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NCTJ to keep remote exam option for journalism students

Amanda BallThe NCTJ is to retain the ability to deliver remote exams for journalism students after branding the pandemic measure a “huge success”.

The organisation has announced the plan as more and more students continue to return to in-centre assessments, saying the flexibility offered by the option can be “beneficial for candidates”.

The announcement was made in the 2020-21 examiners’ report for the NCTJ’s Diploma in Journalism, which revealed there were 2,588 additional exam sittings over the course of the academic year when compared with the previous term.

The report showed that in modules such as essential media law and regulation, court reporting and public affairs, the ‘gold standard’ A-C pass rate was at least 10pc lower than in 2019-20.

However, the chief examiners have dismissed this as “not a cause for concern” and say the 2020-21 figures indicate that pass rates have “simply reverted to pre-pandemic standards”.

In her report, NCTJ principal examiner Amanda Ball, pictured, wrote: “Examiners on all subject boards monitor achievement and outcomes each year and the assessments in all modules are constantly reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose and that the pass rates reward candidates who meet industry standards.

“It was particularly pleasing to see entries for new modules which prepare trainees for the contemporary media environment, such as journalism for a digital audience, continue to grow in popularity.

“While the return to in-centre assessments is to be welcomed, it must be acknowledged that the option to deliver Cirrus exams remotely, using the Proctorio system, has been a huge success. It has helped many students complete their training and achieve the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism qualification.

“Feedback on the NCTJ’s decision to offer remote exams in 2020-21 and to continue this into 2021-22 has been very positive.

“And, although in-centre exams are expected to become the default mode of assessment in future (pandemic permitting!), the flexibility offered by the option of remote exams will be retained where it can be beneficial for candidates.”

There were a total of 9,019 exam sitting across more 20 different modules over the course of the year.

In all, 1,348 students sat the ‘gold standard’ 100 words per minute shorthand exam, with 283 successful candidates representing a 21pc pass rate. This compared with a pass rate of 24 per cent in 2019-20.

Shorthand chief examiner Karen Ballam wrote in her report: “The shorthand board continue to advise tutors to enter candidates for exams only when they are ready. It is good practice for tutors to hold mock exams in order to determine the speed at which candidates are competent and confident.

“We want candidates to be as well prepared as possible so that they achieve a positive outcome in their exams.”

The full report can be read here.