Top 5 NCTJ Textbooks

You can’t remember everything and sometimes you need to look stuff up. That’s what are books are for anyway and the NCTJ course is no different in requiring their students to own certain textbooks. Each course will be different but you can’t go wrong with the below:

Your Own Notes

It’s important to take notes in the classes. Do not rely on the textbooks alone or the handouts you are given in class. When it comes to cramming revision for Law and PA you are likely to understand the meaning of your own notes a lot quicker than relying on long passages in books.

McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists

The only book you will need for the law classes. It explains every part of media law in simple terms and also includes very handy examples, the knowledge of which will score you extra marks in your exam. At the end of each chapter there is a recap of the major points in bullet point form to aid revision as well.

Public Affairs for Journalists

Again this is the only book you will need for any PA class. In contrast to McNae’s though, do not rely on it for examples. Always keep up to date with government news as things happen every day which can be related to your PA class. The examples in the book are by no means terrible but they focus on Blair and Brown’s Labour government. For more marks in the exam you want to keep your examples as relevant as possible. Again the end of each chapter is useful for revision with further reading, review questions and online resources all offered.

Teeline Fast

This book by Ann Dix was preferred by my course in Wimbledon but there are other options available such as NCTJ Teeline Gold Standard for Journalists. Teeline Fast, however, is compact and concise and used in combination with your lessons will really help to get you through the theory of why you write shorthand the way you do.

Essential Reporting: The NCTJ Guide for Trainee Journalists

Not one that I used during my time but seeing as the NCTJ has changed slightly and now has a whole module called Reporting, I’ll wager that this would be one of the key texts for that subject. It looks at everything from how a newsroom works to handling sound, pictures and the web and with more of a focus on web reporting in the NCTJ these days, this book looks a good bet.

At the end of the course, although you will be very tempted, don’t burn your books in celebration. Keep them, they not only serve a purpose while you are studying but they can be handy reference material when you work into your first job and need to report on a rape case in court.

A list of the books mentioned, and others can be found on Amazon here


6 Responses to Top 5 NCTJ Textbooks

  1. Matt Baxter says:

    For shorthand I use ‘Teeline Gold Standard’ by Marie Cartwright. Great book, has much more to it than other books I’ve used. Great for dictation passages and practise/revision.

    Think I might check out the Reporting one you suggested. Got my exam in March.

    • Matt Wiggins says:

      Hi Matt

      Good to see you keeping up with the blog despite my absence! Yeah, Teeline Gold Standard is very good for dictation. I think Teeline Fast has the edge on the theory though. Both are good choices, its just Teeline Fast is what I used.

      Good luck for the exam, how are you finding things generally?

  2. cleland thom says:

    Problem with Essential Law is there’s a lot out of date now, as it was published in 2009. Also, there’s a lot in it that you won’t need for exams. Same with Essential PA. If any one needs our exam-focused materials, Law update, or revision guides, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to send them to you(no charge).

    • Natalie Webb says:

      Hi i am revising for my NCTJ’s which I am taking in November but am doing it all distance learning and could do with all the help I can get revision guides, updates and exam materials would all be incredibly useful please email me so i can send you my address etc

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi Cleland Thom (or anyone who can help),

    I have been doing PA since October and have my exam in April, has anyone got some helpful revision guides or know any websites or books that help with revision. I have the Essential PA book and have a couple of handouts from my lecturer, but finding it hard to revise with these. Any tips?


  4. cleland thom says:

    Yes, be glad to help – email me at and I’ll do what I can.

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