53 journalists achieve senior status in November NCE

Friday 16th December 2011

A further 53 journalists are celebrating achieving senior status after passing the National Certificate Examination for reporters. A total of 101 candidates sat the exam on Friday, 4 November at seven centres across the UK – 63 for the first time and 38 re-sits. The overall pass rate rose from the previous sitting in July from 46 to 52 per cent.

The number of entries increased from the November NCE in 2010 when 80 candidates sat the exam.

Commenting in the examiner’s report, chief examiner Steve Nelson said: “There were highs and lows among the reports of the examiners responsible for the four parts of the exam.

“It was in the news report and news interview sections where the pass rate was lowest, and this was largely through factual errors. There was an improved pass rate in newspaper practice, while the logbook section produced an excellent selection of entries.

“It should be noted that the entry figure was the highest since July 2010, pointing to a trend among employers to recruit trainee journalists after the difficulties posed by the credit crunch.”

There are four sections which make up the NCE: news interview; news report; newspaper practice; and logbook. 

88 candidates sat the news interview exam and 53 passed – 60%

This exam featured the tragic story of an unemployed 16-year-old electrocuted when attempting to steal cabling from a railway line. The young man’s brother had tried to stop the theft but also suffered horrific burns in the incident.

Most candidates followed the same line, leading with the electrocution and his brother’s attempts to stop him. However some lost marks by implicating the brother in the theft, an action that could have led to legal action from the family. Some other candidates lost marks through not checking their copy and leaving errors in the piece.

The news report featured a hard news story about an earthquake in the early hours of the morning.

The pass rate increased slightly from 53 per cent in July to 60 per cent, with 58 of the 94 candidates successful. However the markers were disappointed by the number of factual errors which appeared in reports and it was also apparent that candidates had difficulty taking an accurate shorthand note.

The newspaper practice exam challenged reporters on the legal issues they face on a daily basis. The pass rate increased from 59 per cent in July 2011 to 70 per cent, with 60 candidates out of 86 successful. 

In part A, candidates were tasked with answering law questions on covering court and defamation – issues that reporters are likely to encounter every day.

Part B asked candidates to put into words what they should be doing intuitively in their working lives – how to pursue a story, who to talk to, what to ask them and why. One of the scenarios was about a couple who met through a suicide website and then decided to get married. Markers were looking for candidates to show sensitivity while also challenging the website.

The other scenario featured a small group of people involved in a new cancer treatment and candidates were expected to challenge whether such a small number could produce accurate results.

In the logbook section there was another high pass rate of 98 per cent – with 62 out of the 63 candidates who submitted entries achieving success.

The examiners said: “Key tasks which have seen failures in the past such as inquests, councils and courts have been skillfully negotiated. Presentation has been of a high standard and candidates have clearly taken the time and effort over the logbooks to get the necessary pass.”

The next National Certificate Examination will take place in March 2012 and the enrolment form will be on the website in the new year.

To view the full examiners' report, click here.