End of exams and the NCTJ. Part 2.

After starting the course in September, and finishing on February the 1st, I can honestly say that it is the shortest, and yet probably hardest, educational course I have done.

I knew I needed the NCTJ qualification if I had a shot at becoming a journalist, and I knew I always wanted to go for the fast-track option. I didn’t want a whole extra year of studying after university, and I wanted to get it out of the way so I could enjoy some sort of gap year before beginning a full time job, and my so-called ‘career’.

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NCTJ college card

I wasn’t thinking of the intensity of the course when I signed up, nor was I thinking that it would be really hard. We were warned countless times that getting a part-time job was not advised because of the amount of work we had to do, but of course, I didn’t listen. I really thought that after being at university for three years and being really proud of the result I got, that a 3-month journalist course would be handled fine. But I can now warn anyone doing this course, that it is very intense, hard-work and you have to be extremely committed. Not coming in for a lesson isn’t good enough, and missing a day off isn’t acceptable either. Basically having a social life was a complete write-off, for me anyway!

I wanted to list some of the reasons why it was such a time-consuming course, so here is a couple.


Work carries on from 9 to 5, to 10 at night

I think getting a 9-5 job in the future will seem easier to me. The course was 9-5 most days in Brighton, with Friday afternoons off. But with a full-time job you can leave at 5 and the majority of the time, leave the work in the office. With this course, I found myself rushing home with a to-do list in my head, of the work I had to do that evening. An hour of shorthand if possible, typing up my public affairs notes (the ones I wrote in class were barely legible), beginning and completing portfolio pieces, as well as weekly Law homework, and features homework. It was crammed it those hours between 6-9 with a short break for dinner.

Weekends aren’t for fun

I worked weekends at a pub, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I used to work in the week in the evenings for a couple of weeks, but quickly realised with the amount of work piling up that I wasn’t going to have enough time to do all my work. Even having one evening off work made me panic. So every weekend, to make sure all my work was done, I woke up early before work to do some work, I would do some in my break, and sometimes after work on a Sunday. It wasn’t fun, I was always stressed BUT I am glad I managed to carry on my part-time job all the way up to my exams because now I have the money to go travelling, and in some respects it was nice to get away from the stress of the course and focus on something different for a while. It did, however, mean that I didn’t have a great social life, although we did manage the occasional night out in Brighton!

Learn, revise, exams

There was no study period! Even in GCSE’s I remember having time off before exams to study. At A-levels we did, at university we had so much time to revise, all through Easter holidays and in our final term. It wasn’t a rush if you planned really. But with this course, one week we were finishing the Public Affairs syllabus and the next week we were doing the exam. Christmas was the time we had to revise I guess, although we hadn’t learnt everything yet and we had our portfolio to do then. It took a lot of motivation to make sure I had started doing some revision over Christmas so that it didn’t all hit me a week before the exams started.

I’ve never learnt this before

At school and university, we were learning about the subjects that are very common. I did English Language at university, something I had done all throughout school and college and so some things were familiar. However, with this course, I have never done Law before, Politics was all completely new to me, Shorthand was a completely new skill and Reporting, I found very hard. It required me to work harder, and concentrate a lot more!

With that said…

I have said this many times before, that all I do is moan about the course, most likely because I wasn’t expecting how intense it would be. But I was on a course where I enjoyed the company, we managed to all have a laugh, we all moaned together at the tiring days, and the amount of work, we spent all day every day in the week together and got to know each other quickly, and we went out for drinks in the pub and occasional Brighton clubbing.

Because of how intense the course was, I worked really hard. I think doing the part-time year long course I wouldn’t have been so motivated because I would have been much more relaxed about the amount of time I had to complete things. I have learnt so much useful information that is essential to being a journalist, I have loved learning shorthand, expanding my portfolio, learning new skills like inDesign, and having an insight into the world of a journalist!

Phew… it’s great to say that I am now NCTJ qualified and my results will be coming along very soon 🙂


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