In addition to regular feedback on the latest NCTJ shorthand exams there will be tips on such subjects as ‘preparation for exams’, ‘avoiding common errors’, ‘getting the admin right’ and a review of what’s available online.
First the good news. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of students attempting the higher speeds of 110 and 120 words per minute (wpm). Some of the papers I have marked recently have been very impressive. It has been noticeable that the Teeline outlines on the successful scripts have been small and neat. On the whole, lines have been short.
Of course, there has always been debate about the optimum outline size and line length. My own feeling is that speed can be hindered by putting too much emphasis on outline size. A student’s natural writing style should be respected but in general, smaller outlines and lines containing around six to eight outlines seem to bring the greatest success.
My experience of marking what probably amounts to thousands of scripts from dozens of centres is that students with larger handwriting do regularly pass the benchmark 100 word per minute exams. On the other hand, I see very few of the successes at 110 and 120 featuring large outlines.
I think of myself as a patient sort of individual but there are a few practices by candidates that are in danger of transforming me from the Jolly Green Giant into The Hulk. The first is the use of brackets, as if the candidate is offering me an alternative transcription, just in case the first one is wrong!
For example: “My name is John Brown. I am head of this police division (department)”.
The candidate wants me to choose, when it is clearly the candidate’s role to decide upon the correct transcription. This use of brackets is not a good idea for any candidate. First of all, it will annoy the marker. Secondly, it will lead to the error count being raised by every wrong word, whether in a bracket or not. My advice – keep the Jolly Green Giant smiling.
The other regular irritation is the lack of punctuation, sometimes just in the Teeline script, at other times in the transcription as well. Tutors really should discourage this practice. Not only will it lead to penalties in an exam, it is in danger of forming a habit which will lead to serious issues in the workplace. Full stops and question marks help an exam candidate to transcribe their note. In the workplace it could lead to an alteration in meaning and legal action by a complainant.
The shorthand resources section on the NCTJ’s website has a PDF download which might be useful to tutors – it’s entitled ‘Don’t forget that full stop’.
FOOTNOTE: If you haven’t discovered Shorthand Sue yet, visit Youtube or type Shorthand Sue into Google.