Five tips on passing your NCTJs

exam, NCTJ, passing, media, journalism, Alex Veeneman, Kettle Mag
Written by Keturah Sesstein

As someone who has spent a lot of time preparing for and taking NCTJ exams I thought I’d pass on my wisdom and share with you my top tips for passing an exam. The last three months of my first year of university were consumed with NCTJs and for a short while my life became focussed on passing these exams.

To add to the pressure, two of these exams were during my work experience placement, leaving me less time to prepare in the days before my exams. Having said all of that, though, I passed those two law exams with ‘A’ grades and it was all down to these five things…

1. Preparation

The key to any exam is in the preparation. The first thing to do is gather all your notes and simplify them. Write them on note cards, or bubble diagrams (or whatever suits your style of learning). When taking NCTJ exams there is a lot you will need to remember. Particularly if, like me, you’re doing the law exams where you have acts, years and case studies to remember. So, write your point, briefly explain it and then use an example. By simplifying your notes and preparing them in a way you will remember, that’s when the revision can begin.

2. Time

In order to remember all the things you need for an NCTJ, time is perhaps the most vital tool you can give yourself. Every day for the two months leading up to my exams I read over my notes until they stuck in my head. That doesn’t mean to say you need to spend 3 hours a day doing revision but little and often is the way to achieve success. Half an hour to an hour every day until you take your exam will guarantee achievement.

3. Persistence

It’s all too easy to give up when faced with difficult challenges and you may, for a while, feel like nothing is sinking in. You’ll feel like you will never remember everything you need to but quitting won’t pass your exam. This is where the time comes in useful. In giving yourself plenty of time and persevering, you’ll succeed.

My mum always said to me ‘if you’re doing work but you’re not feeling it then leave it and come back to it.’ I know it may sound clichéd but it works. We are not machines and none of us can work all the time and there will be times when your brain just cannot absorb any more information.

When this happens, don’t despair. Have a break from it, come back to it and keep going. Persistence is everything when it comes to an NCTJ.

4. Stay calm

Now, this ties in to the previous point. Losing your rag with revision is not the best way to deal with the stress. Easier said than done, I know, but in staying calm you will feel more prepared, more confident and in a better position to pass the exam. Not only that, but during the exam itself staying calm is key. If you panic things will fall apart. Staying in control and calm at all times you’ll be in a much better frame of mind to take the exam.

5. Have confidence

After all is said and done, the best way to succeed at anything is to believe in yourself. Whenever I take an exam I always remember what my maths teacher told me years ago. Before your exam listen to ‘Simply the Best’ by Tina Turner and you will believe that you are the best and that you can do it.

Now I’m not suggesting that in listening to this song you’ll magically pass with flying colours, but if you follow all of these tips you will automatically be confident. The song is merely the final stage in believing that you can pass because when you believe, anything is possible. 

What are your tips for passing NCTJs? Have your say in the comments below.