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How can I be more strategic with my assessment?

This does depends on how you like to approach things. But, it is also important to realise that there are no quick and easy short-cuts to learning. You might as well enjoy the process!

No one correct way of doing things

The tertiary environment requires the capacity to move between what is known and understood and what is challenged and disputed. Some things will be givens - referencing styles, for example. Others will need improvisation – what you think is the best way to present your argument.

There is often no one correct way of doing things and this means uncertainty.

for example, focus intensively on their assignments a few days before they are due. Others will build in their awareness that it will take them some time to absorb and think about their materials and responses. So, they plan longer lead times based around their assignment due dates.

Experience shows that, in general, the more strategic the effort, the better the marks. Ideally, give yourself time to learn to be a student and to build in the time it will take to deal with the uncertainty associated with each new task. It may be that you have genuinely been overrun with domestic and working concerns and have very little time to address your studies. Pragmatically, be aware of the amount of work you need to do to get the mark you want.

Know the focus and boundaries of your assessment

Engage with the Unit Guide for each subject and make the most of it. It contains the information you need to help guide your efforts. For instance, you will be able to see which topics to focus on for your first assignment simply by looking through the weekly objectives leading up to the due date. Look to the readings for these weeks and you will also have the basis for your research efforts.

An example

In this example, from an Arts subject, you can see what reading needs to be completed each week. The lecturer has also provided a schedule of practical tasks you would need to complete to engage with the subject. You will find a similar schedule in the Unit Guides for all your subjects.

Weekly Schedule

The following schedule has been created to provide a guide to both the necessary reading and the practical tasks that you will need to undertake to satisfactorily fulfil the unit requirements and successfully complete the assessment tasks. The topic reading can be located easily in the Unit Book by using the table of contents.

Semester Week Topic Reading Practical Tasks Submissions

Introduction to research

What is social research

Social research ethics

select topic and form group

start learning how to use Excel


Project planning


3 Research designs start literature search, design your project
4 Variable measurement application for approval
5 Data collection instruments arrange and conduct two interviews
6 assignment 1
7 Information retrieval design data collection instrument and coding schedule
8 The pilot study assignment 2
9 Analysis of data administer data collection instrument and start analysing your data
10 Reporting
Mid semester break, no formal teaching for one week
11 write your report
13 assignment 3

Your Unit Guide will also indicate the weighting applied to each item of assessment. This will also help you work out where to place your efforts. For instance, if you have two items of assessment, one worth 70% and the other worth 30%, you would be aware that the first item would require more of your time.

An example

Matching the previous example, the lecturer has provided a list of assessment items (Assignments) and the weighting (Percentage of total assessment), applied to each.

Assignment schedule for SCY2817

warning Prior to conducting your pilot project you MUST complete the application for approval which is due by Wednesday 9th August (week 4)
Assignment Percentage of total assessment Due date
1 Research design (individual work) 25 Monday 21st August (week 6)
2.1 Verbal report (individual work) 5

Monday 4th September (week 8)

2.2 Data collection (group work) 25
3 Report (group work) 45 Monday 16th October
(week 13)

Pay attention to assessment criteria

See What's the difference between a pass, credit, distinction and high distinction? Your lecturer will provide her or his expectations about content and quality in your assignment objectives and in the criteria set for the task. Use this to help you work out what to include in your assignment and what to leave out. Turn it into a checklist and compare it with the final version of your assignment.

Awareness of timeframes

Draw up your timetable with key milestones or dates at the beginning of the semester. After considering the focus and boundaries of your assessment and the assessment criteria, you will have a good idea of the effort involved and will know how much time to devote to the process of preparing your assignment. The Assignment Builda may also be useful here.

An example

Here is an example, from an Arts subject, where the lecturer shows the relationship between the semester's weeks of study and the milestones for achievement along the way - in this case, preparing the 'Application for approval', 'Assignment one', 'Data Collection Instrument', 'Verbal Report', and 'Research Report'.

You might want to do something similar yourself for all your subjects.

It is important to make full use of the guidance supplied in your Unit Guide so that you can organise yourself. You are more likely to know what is important to focus on, to be prepared for key assessment tasks, and to hand them in on time.

Develop your approach to tertiary learning: learn from your experience

Engage with the tertiary learning environment and your own habits and approaches within it. Consider how you can develop your capacity to understand and learn about disciplinary differences, lecturer expectations, the features of communication. This will certainly help you cut down on the effort of dealing with each new task because you will be learning from your experience.

Make use of the range of academic support available to you. Consider what place off-campus learning will have in your life and how it will be accommodated. See Organising your study. Improve your academic outcomes by enhancing your awareness of the tertiary learning environment. Ensure you connect with your learning community as part of this process.

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