More than half of NCE candidates pass

More than half of the trainee reporters who sat the National Certificate Examination in November were successful.

209 candidates sat the NCE on Friday 6th November at 14 centres across the country. The certificate was awarded to 106 candidates who achieved success in all four areas: News Interview, News Report, Newspaper Practice and Logbook.

The chief examiner said: “The overall pass rate of 51 per cent was to be applauded after three successive NCEs in which the pass rate was below half.

“The November exam also brought the total number of entries for the year to 640 - an increase of 35 per cent over the 474 entries in 2008.”

The pass rate for the News Interview exam was 63 per cent – 104 of the 166 who sat the exam.

The News Interview centred on a fireworks display that went wrong, injuring five children, a timely scenario as the NCE was held the day after Guy Fawkes’ night.

The aim was for candidates to conduct a face-to-face interview with the chief executive of the park where the display was held and elicit enough information to write a vigorous and well-balanced story.

The senior examiner specialising for the News Interview said: “A vivid description of the sequence of events was available and many candidates drilled down in the interview to gather the facts and quotes that brought this story to life.

“The exam is, of course, all about the art of interviewing – a key skill needed by any journalist using any platform. Although the interview questioning and note-taking are not assessed, a good technique where the reporter empathises with the interviewee, invariably results in better copy.”

In the News Report examination 109 out of 194 candidates were successful – a pass rate of 56 per cent.

An announcement was made by Network Rail that it wanted to build a high-speed railway line linking London and Scotland by 2030 and a new rail terminus would be built in the nearby town of Fincham.

A local MP and Secretary of State for Business and Industry also announced that he/she were standing down as an MP to chair the company set up by the Government to handle the project.

The chief examiner for the News Report said: “About half handled the story well, picking out the salient points and providing accurate, punchy quotes.

“Most candidates did pick-up the best quotes but they were not always handled well. In too many cases poor shorthand meant the words were distorted and often meant something entirely different in the stories presented to the examiners.

“Those who did not achieve a pass this time should keep practising their shorthand and maintain or increase their speed.

The pass rate for the newspaper practice paper was 66 per cent – 106 candidates out of 160.

The questions focused on core areas of contempt, court restrictions and libel with confidentiality as a minor issue in the second question.

The chief examiner for Newspaper Practice said: “There were some excellent part A media law answers and for those who passed, their editors can be confident that their legal knowledge of these core areas is sound.

“However, there was some cause for concern in the answers produced for the part B, practice questions. For a number of NCE papers, there has been growing evidence of a minority of candidates being unable to formulate ideas and questions to develop their coverage of the scenarios described.”

In the Logbook the pass rate was 93 per cent – 107 out of 115 candidates achieving success.

The senior examiner for Logbooks said: “This was another good year for logbooks with candidates presenting some sparkling copy and proving that despite the pressures of the current economic environment they can be relied upon to produce reliable and entertaining submissions.

“There are still a number of fails which occur because original work is either not included on every task or that it is not verified.”