NQJ structure and marking procedure

The National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) consists of the following four sections:


Candidates must complete 20 key tasks providing two stories for each task. They upload their original copy and cutting/screen shot for each piece of work submitted. They also provide a description for each story and must verify all their work as their own. Three workplace assessment forms are also included and must be completed.

Key tasks include:

1. Press release

2. Emergency services

3. Family events

4. Human interest

5. Numeracy

6. Public events

7. Inquests/Scottish affairs (for candidates in Scotland)

8. Press briefings/public meetings

9. Business and Industry

10. Inquiries, tribunals and statutory bodies

11. Politics

12. Community issues

13. Pictures

14. Courts

15. Councils/committees

16. Major stories

17. Features/news backgrounders

18. Social media

19. Trainee’s choice 1

20. Trainee’s choice 2

The e-logbook must be submitted for assessment one week before each set of NQJ exams.

Media law and practice

The exam will consist of three compulsory questions: two law questions plus one ethics-based question.

Time allowed: 1 hour and 20 minutes

News interview

Candidates are given 10 minutes to read a brief followed by a 20-minute interview with a key contact to gain further information on the story. They are then given one hour and 10 minutes to write a 400-word story.

Time allowed: 1 hour and 40 minutes

News report

Candidates are given a brief and listen to a five-minute speech delivered by video recording. They are expected to take down the key facts and relevant quotes using shorthand and then given one hour and fifteen minutes to write a 350-word story followed-up with four story development ideas.

Time allowed: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Marking procedure

Examinations and e-logbooks are marked by teams of assessors who are or have been working journalists. They are then subjected to rigorous moderation to ensure consistency of marking.

The pass mark for each of the four sections is 60 per cent. Candidates who achieve at least 50 per cent in all sections will pass if they achieve an overall average mark of 60 per cent. Candidates who achieve less than 50 per cent in any section fail that section and the NQJ as a whole, regardless of their overall total. Candidates who fail the NQJ must re-sit all sections for which they achieved less than 60 per cent. Passes of 60 per cent or more are carried forward.

Re-sits for the news interview, news report and media law and practice sections are available three times a year on NQJ exam days. Failed e-logbooks may be re-submitted at any time.

Chief examiner's report

After each NQJ the NCTJ publishes an examiner’s report which includes advice for future candidates. Trainees are strongly urged to read it and note its recommendations.