New NQJ exam produces pass rate of 54 per cent

Fifty-nine journalists are celebrating achieving senior status after passing the first ever National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) exam.

A total of 110 candidates sat the exam on Friday 8 March at nine centres across the UK – 66 for the first time and 44 re-sits. The pass rate rose to 54 per cent and the number of trainees sitting the new national exam also rose to reach the highest figure for two years.

Commenting in the examiner’s report, chief examiner Steve Nelson said: “This was a huge change in the examination process and followed many months of consultation and trials. I am delighted to see that the results are broadly the same, and that candidates appear to be unanimously in favour of the new format.

“In particular, the decision to introduce a specific section on ethics produced some excellent answers to demanding questions.”

The NQJ for reporters is divided into four sections: an e-logbook; a news interview; an updated news report paper; and a new media law and practice paper, which replaces the previous newspaper practice exam.

Ninety-nine candidates sat the news interview exam and 53 passed – 54 per cent. This exam featured the story of a raid at a top of the market garage, where £720,000 worth of Porsche cars were stolen by a gang who obviously had inside information about the premises.

The majority of candidates managed to capture the drama of the raid and made good use of the quotes available. However, there was an issue with some candidates’ interview techniques, with assessors commenting on a lack of rapport, poor questioning and a lack of quality of shorthand.

The news report has been updated and is now divided into two parts: the first mirroring the previous news report, and the second where candidates use their news sense and capacity to manage an on-going story using all the media formats available. Forty-nine of the 103 candidates passed – 48 per cent.

The examiners said shorthand and accuracy were the main problems for candidates, as well as not understanding the significance of an embargo. The candidates who passed the new Part B demonstrated they have the ability to lead in the news room and showed themselves to be an asset to their editors.

The media law and practice exam replaced the newspaper practice exam. For the first time, candidates did not have a choice of questions and there was a specific question on ethics.

Examiners were concerned that the ethics question might have caused some problems as, unlike the law questions, there is a lot more interpretation involved.

However, they were impressed by candidates’ thoughtful answers that showed a good understanding of the problems editors and senior journalists have to grapple with on a daily basis.

The question required candidates to consider the issues associated with a mother’s complaint about the coverage of how she had adorned the grave of her recently deceased child.

In the logbook section there was another high pass rate of 98 per cent – with 65 out of the 66 candidates who submitted entries achieving success.

The examiners said they were presented with a strong body of work with no major areas of concern. They were also pleased to note that there was evidence of trainees receiving support with the compilation of their logbooks.

The next National Qualification in Journalism exam will take place in July 2013, and the enrolment form will be on the website later this month.

You can view the full examiners report here.