Shorthand marker’s blog: The BFG

As Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant might say – that was a trogglehumper. I’m talking about a candidate’s possible reaction to a script which unravels before them in a shorthand exam. To translate, for those who are not BFG friendly, a trogglehumper is a particularly bad dream, a nightmare even!

Not that I’m suggesting there was a particularly difficult script recently. The degree of difficulty is all in the eye of the beholder. One unfamiliar word at the wrong time, a half-remembered word ending sets the brain off at a tangent – and that can make all the difference.

Meanwhile, cast your eye down the latest list of shorthand results. That simple four-letter word ‘PASS’ against each name sends out such a powerful message. For students and trainees, seeing their name on the list is a delight. It is a reward for months, possibly years, of hard graft.

For a tutor, a glance down that recently published list on the NCTJ website can bring joy and disappointment.

A moment’s carelessness by a student can mean they failed when both they and their tutor knew they were perfectly capable of passing. In higher speed exams there have been a few candidates who really should have passed, but fell at the last hurdle.

The pain for these candidates was all the more excruciating because the errors came in the final section where a quote has to be identified and accurately translated. It is a particularly bitter pill to swallow if the first three minutes were passed. But that extra test is there to highlight the fact that if a journalist decides to quote a speaker verbatim, then it has to be accurate. An error could land them or their publication in court. It is also included in the higher speed exams to reinforce the need for journalists to recognise a comment which is worth quoting directly because it is particularly colourful, descriptive, controversial or striking in some other way.

So candidates – take extra care in this final minute. Tutors – include plenty of practice and emphasise the importance of accuracy in this section.

Then there is the surprise name on the results list. The student cannot believe their eyes. They were convinced they had a huge gap in their transcription and had resigned themselves to failure.

It turns out that there were far few missing words than they had thought and the rest of the transcription was nigh on perfect. Something of a phizzwizard (a particularly happy dream according to BFG).

The message here? It pays to focus right to the end of an exam, even after a demoralisingly rocky few moments.

For those tutors who missed the shorthand seminar, here is a reminder that there will be a significant change to the exam procedure from the beginning of the next academic year. The shorthand exams are going to be provided in a recorded format. Accredited centres will be receiving more information and instructions during the next few weeks.

FOOTNOTE: Have you tried writing BFG words in Teeline?