General Certificate

It is vitally important when undertaking any type of training course to ensure that you learn the course content to the best of your ability in order to give yourself the best possible chance of successfully completing any form of assessment – NEBOSH examinations are no different.

There is however another important aspect to consider when undertaking NEBOSH examinations and that is the use of ‘command words’ by the examining body.

Understanding NEBOSH ‘command’ words and what they mean can be the difference between a ‘pass or fail’ and delegates often have problems in determining what is meant by them – in short they are ‘action verbs’ and they provide an indicator with regard to how the examining body expect the question to be answered.

This is a short guide based on five examples contained in current NEBOSH Resources on how to recognise the ‘command words’ that you are likely to come across when undertaking the NEBOSH National General Certificate.

Command Word One:-   Identify

Meaning:  To give to reference to an item, which could be its name or title.

Type of answer required:  Normally a single word or short phrase answer is enough provided it is clear and concise.

Example Question:  Identify FOUR hazards associated with excavations?


  • Underground Services
  • Collapse of the sides
  • Falling materials
  • Water ingress

Command Word Two:-   Give

Meaning:  To provide factual, short answers, such as an example or the meaning of something.

Type of answer required:  Normally a single word, phrase or sentence is sufficient.

Example Question:  Identify FOUR types of safety sign AND give an example in EACH case?


  • Mandatory Signs – e.g. Wear Ear Protection
  • Warning signs – e.g. Caution Hot Surface
  • Prohibition signs – e.g. no smoking
  • Emergency or Safe Condition Signs – e.g. first-aid box

Command Word Three:-  Outline

Meaning:  To provide a short summary of the principal (important) features or different parts

Type of answer required:  Note an exhaustive description is not required, just a brief summary of the major aspects of whatever is stated in the question

Example QuestionOutline FOUR hazards associated with excavations?


  • Underground Services – Contact with or rupturing of electricity, gas or water utilities
  • Collapse of the sides – Unsupported trench or incorrect angle of the sides
  • Falling materials – Spoil dug from excavation or materials and tools stored at ground level could fall in
  • Water ingress – Through heavy rain or burst water main

Command Word Four:-  Describe

Meaning:  To give a detailed information about the primary features of something or a subject, without trying to fully explain its operation or purpose. 

Type of answer required:  A description that is sufficient to allow an individual (in this case the examiner) to visualise what you are describing without attempting to explain.

Example Question:  Describe the mechanical hazards associated with a bench grinder?

An entanglement hazard would be associated with the rotating spindle that the abrasive wheel is mounted on. Drawing in and trapping is associated with the gap between the tool rest and the rotating abrasive wheel. Friction or abrasion hazards would be associated with the surface of the rotating abrasive wheel and stabbing or puncture hazards could be created by flying fragments or pieces of ejected broken wheel.

Command Word Five:-  Explain

Meaning:  To give the reader an understanding and or make an idea/relationship clear to them

Type of answer required:  An explanation that sufficiently demonstrates a delegates knowledge or understanding with regard to ‘why or how’ something happens. The appropriate use of examples may be useful in answering such questions.

Example QuestionExplain how sensitive protective equipment (trip device) can reduce the risk of contact with moving parts of machinery?

Sensitive protective equipment is designed to identify the presence of a person or body part within the danger zone of machinery. Examples of such devices include pressure mats and light beams which are connected to the machine controls and would stop the machine rapidly should a person or body part be detected.


Command words are specifically associated with the learning outcomes and assessment objectives of a qualification.  Knowledge of them is not only beneficial in answering exam questions but they can also be a very useful revision aid in confirming your knowledge and understanding of a specific topic.

Delegates should not let command words confuse them and they should not lose sight of what the question is asking them.  Delegates need to consider the following factors for each question posed:

  • What is the command word?
  • What do I need to say to gain marks?
  • What is or is not relevant to the question?

Use command words as a guide when answering questions which will enable you to demonstrate in your exams the level of knowledge and understanding you have regarding a topic.

The simplified guide above will help you understand what is required by each command word but better still review the NEBOSH guide in full alongside the specific course learning outcomes and assessment objectives.

When booking onto our NEBOSH Courses, our instructors will set delegates homework to help prepare them for the examination and this will include the use and understanding of ‘command words’.  Additionally Goldcross runs specific NEBOSH revision days for the benefit of all its delegates at very competitive prices.

Fell free to give us a call on: 0203 633 5505 or send us an email to discuss your NEBOSH training needs in more detail at: