Results are in

Today at nine o’clock just as I was settling in to some shorthand practice I got a phone call from my tutor. Results of the 100 wpm exam were back.

The exam on June 12 was on problems with litter and unoccupied second homes in a village. While it felt it went really well on the whole, there’s nothing like adrenaline to focus the mind, I was sure there were mistakes. The question was, how many? You are allowed nine errors on the 110 wpm.

Deep breath.

Tracy said she wanted to tell me herself. That could either mean I narrowly missed or I got lucky.

Thankfully it was the latter – I passed!

With no resit in two days time to contend with as I expected as first I didn’t know what to do with myself. Every spare moment in the last nine months has been spent on my portfolio, revision and shorthand.

As I called and texted family and friends to share the news, it began to sink in. I now had the day off!

So I booked my first haircut since my course began and imagined all the things I could do on my first free Saturday since September 2014.





So near, yet so far

I’ve had some great news this week.

On Tuesday I learned I passed my 80 wpm shorthand and today I got a provisional A for my portfolio.

But there’s still a mountain to climb – the 100 wpm shorthand.

Last Friday I sat my first 100 wpm. I was not expecting much, was just there for the experience. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was a lovely passage about litter and second homes and went quite smoothly. But was it smooth enough? I am allowed just nine errors.

So I am not counting my chickens. I am waiting to hear and preparing for the worst – two more attempts before the end of the academic year.

All I can think about is shorthand. Just a few minutes of dictation and 45 minutes of transcription stand between me and my Gold Standard diploma.

Will all my stars align and lightening strike twice for another ‘nice’ passage on Thursday? I hope so.

Or will I be returning to Brighton Journalist Works in the autumn for another go?

100% complete

This is the (partially obscured) screen on the NCTJ website that marks the end of nine months’ work and my resulting selection of ten stories I am on the verge of submitting. It reads, “This is your NCTJ Portfolio. You must submit ten stories.” and the next magical line says: “Your portfolio contains 10 stories and is 100% complete”. Hooray

  • one review
  • one planning committee report,
  • two court reports,
  • two features (one published in Viva Lewes)
  • and four stories (all published in the Argus, and one also in three weeklies)

I took a photo to try to capture the moment – just in case there are no fireworks like when you finally win a round of computer Solitaire.

I hit the red submit button. No fireworks. Just a warning along the lines of ‘Are you sure? If you do there is no turning back.’

Which made me hesitate. Am I sure? Of course I  am. I have triple checked it. (Cue the Disney song from ‘Frozen’).

So ‘I let it go’ and got confirmation my portfolio has been submitted for marking, Finito.

So that’s it and all that remains between me and my NTCJ Gold standard is my 100wpm shorthand.

Just three opportunities remain, over three weeks, to pass my 100wpm this academic year.

FULL steam ahead.

Speeding up

My shorthand took a giant leap forward this week when I attempted my first shorthand exam at 80wpm.

I had been struggling to take down unseen dictation at 80 in class, but I had been advised it was worth sitting an exam to see what it’s like. So I did.

The warm ups beforehand weren’t very encouraging and I struggled to get anywhere near all of it so I wasn’t hopeful but there was no turning back. As we headed to the exam room my tutor said, “Just give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.”

I was. None of the criminal damage and protests against building developments we have been ploughing through in class.

The topic – a donation of wedding dresses to a charity shop – was vocab-friendly and I recognized word groupings which helped my speed.

The reader, a tutor I hadn’t met before, read it beautifully and from the off I was on it.

In the 30 second break between the two two-minute passages I felt my excitement building. I might be in with a chance if I could just keep it together. The second passage about a fashion show to showcase the wedding dresses began. And before I knew it it was over and time to transcribe my notes.

My notes were remarkably clear and easy to transcribe bar a couple of spots. I typed the problem area in red at first to remind me to check it again, but as I got to the end of the sentence the mystery word came to mind, just as my tutor had said it could.

As I handed it in and drove back to work I was fit to burst with excitement. I have never before been able to completely transcribe an unseen passage with NO gaps.

Whatever the outcome I am encouraged that there is hope for the 100. But I so hope I have done enough. We are allowed to make seven errors.

Results are due on June 16.



Results are in

My numbers system seems to have paid off with great results in both my law exams and I passed my reporting exam too (although no numbers to prepare for that).

So all that remains is to finalize my portfolio (97% complete) and get my 100 wpm shorthand.


The leap from 80 wpm to 90 wpm feels enormous but I’m determined to get to the 100.

My last opportunity to get it this academic year is at the end of June so that’s what I’m aiming for.


After the hard graft preparing for, and then the elation of passing, the law exams it was hard to get back in the shorthand zone.

But I’m back in the swing aiming for daily practice of Teeline passages, word groupings, special outlines, common words and trying to take down words from the TV and around me at work.


This week I’m going to sit a mock shorthand exam at 80wpm just to gauge where I am.

I hope this will reduce the fear of the unknown, build some confidence and show me which areas need more work



A new TV concept for NCTJ law students?

If this week’s Essential Media Law and Court Reporting exams were a TV programme it would be called, ‘Defamation, Defamation, Defamation’.

Fortunately it was something I had studied well as there were two compulsory questions and one optional one on it.

This did throw me somewhat. Could this really be so? Had I misunderstood the previous questions?

I dithered for a moment – (would choosing the same topic again work against me? Did I need to show I had covered the other topics in the programme of study?) – before I plumped for another helping of defamation.

At three o-clock the next morning I woke up with qualified privilege and honest opinion defences for libel battling for space with vague memories of April’s reporting exam (results due in four days) swimming around my tired head. Exhausting and not much fun.

So two days on I am trying to take the advice of my six-year-old niece’s favourite Disney princess Elsa and ‘Let it go’ (I would love to add an image of Elsa here for those of you unfamiliar with her but I am up to speed on copyright and without permission it could be a costly breach.)

I can do no more but patiently wait and see.

Will it be five exams under my belt and onto the final frontier, shorthand, or revisiting my notes for round two?

How journalism and social media saved my day

On Sunday lunchtime I went to a pub for a delicious roast dinner.

When I got home I was online and noticed some Twitter notifications of new people following me. Some I had never heard of but one was the pub I had just been to. So I followed them back.

10 minutes or so later the pub private messaged me to say I had dropped my wallet and they were keeping it safe for me to collect.

Using Twitter the pub had found and contacted me before I even noticed my wallet missing! How amazing, ingenious and kind of them to even bother! It restores your faith in humanity.

There wasn’t much in my wallet except stamps and all the cards you have to cancel and replace when you lose a wallet. But right at the front was my Chartered Institute of Journalists student press card with photo ID which might have tipped them off to try Twitter.