Fifty reporters achieve senior status in NQJ

Fifty journalists are celebrating achieving senior status after passing the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) - a pass rate of 49 per cent.

A total of 102 candidates sat the exam on Friday 5 July at nine centres across the UK – 51 for the first time and 51 re-sits.

Chief examiner Steve Nelson noted in the Examiners’ Report that the lower pass rate (down five percentage points from the previous NQJ) was mainly due to a 43 per cent pass rate in the Media Law and Practice section.

Commenting in the chief examiner’s summary, Steve said: “Following on from the change in exam format from the National Certificate Examination (NCE) to the NQJ, there has been an increased emphasis on ethics, together with the removal of an element of choice in questions relating to media law.

“While results from the first sitting of the NQJ showed no noticeable impact, there was definite evidence from the July exam of a lack of understanding and knowledge in some areas of the law and a lack of confidence when answering questions involving ethical issues.

“The NQJ remains not only a tough test of candidates’ knowledge and ability, but also the bridge between trainee reporter and seniority. The dip in the overall pass rate is slightly disappointing, coming on the back of two successive increases, but the NCTJ will not allow standards to fall.

“Some people may balk at the fact that less than half the candidates got through in this sitting, but it is worth remembering that there are four elements (Interview, News Report, Media Law and Practice and Logbook) to pass, and many of those candidates who did not achieve the NQJ will have passed two or three exam sections.

Eighty-nine candidates sat the news interview exam and 58 passed – 65 per cent. Candidates were asked to interview a detective chief inspector working on a child abduction case.

Successful candidates were congratulated by the examiners on their use of accurate quotes and ability to capture the drama of this emotive story. However, some were let down by inaccuracies in chronology and descriptions, as well as poor spelling and grammar.

Ninety-six candidates sat the news report exam and 57 passed – 59 per cent. This exam featured the story of a proposed deer cull, the first in the UK, following reports where deer killed in road accidents had risen drastically over a six-month period.

Examiners commented that the standard in this section was higher than they had seen in recent years, with fewer factual and statistical errors. However, there were concerns raised over candidates not reading the brief, grammatical errors and evidence of weak shorthand.

The media law and practice exam had a pass rate of 43 per cent. Examiners were concerned that some candidates did not apply the Editors’ Code of Practice to the ethics question, a compulsory question added to the new NQJ format introduced in March 2013.

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 confidence, copyright, privacy and freedom of expression. While there were some exceptional answers, the examiners were disappointed to see the lack of knowledge in others.  

In the logbook section there was another high pass rate of 96 per cent – with 49 out of the 51 candidates who submitted entries achieving success.

The examiners were impressed with the work submitted but stressed that candidates should not use council meetings for the key task concerning press briefings and public meetings as it does not fit the criteria for this section.

This was the first time the newly developed e-logbook had been marked and moderated electronically. Examiners were pleased to report an intuitive system that caused no significant issues for candidates or examiners.

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

The full Examiners' Report can be viewed here.