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November NQJ: Interview technique affects pass rate

Examiners have questioned how many trainees are actually carrying our face-to-face interviews as part of their work in a report on the November NQJ results.

Despite a rise in the overall pass rate, some candidates were held back by weak shorthand and poor interview technique.

“It does raise the question of just how many trainees actually carry out face to face interviews these days,” said the examiners report.

Here’s a summary of how the candidates performed in each section and what the judges said.

Media Law and Practice

Candidates: 86
Passed: 59
Pass rate: 69pc

This section replaced the old Newspaper Practice paper this year and contained a compulsory ethics question as well as questions on media law as previously.

Examiners said that after disappointing results in the July exam, this set of answers was far more encouraging – particularly in the way candidates tackled the ethics question.

“The fact that the failure rate for this question was below 25 per cent shows that candidates are far more in tune with ethical problems than in the past,” said the examiners’ report.

On the law section, examiners recommend that future candidates return to Essential Law for Journalists to brush up on defamation and contempt dangers and defences.

News Report

Candidates: 79
Passed 52
Pass rate: 66pc

The news report is designed to test the ability of reporters in the modern news room, in particular the ability to manage an ongoing news story across different platforms.

Candidates were told a caravan park was proposing to spend £1.2m of its record £3m profits for the year on improving access for its holidaymakers and fixing potholes.

“Despite the generally good pass rate in this section, accuracy is still eluding many of our aspiring young journalists,” said the report.

“Weak shorthand is a likely contributory factor, as this prevents candidates from getting down the statistics during the speech.  There is also a tendency among trainees to tell a partial story, assuming the reader already knows the basic details.”

News Interview

Candidates: 71
Passed: 55
Pass rate: 76pc

The news interview was based around a story about a firefighter being critically injured when a batch of illegal and faulty fireworks explode at an industrial unit.

Examiners said few candidates got to grips with the drama of the story – the firefighters in a building with fireworks exploding around them and the roof collapsing.

“Again shorthand was an issue as was interview technique. It does raise the question of just how many trainees actually carry out face to face interviews these days,” said the report.

The examinders said many candidates failed to ask for details about the firefighter and his character and missed opportunities to find out about his wife and daughter


Candidates: 51
Passed: 51
Pass rate: 100pc

The November submission of logbooks – in which journalists present a portfolio of their best stories – saw all 51 candidates passing.

“This was an excellent submission of logbooks and it is pleasing to note that on this occasion there were no failures,” said the examiners report.

“Candidates appear to be getting clearer guidance when compiling the logbook as there are far fewer issues regarding the actual content and signing off of the physical submissions.

“There were more ‘electronic’ logbooks submitted in this sitting and it is very pleasing to see that this appears to have caused very few issues for candidates and they have quickly taken to this new format.”


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  • December 18, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I am a freelance shorthand tutor and I used to work at many papers. I would coach for the speeches because there was a gap between the journalists obtaining their 100 wam and the NCE. I had a file of old speeches and I used to dictate them at the varying speeds and the learners gained much from this ‘refresher’ and the papers were willing to pay me.

    It also gave them confidence.

    Over the last few years training has taken a hit and I do no coaching for the speech element.

    Shorthand is a subject that gains much from updating now and then with refreshers. I even used to teach in this way to journalists who had been qualified for years. They used to be shocked themselves at the way their shorthand had deteriorated.

    They used to tell me that they often felt nervous in court when accuracy is of the utmost imoportance.

    I have often thought that the cutting down on this training is false economy but I am not an editor!

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  • December 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I hope no trainee is being taught to base an interview around the subject. It should be based ON. Anything else rotates around it. (I’m still a grumpy old member of that species which is now extinct – a sub!)

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