Wednesday, 2 March 2016

How to make sense of EPA exam questions

The NCTJ diploma course exams are next month, so we’ll be giving some tips.

Some people struggle to interpret EPA exam questions. In fact they’re easier than they look. Most of them just ask you to define terms.

The best approach is to remove the window dressing from each question, and ask yourself: ‘What are they asking me to define?’

Let’s demonstrate with this question:

Your local MP who is a backbencher has made a speech in which she has argued that MPs have recently been greatly maligned in the media and that the majority were suffering for the wrongdoings of a small minority.

You have been asked to follow up the story by producing a fact file and suggesting a number of interviews.

Briefly put this story into context, indicating the issues that have given rise to bad publicity for MPs and indicate what actions have been taken to address this.

Explain and discuss the role of the backbench MPs, indicating clearly what is meant by the term ‘backbencher’.

List five local contacts you would approach to follow up the story and give reasons for your choices.

 Now here’s the question with the ‘window dressing’ crossed out:

 Your local MP who is a backbencher has made a speech in which she has argued that MPs have recently been greatly maligned in the media and that the majority were suffering for the wrongdoings of a small minority.

You have been asked to follow up the story by producing a fact file and suggesting a number of interviews.

Briefly put this story into context, indicating Explain the issues that have given rise to bad publicity for MPs and indicate what actions have been taken to address this.

Explain and discuss the role of the backbench MPs, indicating clearly what is meant by the term ‘backbencher’.

List five local contacts you would approach to follow up the story and give reasons for your choices.
So what you’re actually being asked is:

  1. What issues have given MPs bad publicity recently?
  2. What’s been done about it?
  3. What is a backbencher?
  4. What does a backbencher do?
  5. List 5 contacts to follow up the story – justify each one.
This approach makes the questions far simpler to deal with.

See our NCTJ journalism diploma courses

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