Week 6.


Only six weeks into this course and we are talking, thinking, discussing and looking at exams. I guess in a way, you could say they broke us in gently.

We have our exam dates but I am avoiding looking at them so I don’t freak out.

This is me in a few weeks time…

When you start school, or college or university, ‘exams’ aren’t really mentioned until you’ve nearly finished learning the content, or several months in when they start to tailor your work at home to what needs to be done in the exam. The course still feels all a bit new, even though it’s going quickly, so it was a bit of a shock this week when we were constantly bombarded with EXAMS EXAMS EXAMS. After all, we’ve got until Christmas to learn all of this and after that, just revision and exams.

Reporting is the hardest exam to pass. Yesterday, our reporting tutor told us that last year were the first ever A’s he has seen on the reporting exam. In meetings about the NCTJ, it is pretty much unheard of that people get A’s. It seems strange to me because if you look at the articles in newspapers, they are all very simple and don’t seem like that they’d be very complicated to write. They are though. It’s all about fitting as much information as you can in the right word count, including the right quotes, the accurate detail and a good structure. When you’re given a load of information to turn into a 50 word nib – how do you know what to include?

So getting a C in reporting is seen as a good mark, and to get the gold standard in the NCTJ, you have to get A-C in everything. Our tutor told us that last year, around 5 people in the class missed out on getting a C (although ironically one of those people is now a news reporter). I’m praying that I’ll get a C, even if I just scrape it. At the moment I seem to be on track.

We went through an exam paper today in class and although it was a bit tedious, there is a lot of minor details and advice to remember to get it right. Funnily, one question is to write a tweet of a story that you have just written about, including outward links and hashtags – who knew that twitter would soon be entering exams!

In public affairs, the daunting thing about the exam is that there is so much to remember! We learn a whole topic each lesson and aside from what we learn in class, we need to read the chapter in the book too and know about current affairs relating to this. It’s hard for people who have never done anything like this before – which is me – as you have to get to grips with the basics, the extra detail you need to know and how it relates to us today. We looked at a past paper answer in class and although it made sense, I have no idea how I will be able to remember everything for the exam.

Oh and also, in shorthand even though the level is always 100 words per minute or 40 words per minute, in the exam they read out 4 minutes of speech so you have to get 400 words down, not 100. In four minutes. arrrgghhh!

Away from the exams for a bit…

  • I have just bought my second shorthand notebook! We are coming to the end of the theory (yippee!) and after half-term we are moving onto speed-building. She keeps mentioning this and it sounds pretty scary if I’m honest. She’s quite nice to us at the moment, reading 50wpm but we keep reminded that she is going to ‘crank it up’ after half term.. eek.


  • Portfolio is slowly becoming the bane of my life, second to shorthand. I am writing my compulsory analysis piece on smoking and it’s relationship to the national campaigns and it’s becoming very much an essay! I have had to read boring reports on statistics to get facts for my article and read up on information about when their services began, yawn. Although the most trouble has been getting people to reply to me, WHY DON’T PEOPLE REPLY TO EMAILS ANYMORE!
  • I have being thinking up my double page spread idea for design and I think I’m going to do it on travel. Hopefully I can get some nice pictures in there although it’s still a bit worrying that we have to do it all on our own… I’m only just getting to grips with InDesign!

That’s it for this week. I am very tired but hoping to finish my smoking feature this weekend and move onto another one for YourCoffeeBreak about career mentoring!

Ahhhh stress.

P.S I got my itinerary for Brussels and the trip – it’s all very packed with lots of meetings with members of Parliament and press people and conservatives and meals with corporations and stuff… sounds scary. Note to self – READ AND RE-READ EU CHAPTER BEFORE YOU GO TO BRUSSELS. I don’t want to look stupid…


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