How To Pass The DGSA Exams

Looking for insights into the DGSA exam? You’re in the right place. Read on to learn how to maximise the marks (and avoid the pitfalls) in the Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) Exams.

The Mistakes Of Others Are Instructive

After every DGSA exam, the Examiner compiles a report on the most common errors. The report highlights the frequent areas of misunderstanding. Tapping into the detail of these reports could address your own areas for improvement and ensure DGSA exam success.

Areas for Improvement – General

This section could be applied to pretty much any subject with a formal exam. Some of these things may seem quite basic for such a technical subject. However, candidates frequently drop marks for not doing the following:

  • Studying sufficiently (learning the topic) and preparing adequately (understanding the exam)
  • Keeping it neat – marks are lost through poor handwriting, fuzzy logic and the layout of answers
  • Acknowledging the keywords such as ‘explain’, ‘give reasons’ etc. If you are writing a bullet pointed list for every answer, it is unlikely to score highly

Areas for Improvement – Specific

This section dives into some of the specifics. If you have previously sat the exam, this section will prove to be really useful. However, if you haven’t, you may not understand some of the terminology. Don’t let this put you off. Once you know what a word or phrase means you can easily understand the context.

  • Attention should be given to any Special Provisions and Special Packing Provisions
  • References mean paragraph references, not page numbers
  • Annex A and Annex B are not suitable references
  • N.O.S substances have more than one entry, due to packing groups. Care needs to be taken when selecting the right one
  • Acknowledging how ADR recognises the multi-modal transport chain, for example
  • UN specification packaging marks and the common types are usually well covered. However, some types of packaging, such as salvage packaging, require additional marking.
  • There is a difference between ‘Mixed Packing’ (in the same box – 4.1.10) and mixed loading (on the same vehicle – 7.5.2)
  • There is a difference between a Portable Tank (col. 10/11) and an ADR Road Tank (col. 12/13). Each has its own class-specific sub-sections
  • The tank hierarchy details which alternatives could be used
  • CDG2009 is required to answer some questions, such as placarding tankers. Candidates should reference CDG but often reference ADR instead
  • There is some confusion between ‘Limited Quantities’, the ‘small load threshold’ and ‘fully-regulated consignments’
  • Limited Quantities and Excepted Quantities are not exemptions from ADR. Rather, they provide relief from the full requirements, such as not requiring the use of UN approved packaging
  • A package is not an overpack; an overpack is not a package – or put another way: every outer packaging is not an overpack.

DGSA: Core Paper

The DGSA exam is actually three papers: Core, All Classes and Road (or other modes). Much of what has been written also applies to each type of exam paper. That said, there are some specifics worth a mention:

  • Limited and Excepted quantities are different regimes
  • The ‘Duties of a DGSA’ has been tapped into for obvious reasons over the years. However, other topics, such as the DGSA examination, can and do come up
  • Some candidates mistake Classification with Identification. For example, using the Table of Precedence to establish the primary hazard is Classification. The use of this table doesn’t always require the assignment of a PSN (Proper Shipping Name)

DGSA: All Classes Paper

  • Class 3 (Flammable Liquids); Class 6.1 (Toxic Substances) and Class 8 (Corrosives) account for a lot of the DG transported on our roads. For Classification, each of these classes has some form of ‘look up’ table. These have proven to be well-mined areas by examiners over the years.
  • Knowing the above Classes is well covered by Training Providers, exam questions have, more recently, started to test the knowledge of other classes. You would be well-served to at least familiarise yourself with the opening paragraph for each class (Criteria)
  • The start of Part 4 – Packing Provisions, contains some key information. This section is not just about the Packing Instructions.
  • Orientation Arrows (‘this way up’) don’t apply to all types of dangerous goods (
  • There are exemptions from the requirement to appoint a DGSA (
  • Certain packaging types have a finite life (plastic drums / jerricans)

DGSA: Road Paper

  • Candidates should be able to identify the Security Provisions (1.10) and Accident Reporting obligations of a DGSA (
  • Candidates are often in the right place but slip up by referencing without due care to the exact paragraph
  • Fire fighting equipment (8.1.4)
  • Security requirements (1.10) and Vehicle Supervision (8.4/5) are separate issues, though they might be relative considerations
  • Some candidates ‘shoe-horn’ what they can find to what’s being asked – Take the time to understand what is actually being asked.
  • There’s a tendency to overlook the information about a question and jump straight to the question itself. This may account for why some candidates attempt more than one case study question. You have a choice: one of three presented. There are no marks for doing more. Time is better spent doing one really well.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

The information from the Examiner should be very useful to candidates taking their exam. Sometimes though, you need to know enough to understand what you don’t know. At DGSA Academy we aim to teach the principles first. Yes, it’s important to know where something is in the ADR manuals. But you also need to know why it’s important and where it fits into the bigger picture.

This summary was created from the SQA Examiners Guidance. You can find the full report here along with reports detailing recent candidate performance.

How We Can Help Ensure DGSA Exam Success

We offer classroom training and an online course (virtual classroom). We can even book your exams! If you have any questions, please get in touch

We are also the only DGSA training provider to offer a satisfaction guarantee – if you fail any of the three exams, we will provide additional mock exam materials and arrange another 60 minute 1:1 coaching session, totally free of charge.

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