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Approaching assessments

What is the best way to approach your assessments at university? Fran and student Paddy tell us all about assessment and give their top tips!
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© University of York

Let’s take a deep dive into the world of assessments, and consider some of the questions that are regularly posed…

When will they fall in the academic year?

Assessments can come at any point in the academic year. However, it is usual that most large summative assessments, the ones that count towards your marks, will be due near the end of the module. Many universities have an assessment period, which may be at the end of the term or semester, or at the start of the following term or semester. This is when exams are taken or coursework deadlines fall.

How should I approach assessments?

There isn’t one answer to this question and it depends on the type of assessment and your learning style. However, it’s always worth checking the dates and details of all tasks and deadlines early, and planning your time accordingly.

You don’t need to do this alone! Your lecturers or personal supervisors may provide guidance and it is likely your university will have support through the library, academic writing team or study skills tutors. Check out their website and ask your personal supervisor or tutor if you’re unsure where to look.

Here are three top tips for getting started with assessments:

  • Read the assignment brief, learning outcomes and marking criteria closely. This is what you’re being marked on. Make sure you follow the task that’s set exactly and focus closely on the skills and knowledge criteria outlined in the learning outcomes and marking criteria. You should be able to find this information in the module outline or assignment brief. You don’t need to worry about skills or knowledge which isn’t explicitly referred to here – these will be assessed elsewhere in the course.
  • Make a plan. Think about the time you have before the deadline and the tasks you need to complete. For example, if you’re writing an essay you’ll want to factor in researching, planning, writing, editing and proofreading. Work backwards from the deadline and set yourself mini-deadlines in the coming weeks.
  • Start early. The earlier you start thinking about the assignment the more time you have to digest the research you’ve done and course content. It’s also possible that something unexpected might happen or a task might take longer than planned, so it’s worth planning in contingency time.

Patrick, a current University of York student, shares what he wishes he’d known in his first year

Assessments are a necessary part of your time at university, they are important and should be seen as such. However, no matter how daunting they might seem, there are lots of support options available. Every student at university will have an academic supervisor and they should be your first point of contact for anything academically related. Often assessments are assigned at specific times in the academic year, which means you can plan accordingly. I found by starting initial prep work early, I was able to fully prepare to undertake my assessments in a reasonable and non stressful way . Make sure you know what you know what type of assessment you are undertaking.

You will have access to university guidance around what is being looked for at each grade. This is a useful document and can really help structure your assessment. Most lecturers have office hours where you can get some additional guidance on the assessments. If you have an SSP -student support plan-, they can be constructive in their guidance.

Aim to pass your assessments first time round. There is a resit/assessment period in the summer holidays, but it’s always best to avoid being in that position so that you can really enjoy your summer break.

Try not to worry about the assessment periods, they are a necessary part of the university experience. With the right preparation and accessing your support network when required, the assessment period will pass by. University will at times feel like a sprint, it’s more like a marathon and you are not in competition with the other students.’

Over to you

Think about how you’ve approached a large piece of work with a deadline in the past. This might be an exam, an essay, or a work report. Maybe you have organised something outside of education/work – a party or wedding, a race or sporting event you’ve trained for. How did you organise your time and structure the tasks so you met the deadline?

© University of York
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