Exam Prep Tips

"It is one thing to feel confident of your knowledge; it's something else to demonstrate mastery. Testing is not only a powerful learning strategy, it is a potent reality check on the accuracy of your own judgement of what you know how to do." - Make It Stick by Peter Brown
Teeline Exam Error Tolerances

Three Important Considerations

There are three important considerations before deciding to sit for an exam.

1) Are you ready? Many enter before they should. Prior to scheduling an exam, you should have the full support of your teacher and/or tutor. Listen to their recommendations for the correct test to sit for. Do not sit for exams you are not truly ready for.

2) Don't rely on "inspiration" or "luck" to get you through. Much better to put in the work and come fully prepared.  

3) Finally, make sure you can read your notes. Many an exam was lost because the student couldn't read back. Don't just learn how to take notes. You must be able to transcribe accurately.


Necessary preparation for any examination starts well before the actual day itself. The shorthand writer gains nothing from last-minute "cramming."

Remember the Five P's Rule: "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance."

In many ways, your first exam is the most important for it sets the stage for your future success. Do everything in your power to make sure you start off on the right foot by preparing well.

To this point, many shorthand experts advise you should be comfortable with speeds about 20 wpm ABOVE the exam speed you will sit for in order to offset test-day nerves and/or to handle unknown vocabulary.

You also need plenty of practice in taking dictation for the required length of time at the speed you will sit for. This builds confidence and your chances of success will be considerably enhanced.

Start to get a feel for how much time it takes you to transcribe your work. For example, for the 60 wpm exam, you have 25 minutes to transcribe 240 words. This breaks down to about 10 words per minute plus one minute to read it through one last time. Knowing how quickly you can transcribe is good information to have when preparing for a speed examination.

The whole examination hinges upon a writer's ability to do well in the first few minutes. If dictation is not successfully taken, then the transcript will be inaccurate or incomplete.

Breathe! It is a powerful stress reliever.

Finally, remember work which is badly written will not give the examiner a good impression of your writing abilities. This may make the difference between a pass or fail in the case of a borderline candidate.

Once the examination has started and you have begun, do not stop writing. If you are currently in the habit of pausing during your practice sessions for any reason, stop this habit. How you practice will carry over to any examination you sit. Regardless of how a dictation is going, concentrate to the best of your ability and do not stop. Form good habits and let the habit form you.

If you keep going, you will succeed.

As the last quote on the "On Study and Practise" page exhorts (but it bears repeating here again): "Whatever you do, don’t you quit. Not now. Not ever. Even if you’re the last one standing, don't you ever quit."

The NCTJ Shorthand Marking Guide

It is important to download, print and read the NCTJ Shorthand Marking Guide. The latest one covers 2022-2023.

While it is highly recommended you download, print and read the entire guide, a few noteworthy points are included here:

One mark is deducted for a word wrongly transcribed.
One mark is deducted for a word missing from the transcript.
One mark is deducted for a word added which was not dictated.

Shorthand transcriptions are marked for accuracy and your shorthand note is checked, but not marked.

Contractions will not be used in dictated passages. Therefore, words need to be transcribed in full; i.e., "cannot" - not, can't.

Remember to write abbreviations in full.

One mark is deducted for the use of a contraction.

Your outlines cannot be altered during or after dictation. However, it is perfectly acceptable - indeed recommended - that any “iffy” outlines (or even blanks) may be ringed and the correct outline written in the margin--on the same line as the questionable (or missing) outline.

Hyphenated words should be counted as two words. Learners who like to check the number of words they have transcribed need to remember that; e.g., £120 counts as one word in your word count BUT is actually FIVE words (one hundred and twenty pounds).

Exams at or above 100 WPM

A correctly identified quote in exams of 100-120 wpm is marked for accuracy.

The quote will always be a minimum of 25 words up to a maximum of 35 words and will always appear in the final minute.

The words before and after the quote are not marked.

Only the identified quote should be transcribed in the answer box provided on the relevant transcription page. Any other words transcribed in the answer box will result in a fail.  

In exams of 100-120 wpm, learners must transcribe the quote accurately, along with no more than 3% error in the first three minutes of dictation, in order to achieve a pass.

Cautionary Word Pair/Groups List

The following pairs (or groups) of words are often confused for one another for several reasons; the outlines are poorly written, letter positioning (either on the Teeline or, conversely, NOT on the Teeline); failure to adhere to a Teeline principle; sentence context or failure to use a distinguishing outline. What this boils down to is: Too many people have missed points because of these words. Just knowing these words can cause you grief is half the battle. The second half is putting in the work to make sure YOU know them cold. "To know and not to do is the same as not to know."


From the Handbook for Teeline Teachers- Chapter 17: An Examiner's View by George Hill p. 97

See our
Cautionary List page as well.