NQJ structure and marking procedure

The Level 6 National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) consists of three sections: 

1 Media law and ethics in practice online exam (mandatory for all)

2 E- logbook for journalists (mandatory for all)

3 Practical skills-based online exam. Candidates choose one exam based on the job role they have: news journalist working in local and regional press or broadcast newsroom (the big news story exam), production journalist (production journalism exam) or community journalist (community journalism exam in development for 2020).

E-logbook (mandatory for all)

Candidates must complete work in ten categories providing stories for each category. They upload their original copy which can include text, video, social media posts/snippets, infographics, pictures etc. and published stories for each submission. They also provide a description for each story and must verify all their work as their own. Two workplace assessment forms are also included to be completed with the employer.

Categories for the e-logbook differ for different journalist's roles i.e news journalists, production journalists, community journalists etc.

The e-logbook must be submitted for assessment one week before the NQJ exam dates that candidates have enrolled to sit on.

Media law and ethics in practice (mandatory for all)

This exam is held in the Cirrus online exams portal.

The exam consists of four compulsory questions: three media law questions plus one ethics-based question.

Exam questions may be tailored for journalists working in different job roles. i.e. production journalists or community journalists.

Time allowed: 2 hours

The big news story for news journalists

This exam is held in the Cirrus online exams portal.

Candidates tackle an unfolding (‘breaking’) story in which more information becomes available as time elapses. Candidates must assess the value of the information, its accuracy, its relevance and produce one short story at an early stage (140-160 words) in the exam with a final, longer story, coming as the last question (450-470 words). Other questions during the exam will focus on social media, analytics and decision-making in the newsroom as the story unfolds.

Time allowed: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Production journalism for production journalists

This on screen editing exam is designed for journalists working in production journalism.

Candidates will:

Part 1: Edit a story for online, correct mistakes and ensure a consistent style. Write a headline and sub-heads designed to do well in searches. Structure it for online, giving it a head and sub-head good for SEO and recognising the importance of keywords, meta data and in-text hyperlinks. Suggest how you would promote that story on social media, including your choice of image, hashtags if applicable

Part 2: An InDesign template page will include a lead, a second lead explaining an issue raised in the lead and an empty side panel that needs to be filled with some of the info from the earlier online story, plus spaces for pics.

Time allowed: 2 hours

Marking procedure

Examinations and e-logbooks are marked by teams of assessors who are or have been working journalists. They are then subjected to rigorous moderation to ensure consistency of marking.

The pass mark for each of the three sections is 60 per cent. To gain the qualfication candidates must achieve a pass in all three sections.

Final marks in each section will be expressed as a percentage. The final percentages in each section will be aggregated and divided by three to establish an overall percentage. Any half mark will be rounded up.

The grading scale used to signify performance differentiation within the qualification is Pass, Merit or Distinction which will be awarded as an overall grade. Grades are awarded for the Level 6 National Qualification in Journalism based on the following overall percentage marks achieved:

70+       per cent          -           Distinction

65-69   per cent          -           Merit

60-64   per cent           -           Pass


Candidates who fail the NQJ must re-sit the sections for which they achieved less than 60 per cent. Passes of 60 per cent or more in a section are carried forward.

Re-sits for the exams are available three times a year on set dates.

Failed e-logbooks may be re-submitted at any time.

Chief examiner's report

The NCTJ will publish an NQJ examiner’s report which includes advice for future candidates annually beginning at the end of December 2019. Candidates are strongly urged to read it and note its recommendations.