Seventy-two per cent pass rate for March NQJ

A record-equalling 72 per cent of candidates have passed the most recent National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ), the highest pass rate since the previous record achieved in July 2014.

A total of ninety candidates sat the exams on Friday, 6 March at nine centres across the UK. The NQJ was awarded to 65 candidates, resulting in 72 per cent of candidates achieving senior reporter status.

Commenting in the examiners’ report, NQJ chief examiner Steve Nelson said: “I am absolutely delighted for these candidates. In offering my congratulations, I think it is worth reminding ourselves of just how tough these exams continue to be. Candidates face three exams – media law and practice, news report and news interview – over the course of a day, on top of having to produce a logbook of material generated over at least an 18-month period.

“They are now invariably multi-skilled working across different platforms and are facing perhaps more pressure and requirements than ever before to be competent in dealing with legal and ethical issues.

“These requirements and abilities are all tested in the exams, which represent the gold standard in journalism.”

The media law and practice exam produced a pass rate of 83 per cent, with 67 successful candidates out of a total of 81. The examiners said: “There were some excellent answers that showed the depth of knowledge of law and ethics and how these apply to working journalists”.

The law questions tested areas that all candidates should come across in their normal working lives, particularly contempt, qualified privilege and the use of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The examiners noted that Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) rulings should be reflected in future answers, as well as Press Complaints Commission (PCC) adjudications on breaches of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

Eighty-eight candidates sat the news report exam and 66 passed, or 75 per cent. The paper featured the story of garage owner who decided to fund a community first responder team after a team saved his wife’s life when she had a heart attack. Although there were some excellent responses to questions asking for illustrative ideas for immediate publication and further comment, the examiners were disappointed with the level of accuracy and story structure. Candidates were also advised that blending extracts of an interview and presenting them as direct verbatim quotes was unacceptable.

The news interview exam produced a pass rate of 81 per cent, with 63 out of 78 candidates earning a pass. This exam featured a story about a three-year-old being attacked by the family pet dog.

While most candidates got good quotes, examiners said that poor chronology and sentence construction lost marks.

In the e-logbook there was a 100 per cent pass rate with all 65 candidates who submitted entries achieving success.

The examiners reported no major issues with the key tasks assessed in the logbook. They advised anyone who is unsure of what is expected in each section to ask for help from their editor, trainer or the NCTJ.

The final National Certificate Examination for Sports Reporters (NCE), which also took place on 6 March, produced an 80 per cent success rate, with four out of five candidates achieving senior reporter status. The qualification is being discontinued due a change in demand. Dave King, chief examiner for the sports NCE, said: “Although the number of students taking the NCTJ sports journalism option at diploma level remains high, fewer trainee journalists are specialising at an early stage of their career and are instead cutting their teeth in general news before making a permanent move to the sports desk.”

He added: “It is hoped that with new format NQJ exams, sports editors don’t neglect the need for proper training and mentoring of their staff and that they will, in future, put their trainees through the new all-round qualification for journalists which remains a rigorous test of journalism standards.”

The next National Qualification in Journalism exam will take place in July 2015, and the enrolment deadline is Friday, 22 May. An enrollment form can be accessed here.

Examiners' reports and pass lists for the NQJ and the NCE can be viewed here.