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March NQJ: Examiners hail ‘exceptionally talented crop’

Examiners have hailed an “exceptionally talented crop” of new seniors after the record 67pc pass rate for the National Qualification in Journalism exams in March.

They described as “particularly pleasing” the 86pc pass rate for the Media Law and Practice exam, which focuses on legal and ethical issues.

“Not only did many candidates demonstrate that they had kept up-to-date with changes in defamation law, but there were also a number of answers to the ethics question that scored full marks,” 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: 83
Passed: 71
Pass rate 86pc

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

Examiners described the results in this paper as “excellent” with a number of full marks being awarded for the ethics question.

“The fact that the majority of candidates passed this question reflects on the emphasis that is being put on ethics both by the NCTJ and newspapers,” said the report.

However on the law paper, the sections on the principles of open justice and whether a defendant automatically gets anonymity under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 when claims are made in an unconnected court case caught out some candidates.

News report

Candidates: 83
Passed: 57
Pass rate: 69pc

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.

A police raid on a car boot sale, accompanied by Trading Standards and HMRC officers, provided the subject-matter for this section.

The examiners said that generally candidates picked up on the key aspects of the story and presented them in a logical newsworthy way.

There were however some “careless” spelling errors and inaccurate quotes which led examiners to question the quality of some candidates’ shorthand.

News interview

Candidates: 75
Passed: 57
Pass rate: 76pc

The news interview was based around a story about a dramatic daylight robbery at a high-end jewellery store shortly before opening time.

Examiners said there were some good submissions from candidates who grasped what the story was about and injected the drama into their copy, although some candidates “got into a muddle with the chronology.”

Most candidates intro’d on the security guard’s injuries and the robbery although some took the “more pedestrian” approach of “Police are hunting”.

In their report, the examiners also reminded candidates that the News Interview should be treated as a real-life situation, and “ensure they conduct themselves in a professional manner throughout.”


Candidates: 55
Passed 54
Pass rate: 98pc

The March submission of logbooks – in which journalists present a portfolio of their best stories – saw all but one of the 55 candidates passing.

Examiners said the sitting saw a number of strong submissions, culminating in an excellent example which was named as the prize winner.

“Such was the quality of the winning submission, it is probably one of the best seen by NCTJ examiners in this category,” they said.

The report said there were no major issues with the submissions presented and noted that all candidates “appear to have taken to the e-logbook system with ease.”