NCTJ Fast Track Course: A student’s top tips on thriving in your first six weeks

NCTJ Fast Track Diploma student Elise D. Solberg is now a couple of months into the course. Here, she shares her advice for getting through the first weeks.

Whether you’re straight out of university and starting your career in journalism or coming from a different career, you’re probably wondering how to best prepare for PA Media Academy’s NCTJ Fast Track Course

I started the course in February and these are my top tips to help make your first six weeks an absolute breeze…   

Get a head start on shorthand

Right now, your idea of shorthand is probably just that it’s weird symbols but soon, it will be all you think about (and possibly the cause of some nightmares). 

When the course leader emails you beforehand to suggest you get a head start on shorthand, they are speaking from experience. And now so am I. Do start learning those symbols as early as you can. 

Try to visualise and see the symbol for “read” in your mind’s eye whenever someone says the word. The quicker you get to 100 words per minute, the more time you will have to concentrate on your other deadlines – and trust me there will be enough of those. 

The deadlines are there to help you

The first week of the course is relatively relaxed. You’ll make lots of new friends and you’ll feel smug you got a head start on the shorthand when your tutor begins taking the class through the shorthand alphabet.  

In the second week, you’ll be given your first deadline – for two weeks’ time – and it’ll be to produce your very first video story.

Try not to panic – deadlines are a key part of journalism after all. Your tutors will remind you of these deadlines a lot but they’re not out to get you. They’re trying to make you less stressed by encouraging you to finish as many of your stories as early as possible. 

In week six, you’ll need to have interviewed three people, mixed it all together and even added a clip of you speaking directly to the camera yourself. So take those deadlines seriously and it’ll be easier in the long run. 

Stay on top of the news

There’ll be a news quiz at least once a week and as well as being a perfect opportunity to show off to your new friends, it’s also great for helping you come up with story ideas for your portfolio and get a hang of how news stories are written. 

Make sure you read a wide variety of news, start noticing the specifics and memorise spelling of names. 

Accuracy is the number one most important thing for journalists, and you will get zero points if the name of a person, place or football team is spelt wrong. 

And here’s an insider tip. Try to spot which paper the quizmaster picked out and make sure you have a read of it. 

Other than that, all I can tell you is: Enjoy, you’ve made the right choice. 

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