Diploma hat sitting on a table
NEBOSH & Assessments

Preparing For The NEBOSH Environmental Diploma Exam

Preparing well for the NEBOSH Diploma in Environmental Management exam is essential if you want to do well, so in this post we are going to look at things that you can do to increase the chances of success in the exam and improve your confidence. The exam that you must complete is 3 hours in total and you have a choice of 5 questions out of a total of eight. The pass mark for the exam is 45%.

Essentially doing the best you can in an exam is about two key factors:

  • Having a good knowledge of the subject, and
  • Being able to apply your knowledge to an exam question.

I will have a look at both and I will try to give you some practical advice that might help you improve your performance.

Firstly, let’s look at gaining subject knowledge. Over the years I have found that many students don’t know how to study effectively.  Studying effectively is key as study time can be limited due to commitments such as work, family or hobbies. One thing not to do is just to pick up your textbook and read it. You will only remember a very limited amount of what you have read. So better options to gain knowledge would be to first develop a study plan. The plan will identify what to study and when and work as a basis for your revision. You might complete this after a gap analysis of what your topic strength and weaknesses are and allocate more revision time to those areas that you struggle with rather than those that you are good at. The plan can include some SMART (specific, measurable, realistic and timebound) targets to ensure that you keep on track with your revision.

I think the Environment Diploma exams are usually quite broad in the questions that are asked so I wouldn’t say concentrate on a few elements from the course. A better approach in my experience would be to gain a good, in-depth appreciation of all the subject matter. You never know what is going to come up on the Diploma exam and it is folly to try and predict!

Many students will have their own way to revise. I am, for example, a big fan of using mind maps as these show relationships between different parts of information in a clear figurative way. But there are other techniques you could try such as index cards, writing your own revision notes (summarising the key points from the textbook) or reciting content out loud. Try each of these and find what works best for you. I find that mnemonics can also be useful in remembering key facts. Remember whatever you do, don’t just read the textbook!

We will now have a look application of knowledge to an exam question. So, you have hopefully spent a lot of time revising the subject. This is a good, but just as important is the application of that knowledge with regards to the exam. It is important therefore that you spend a fair bit of your time practising exam questions. In your textbook at the end of every element is an exam style question and suggested answer, there are also many other sources of environment diploma questions and answers. When you have finished revising a topic you should consider attempting a relevant question. Find somewhere quiet and under exam conditions complete the question. Don’t go over the time that you would have in the exam for each question (36 minutes per question, give or take a few minutes depending on the question type, for example an identify question would usually take less time to answer than a describe question). Good exam technique should be applied for every question (read the question, highlight the key words, check the marks available, plan etc), which you can find out more about in your textbook.

Then, and this is very important, check your answer against the suggested answer. If there are things that you missed make sure that you spend time learning these. Don’t spend time learning things that you know already.

You should also be aware that as part of your Environment Diploma materials there is a mock exam for you to complete. It is surprising the number of students who do not complete this. Complete the mock exam under exam conditions when you feel that you have a good knowledge of the materials. Make sure you complete the exam in sufficient time, before the exam proper, to get feedback and do something about the feedback. Then you can submit the exam through the learning centre and get it marked, with feedback, by a tutor. This is a highly valuable check on how your revision is going and if your exam technique is effective.

So, to conclude then don’t forget that knowing how to study is a skill that must be learnt. If you want to increase your chances of doing well in the exam, learn to study effectively before you start revising. This will ensure that you make the most of the often limited amount of time that you have to study.

Further Reading

NEBOSH Student preparation for Certificate and Diploma written question papers : http://www.nebosh.org.uk/fileupload/upload/Student%20Preparation%20for%20Assessment11720173810212332018511656.pdf

Guide to the NEBOSH National Diploma in Environmental Management (September 2016):


Guide to the NEBOSH International Diploma in Environmental Management (September 2016):


John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MSc, MIEMA

With over 19 years’ experience working in environment management, John Binns BSc (Hons) MSc MIEMA is an experienced environmental tutor and consultant with knowledge of health and safety management.