Oral Examinations


Last week we ran a revision course for candidates intending to sit the oral examination for the BOHS Certificate. These take place every 3 months in March, June, September and December. The examination lasts for an hour (although it’s surprising how quickly thie time passes) and there will usually be a panel of three examiners who will ask a series of questions.

The exam can be an intimidating experience and its important to prepare properly. But many candidates are not sure what to expect.

I guess the first point to make is that the examiners are not out to fail you – they would like you to pass but they can only do that if you demonstrate your competence. They’re not out to trip you up or trick you. They will try to ask straightforward questions, and if there is an obvious answer that’s the one they are probably after. However, although they will try to frame the questions in a way you can understand, if you’re not sure what they are asking you, you can, and should, ask for clarification. They won’t bite your head off but will probably rephrase the question for you or provide some supplementary information to make it clearer. So don’t be afraid to ask.

The principle aims of the oral examination are to test  your ability to

  • recognise common health hazards and risks
  • describe, in a simple way, the toxic effects of hazardous substances and explain related terminology as you would to a worker or manager
  • decide on what sampling methods are appropriate to assess common chemical hazards and describe the key features of the equipment and sampling procedure
  • carry out sampling for common contaminants
  • carry out noise and vibration assessments
  • apply the hierarchy of control to typical industrial processes, describing appropriate controls
  • describe and apply the key principles of ventilation system design
  • assess the effectiveness of LEV systems
  • select personal protective equipment (RPE, gloves, ear defenders)

The examiners should not expect you to give detailed explanations of the “heavier” theory covered in the module exams. You may be asked about some basic principles and underpinning knowledge (such as legislation) but time is limited and the examiners will usually mainly concentrate on the more practical aspects of  occupational hygiene practice.

Questions will often be based on workplace scenarios. These shouldn’t be too complicated but will not always be familiar to you. If you have never come across the situation before don’t panic. Think it through. If you work out what the hazards and risks are you should be able to decide on what assessment methods and control methods will be appropriate.  If you aren’t sure about something ask for clarification.

Published by ms6282

I'm a consultant and trainer specialising in the recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards in the workplace. I'm based in the North West of England, but am willing to travel (almost) anywhere

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