How I’m preparing for an NCTJ pre-entry exam

In precisely 7 days I have an NCTJ (National Council of Training Journalists) pre-entry exam at the University of Kent to examine if I will be an able candidate to study a Journalism BA degree. I have been trying to prepare for the exam since I visited the University of Kent for an Open Day which was some time in year 12 (I am currently in year 13) because I knew that was something I could see myself doing in the not so distant future. Unfortunately as I have not taken the test yet I cannot say that my method is 100% tried and tested but I have certainly tried to take all the steps the professors encouraged us budding students to do so.

As I have looked at some past papers which are easily accessible on the internet, I know that the format is relative simple. It is split into three parts: English, news writing and current affairs.

The English component is to test your spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary. Typically the first part of the question will ask you to correct all errors in an article, if you take an essay based subject or achieved a good English GCSE grade then this part will not seem too horrific. You will then be asked to summarise the report you have just corrected in a limited amount of words which will show your ability to pick out the most important pieces of information. I have been known to go into too much detail when copying notes down so in class I have been trying to limit myself when writing notes down from a powerpoint or textbook. Personally, I have found this a helpful way to prepare for the exam and it is a vital skill for just about anything so it will help you in the long run. To show how inquisitive you are, the last part of this section is to think of five follow up points about the article and briefly explain what you would ask regarding these points. I used the past papers to practice this skill and I would advise carefully reading through the text for all of these parts.

The second element of this exam is news writing which will test your ability to organise information into newspaper reports. You will be given quotes from a range of people that witnessed or are associated to the event and from them, you will write about 200 words to form a newspaper report. It tests your ability to pick out the key points and use appropriate quotes relevant to the story. You are advised to take 40 minutes on this section of the exam and it accounts for 1/4 of the marks, whereas the English component makes up more than half of the total marks. Over my time (13 years) in education I have written countless newspaper style reports for English so I am fairly confident on this section but as much practice as possible before the exam will make you less prone to a minor panic attack when sitting it.

The third, final and my most dreaded part of the exam is *cue dramatic and unnerving sound effects* current affairs. I love to watch Peston on Sunday as my weekly politics fix, I am partial to ITV’s News at Ten, I check at least once a day on my news app and love to read the Guardian but when looking at the practice questions, my brain freezes. I am so worried about coming cross ill informed and know this will be my downfall in the paper if it comes down to it but all I can say is try to engage with what is going on in the world through interest not because you have to. If you don’t expand a news article online because a headline has captured your interest or watching a politics show on a Sunday afternoon is not your cup of tea then I truly think you will be be less mentally prepared that I am. Positivity and confidence is goes a long way and you must have the confidence in yourself that you know what you’re talking about (I’m really trying here).

If any of you are in the same boat as myself, then good luck and I will see you on the other side!

Emily Simms: 11:52



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