How to Approach Questions for the 18th Edition – A Guide

BTG Electrician and regional trainer for NAPIT, Dave Bromley, of Logitest Electrical, takes a look at the 18th Edition and breaks down how you should be looking at the new exam.

The 18th Edition exam can be a little daunting for students that haven’t taken the exam before, or those that have not done it in a while. There are a few different reasons that it can prove a little tricky;

Wording of the Questions 

The questions can be worded in such a way as to confuse or confound the reader.

For example:

Which of the following is not precluded from the scope of BS7671:2018

  1. Locations containing a bath or shower
  2. Electrical installations in mines
  3. Lightning protection systems to BSEN62305
  4. Electrical equipment on board ships.

The correct answer is 1) Locations containing a bath or shower – but let’s look at the question and identify why this is the correct answer.

The word precluded means left out or not included, so if we say it is NOT precluded, this means not left out, or to simplify it means it is included. This is what is known as a double negative and shouldn’t really be used as it causes confusion.

Wording of the Regulations themselves – if you have had a read through the Regs you will know first hand, that it isn’t for the faint of heart. The jargon that is used and even the language itself can be difficult to comprehend and sometimes even difficult to read – my favourite examples of this are:

‘A transient over-voltage of atmospheric origin’ – this is how a lightning strike is described.

My all time personal favourite though is;

‘The angle formed by two adjacent walls or partitions’ – which is the description given for a CORNER!

This means that when you have a regulation you are reading through, it pays to take your time and make sure you have read and understood the regulation before trying to apply it (whether in an exam or out on site).

Simplistic reading

This is one that catches a lot of people out, and to be honest it isn’t really your fault, when we are taught to read we are essentially taught to skip words for ones we recognise and then string sentences together. An example of this is the following text;

7H15 M3554G3 53RV35 7O PR0V3 H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1NG
7H1NG5! 1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5!
1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG 17 WA5 H4RD BU7 N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3 Y0UR M1ND
1S R34D1NG 17 4U70M471C4LLY W17H 0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17,

It is possible to read this excerpt not because you have a special skill, it’s because that’s how our brains work, essentially we read by pattern recognition.

This can be particularly frustrating if we read a question incorrectly, because when we re-read the question we will usually make the same mistake each time we read it. Take the following questions for example:

Which of the following can be used for basic or fault protection?

  1. SELV or PELV
  2. Placing out of reach
  3. Earthing and bonding
  4. Limiting the current passing through a body to a non hazardous value

Which of the following can be used for basic and fault protection?

  1. SELV or PELV
  2. Placing out of reach
  3. Earthing and bonding
  4. Limiting the current passing through a body to a non hazardous value

They look pretty similar don’t they? There is only one word different within the questions, yet it makes a great deal of difference to the answer.

Which of the following can be used for basic or fault protection?

  1. SELV or PELV
  2. Placing out of reach
  3. Earthing and bonding
  4. Limiting the current passing through a body to a non hazardous value

Which of the following can be used for basic and fault protection?

  1. SELV or PELV
  2. Placing out of reach
  3. Earthing and bonding
  4. Limiting the current passing through a body to a non hazardous value

As you can see it is vitally important that we read the questions and answers very carefully.

Going off ‘Half Cocked’

Essentially seizing on the first piece of information that in anyway seems familiar or useful and chasing it down like a dog with a bone.

If I were to ask the following question “What is the minimum IP rating of an outside lighting installation?” most people go straight to the index and start looking up IP ratings. This seems like a perfectly logical approach, but if we think about it in a bit more detail, we will realise that there are going to be literally hundreds of references to different IP ratings given within the Regulations, most of which aren’t useful to us in answering the above question.
In order to make the best use of the limited time we get for each question, we need to think about the question in a bit more detail. What we want to do is limit the amount of the book we need to read in order to find the correct information.
I would approach the same question a little differently than most, firstly I would be looking to see if there was something in the question that could point me in the right direction, so instead of focusing on the IP rating, when I read the question I focus on…

“what is the minimum IP rating of an outside lighting installation

This is a very specific location and is going to either have its own section or referred to less that a general term like IP ratings.

As it turns out there is a section that deals with outdoor lighting installations in part 7, so go to 714 in BS7671, now we need to break the question down a little more;

‘what is the minimum IP rating of an outside lighting installation’

Now we can focus on the IP ratings that relate to specifically this location, meaning we want to be looking for a heading that relates to IP ratings. This is where good terminology is important, for example if I said what does IP protection protect against? Some would say water, maybe some would say weather etc. none of these have headings in this section, however if you realise that all of those things are external influences, and look that up as a heading you should find the answer to the question pretty easily… for those still struggling the regulation that you are looking for is 714.512.2.105

Getting Stuck in the Index 

Another common issue. The index is a great tool when used correctly, sometimes though you can find the information that you need by using the contents page just as quickly and sometimes even faster. The example above is a good one for this, looking for the information in the index whilst possible actually means being buffeted around the index to 3 or 4 different places (all taking up time) it’s much easier to go to the contents, look up section 714 and then look through the section for the related heading. This may not always be the case but if you are struggling to find the information using one method try using the other to come at the problem from a different angle.


This is a massive concern for most people and adds an element of pressure to the exam that can directly affect the results. It is important therefore to have a strategy when going into the exam of how to make the most of the time that you have. Firstly you should apply all of the hints above when looking at the questions and answers, that being said there are some other tweaks that we can look at that should help you get the best result possible.

Go through the exam multiple times

Your first run through should be done with the book closed – I know it sounds counter intuitive, BUT this allows you to look at all the questions without getting bogged down in the book.

There should be approximately 20% of the exam that you know the answers to without consulting the book. If you know the answer 100% you obviously answer it, if you are 75+% sure you answer and flag the question (this gives you the option of coming back later and looking these up, provided that you have the time) and if you have no clue, leave that question and move on.

Your next run through is where you focus on all the questions that you have no answer for, now in some cases you will find the answer for a tricky question in one of the other questions, or even whilst looking for another answer.

The key here is to manage your time effectively, there is no point spending 20 minutes looking for one answer if it means that you then have no time to look up 5 questions that you could have found answers for. Unfortunately there is no exact guidance on how long you should spend looking up a question, all I would say is that you need to manage your time well.

If you have time left after going through your exam the second time, you should then start to look up the questions you were 75+% sure about. Find each one in the book and only change your first answer if you find it in the book or if another question has given you concrete information to go on.

Any time left should then be used to go through the paper again from scratch to make sure that you haven’t made any mistakes with simplistic reading etc.

As with any new skill these will need to be practiced before they become second nature, this is the reason we give you sample paper(s) to go through before you take the exam, this isn’t to show you the answers to questions likely to come up, instead they are designed to allow you to practice using the book to find the answers.

Provided that you follow these steps you should find that the exam is a little less tricky and you should hopefully gain a good result.

All that remains is to say “Good Luck”

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