I’ve just returned from a 218-mile journey to take an NCTJ shorthand exam (100 words per minute, if you must know). It involved a two-and-a-half-hour car journey taking in the beautiful sights of Surrey, Hampshire, and Dorset from the motorway, and a night’s stay in a barebones Travellodge next to a fairly dreary looking stretch of coastline, before rising at half-past seven to feast on a breakfast of croissants and toast.

At least that’s how it should have gone; in reality, my car wouldn’t start half an hour before I was due to leave and I had to call the RAC, who couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. Then I was towed to a garage, where the car still is as I write this. Luckily, my dad was able to bail me out and we got up at five and made the journey this morning.

The trip having already cost an unused hotel room, I made my way over to Bournemouth University’s Talbot campus, where I sat in the café for two hours writing up the first draft of this post on my laptop, before making my way up to the exam room. After practicing a few passages, the exam was underway and I’m pretty sure I passed; provided the ‘we’ in the quote wasn’t a ‘you’. Why would I go all this way for a shorthand exam? Well, I flopped the last one at the CfJ and didn’t want to wait a month and a half for the next one. It was cheaper and easier to go to Bournemouth (only if I passed, of course; otherwise it’s a huge waste of time and money).

Why should we care about any of this at all, Dan? The only reason I thought this was remotely interesting to anyone is because Bournemouth University do their shorthand exams through the NCTJ’s Cirrus platform, much like we do with all the other NCTJ exams (and it’s getting dangerously close to the blog post deadline and I can’t think of anything more interesting to write about). It’s very similar to those; the platform looks the same, runs the same, and still has a spellchecking system that usually doesn’t work – potentially exam-ruining on a shorthand exam, where ‘correcting’ one word to another that doesn’t make any sense in the context could lose you marks. The NCTJ is requiring all universities to switch to Cirrus for their shorthand exams next year, so there will be no more printing out physical copies to check against your shorthand in the exam. Good luck next year – the NCTJ is coming.

A leisurely trip to Bournemouth