Sixty-one per cent pass rate for July NQJ

Forty-four journalists are celebrating achieving senior status after passing the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) - a pass rate of 61 per cent.

A total of 72 candidates sat the exam on Friday, 3 July at eight centres across the UK – 49 for the first time and 23 re-sits.

The pass rate fell by 11 percentage points compared to the March 2015 exam, which was partly attributed to 14 per cent of logbook entries being submitted incorrectly.

Commenting in the examiners’ report, NQJ chief examiner Steve Nelson said: “The logbook, which is completed over time and submitted in advance, is just as important as the three exam sections – news interview, news report and media law and practice – and requires the same attention to detail. Candidates who, through errors or omissions, failed the logbook can resubmit and have their work reassessed in November.

“Results in the other sections were, for the most part, in line with those of previous sittings, however, achievement in the news report section was lower than usual.”

The media law and practice exam produced a pass rate of 77 per cent, with 47 successful candidates out of a total of 61.

The law questions tested areas that all trainees should come across in their normal working lives, particularly contempt, defamation and the use of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The examiners noted candidates submitted some very good answers to the ethics question but the copyright of photographs on social media and the ethics of recording calls caused some problems.

Seventy candidates sat the news report exam and 45 passed, or 64 per cent. The paper featured information on the discovery of an heir to a £8.5 million property. The examiners were disappointed with the general standard of submissions and noted that mistakes such as incorrect names, ages and dates were one of the main issues. Candidates were advised to work on their shorthand so that they would have more time to listen to the information and develop stronger follow-up ideas.

The news interview exam produced a pass rate of 78 per cent, with 49 out of 63 candidates earning a pass. This exam featured a story about a young rugby club star who was driving back to his parents’ home when he was run off the road by a “maniac” driver, causing an accident which left him with serious spinal injuries.

Overall candidates performed well in this exam, although poor sentence construction and “silly errors” lead to some candidates loosing marks. Candidates were advised to allow more time to check copy at the end of the exam.

In the e-logbook section, examiners said it was “bitterly disappointing” that there was a “significant rise” in the number of candidates who had failed to upload the correct information, resulting in an 86 per cent pass rate – or 42 out of 49 candidates passing this section.

However, they reported no major issues with the key tasks assessed in the logbook and said the submissions were of a generally high standard. 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 NQJ for photographers also took place on 9 July, producing a 100 per cent pass rate. Emma Boyd, a press photographer at The Westmorland Gazette, and Nick Hands, a photographer at The Sentinel, both achieved distinctions in the exams.

Steve Phillips, the NCTJ’s chief examiner for photography and former picture editor at the South Wales Evening Post, led the exams at the South West News Service (SWNS) in Bristol under the supervision of another board member, Paul Walters, picture editor at SWNS.

Steve said the examiners were delighted with the performance of the two candidates, who were sitting the senior exams for the first time:

“These are exceptional results, with both candidates achieving distinctions in all parts of the qualification. They should be very proud of their achievement – these are rigorous assessments and their work showed the range of skill and creativity expected of a senior photographer,” he said.

The qualification is made up of two sections: a practical assessment, including two exams: an action shot and feature spread; plus a logbook, completed online, containing 20 key tasks plus evidence to verify authenticity of the work. 

The qualification is being withdrawn due to a change in demand. A specialist photography option is being added to the Diploma in Journalism and will be available from September.

The next National Qualification in Journalism exam will take place on Friday, 6 November 2015, and the enrolment deadline is Friday, 25 September. An enrolment form is available here.

The full examiners' report is available here.