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Understanding the NEBOSH Command Words

When taking a NEBOSH examination, although important to learn the course content in as much detail as you can, it is also imperative to learn how to answer the questions in the correct way. NEBOSH examinations use ‘command’ words which are the action verbs within the question. Students frequently ask us 'What are command words?' so we have put together a comprehensive guide on how to identify each command word and ensure you are answering the question correctly;



To give to reference to an item, which could be its name or title. Normally a single word or phrase is enough provided it is clear and concise.

E.g: Identify FOUR hazards associated with excavations:


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



To give short, factual answers, or an example of or the meaning of something. Normally a single word, phrase or sentence is sufficient.

E.g: Identify FOUR types of safety sign AND give an example in EACH case


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



A summary of the most important points or issues, but without providing a long explanation/description. 

E.g: Outline FOUR hazards associated with excavations:


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



To give a detailed information about the main features of something, but without trying to explain it. When describing something, the examiner should be able to picture what you are talking about.

E.g:  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.



To give the reader a thorough understanding of what you are portraying, this command word tests your ability to know or understand the why or how something is happening. 

E.g: Explain 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.


For further explanation of the command words and examples that may prove useful, please visit the following document from NEBOSH by clicking here. When booking onto our NEBOSH General Certificate Course, our instructor (who is also an examiner) will be providing homework to help prepare each student for the examination.

Our trained team are also happy to help, please feel free to give us a call on 0333 666 0555 or email us on