Weekly Update: Taking my NCTJ 60wpm shorthand exam

So this week has been a pretty quiet week. It’s still been busy – of course – but being ill has kind of overshadowed what happened over the past seven days. Although, that being said, one of the exciting things which took place this week is my 60 words per minute NCTJ shorthand exam.


If you don’t know what shorthand is, the above image should help you out. Basically, I do Teeline shorthand and it’s a really quick way for journalists to take down notes. Granted, in the digital era you could just use a dictaphone of whatever… Well, not quite. For example, in court reporting, only shorthand notes are allowed (because obviously audio and video recordings are illegal in court, and even if they were, they could be edited to suit what the journalist wants to say in their article). Similarly, if an interviewee says something, the journalist took it down in shorthand, but then the person denies saying it/sues for libel, those notes count as evidence – after all, they can’t be edited like an audio recording, right? I mean, there could be crossed out, but then the ‘editing’ is obvious.

Anyway, aside from the usefulness of shorthand, I thought it would be interesting to talk about what it was like to take part in a NCTJ shorthand exam.

First of all, if you’ve ever done French, Spanish or German for your GCSEs, then a shorthand exam is very similar to the listening exam. For me, I studied French for my GCSEs. Since I am deaf/hard of hearing, I was worried that sitting at the back of a loud exam hall with an echo, listening to a poor quality audio tape, would be a problem. Thankfully, talking to the school’s exams officer meant that I could be in my own separate room, as close to the original source as possible.

So naturally, when I found out that shorthand exams follow a similar structure, I was worried that I would fail the exam because I couldn’t hear (it’s a bit funny that I’m learning a language which relies on good hearing, but oh well). Thankfully, when I was told on Monday that I may be entering the exam on Thursday, there was enough time to arrange special support to make sure I stood the best chance.

About an hour before the exam, we had a warm-up where we could practice difficult outlines, before the exam took place. I was sat close to the speaker (which was a massive help) and had my pen and spiral-bound reporter’s notepad ready. Then, at a speed of around one word a minute, I had to hear and take down what a person was saying in shorthand. After that, I then had to translate my notes into ‘longhand’ (English) with minimal errors.

Out of all the exams I’ve done so far, I have to say that it was one of the best in terms of how enjoyable it was. Obviously, because it is a test of speed, any moment of thought or delay costs you, so naturally panic and adrenaline builds up. It can be stressful at first but then it gets fun. On the whole, I left the exam feeling like I did well! I’ll find out in two weeks how I did.

Listen to the latest episode of my radio show, Brunchtime:

How was your week? Comment below!


P.S. Apologies if you saw this earlier – it went up before it was written!

2 thoughts on “Weekly Update: Taking my NCTJ 60wpm shorthand exam

  1. Fingers crossed – would love to know how you get on with the exam. I remember taking shorthand many many (probably a few more many’s) years ago.


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