The most popular post on my blog my far is my NCTJ reflection on the reporting exam, here. It’s not only that it gets a lot of views, but it comes from search terms… people Googling ‘reporting exam’, ‘reporting exam tips’, ‘how to pass reporting’.
I’m not an amazing success story, because even though I tried the hardest on that exam (more than any others), I got a C. A comfortable C, and I was bloody happy about that C. At the time it was frustrating at how hard it was to get a good grade, and how fussy the examiners were. Our tutor would mark us just like the examiner would, because there’s no good sugar-coating it until you get to exam day and fail miserably. In fact, he probably even marked us a bit harsher than they would, because if you’re on that line between a D and a C, you want to try harder and get the pass.
I moaned, worked a bit harder, did more practice tests, and moaned a bit more. But the thing is, I completely understand the need to be picky, and the structured, formulaic way they make you write in order to pass. Because I use it. And not just me, but so do the majority of other journalists. I guess the reason for this post is that IT IS WORTH IT. Worth it to keep working on your writing, and the picky details that examiners want to see. Why?
- Journalists all use it. Online, offline, newspapers, magazines. You learn the basic structure of writing a story for news and the general structure is applied across a lot of platforms. Even though my day job and writing work isn’t strictly just news writing, I still use it. I didn’t think I would.
- It makes sense. It really does. Getting bogged down in your course, studying, and reading countless past exam papers you forget about bringing it back to reality. Of course the most dramatic, newest piece of information should catch the reader at the beginning of the story… why wouldn’t it?
- Making mistakes, something you will be scolded for in the reporting exam, is just NOT feasible. If you think about it, after passing the reporting exam you are a qualified journalist and can go straight into the newsroom on a national paper. If you don’t learn to correct and check your work for mistakes before that time, when will you?
Yes it’s tedious, hard and frustrating. But dare I say it, the reporting exam was probably one of the most useful modules on that course.