How to best approach assignments

How to best approach assignments

Subject Outline
The first thing to do from the outset is look closely at the subject outline provided. Within that document the assessment items – and when they are due – will be provided. Most subjects will have three assessment items – and these will vary depending on the actual subject and content. The concept behind assessment/assignments is to test whether the learning outcomes of the subject are being met. It is essential that you know what the learning outcomes are – how to demonstrate that you have achieved them – and this will be reflected in the grades you get for the various assessment elements – including assignments.

The best advice to give is diarise the assignments the moment you get hold of the subject outline. Dates/weeks when various items are due or scheduled will be spelt out carefully – make sure you diarise these timings to avoid unnecessary stress and tension. By being organised and systematic most of the stress associated with assignments (and exams for that matter) will dissipate.

Start a week out
Once you have laid out the scheduling for your various subjects – make sure you start each assignment at least a week out. The best approach is always early starts. Leaving the assignments (and the associated research) to the last minute will inevitably put you under greater stress and usually results in a poorer score. Start early!

Look at the question carefully
Such a simple matter – but you would be surprised how often not looking at the question has resulted in heart ache. Ensure you look carefully at what is being asked of you. Take time (hence the importance of starting a week out) to consider the requirements of the assignments and what resources you will need to bring together. Trim, trim and trim your ideas – make sure your response to the question is on track and exactly what is being asked of you.

Stay within the word count
Importantly stay within the word count requested. There is usually a 10% tolerance either way – but it is essential you stay within the word count. This may mean editing your work carefully towards the end of the assignment to stay within the boundary. With regard to proof reading – one of the best approaches is to read your assignment out loud – you will be surprised how many changes you will make once you hear yourself reading the assignment.

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Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is currently Deputy Vice Chancellor of Group Colleges