'Exceptionally talented' trainees achieve 67 per cent pass rate in March NQJ

The 60 trainee journalists who passed the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) exam have been praised as “an exceptionally talented crop of candidates” by the chief examiner.

A total of 90 candidates sat the exam on Friday 7 March at nine centres across the UK. Two-thirds of candidates were successful and achieved senior reporter status – the highest percentage of passes since the exam replaced the NCE a year ago.

The sitting also produced noticeably higher pass rates in the news interview, news report and media law and practice exams.

Commenting in the examiner’s report, chief examiner Steve Nelson said: “From these results I can only conclude this was an exceptionally talented crop of candidates from rapidly changing and more demanding newsrooms who were well prepared for the exam.”

The NQJ for reporters is divided into four sections: an e-logbook; a news interview; a news report; and a media law and practice paper.

The media law and practice exam produced a pass rate of 86 per cent, with 71 successful candidates out of a total of 83. Some candidates achieved full marks in the ethics question, which examiners attributed to emphasis being placed on the subject by newspapers and the NCTJ.

The law questions tested areas that all candidates should come across in their normal working lives, including defamation, contempt and reporting restrictions in court, as well as the use of the Editors’ Code of Practice. Candidates who acknowledged changes in the law due to the introduction of the Defamation Act 2013 were rewarded with extra marks. 

Seventy-five candidates sat the news interview exam and 57 passed, or 76 per cent. This exam featured the story about a dramatic daylight robbery at a high-end jewellery store.

Most candidates gave a good account and highlighted the drama in the story; however, others made mistakes on the chronology of events and basic spelling errors.

Eighty-three candidates sat the news report exam and 57 passed, or 69 per cent. The story was about a police raid on a car boot sale. While candidates generally picked up on the key facts and presented them in a newsworthy story, the examiners said shorthand and accuracy were the main problems for candidates. Candidates were reminded to use reported speech when there was any doubt as to what the speaker said.

In the logbook section there was another high pass rate of 98 per cent – with 54 out of the 55 candidates who submitted entries achieving success.

The examiners said they were presented with a strong body of work with no major areas of concern. The examiners were pleased that the new task of social media and a free choice task had not presented any problems for candidates.

In his report, chief examiner Steve Nelson also referenced the computer-related issues at Harlow College during the March exam sitting, which caused 10 candidates to lose their work on the media law and practice paper. He acknowledged that the incident was “understandably distressing for all involved” and said that some scripts were recovered, but were not in a format that could be marked.

The 10 candidates affected were offered a re-sit of the media law and practice paper a week later, and all 10 candidates re-sat the exam. Of these 10, seven passed the full NQJ. The three remaining candidates will not be charged for any re-sits in the July 2014 exam sitting.

Nelson said: “The NCTJ has conducted a full investigation of the incident and is considering a number of options. Action will be taken to reduce the risk of this happening again.”

The NCE for Sports Reporters, which also took place on 7 March, produced a 100 per cent success rate, with all four candidates achieving senior reporter status. Dave King, chief examiner for the sports NCE, wrote that candidates performed well across all four parts of the assessment. He added: “No longer are these trainees resigned to minor roles on the sports desk, but they are being thrown in at the deep end covering Championship football, Premiership rugby and County Championship cricket. The quality of their [logbook] submissions was superb”.

The next National Qualification in Journalism exam will take place in July 2014, and the enrolment deadline is 23 May. An enrollment form can be accessed here.

The full examiners' report can be viewed here.