Shorthand marker’s blog: The new shorthand exams

If you are a student or a trainee building towards a shorthand exam you need to be prepared for a change in the exam format from this September.

All shorthand speed exam texts will now be delivered as a recording.  This will mean every candidate will be hearing exactly the same text, read at precisely the same speed.

This will help to ensure that the delivery of the text will be consistent across centres.

So what will you, as an exam candidate, be faced with from this autumn?

Firstly, you should be reassured that some of the distractions and uncertainties will have been removed from the test.

Because exam centres will download an audio file from the NCTJ website and play it to candidates through speakers, there is no longer any need for an invigilator to check for accuracy.

Centres will be able to decide whether to have a technician present.  They can also decide whether a tutor reads warm-up pieces or to use the NCTJ’s pre-recorded pieces (or even both).

As a minimum there will be one invigilator in the exam room.

The title of the exam piece will still be given in a written form on a screen or a board, for candidates to see.

Meanwhile, here are a few other things you need to know.

First of all, there are samples of exam pieces at all of the speeds from 60 to 120 words per minute, already available to download from the NCTJ website.

Test yourself against these pieces, and encourage your tutor to use them as part of your speed-building sessions. It will help you become familiar with the speaker’s voice and it will provide extra speed practice.

Secondly, be reassured that the exam audio will begin with an introductory script, giving you another opportunity to become comfortable with the speaker’s voice.

Most tutors agree with the NCTJ that warm-up pieces should be offered before all exams. You may want to ask your centre to use the sample pieces as an introduction to your test.

All students will be able to download at least one recorded test at each speed from 60 to 120wpm.  These are easy to find on the new NCTJ website.  Simply click on the ‘qualifications in journalism’ on the home page and then click ‘shorthand’ on the sidebar.  Click ‘read more’. The exam pieces are listed under ‘Recorded shorthand – an introduction’. Choose the speed you would like to try and just wait for a few seconds while it downloads.

If you have a student login you will find many more test pieces under ‘shorthand’.

Top tip: plan ahead to enhance your chances.