Tackling your first assessment

Starting an assessment task can be stressful. Not sure where to begin? Here are 5 steps to help you get on track:

Understand the task

During your course you’ll be expected to submit lots of different types of assessment. Understanding the assessment requirements and reading the task instructions carefully will help you stay on track and submit what is actually required. If you’re unfamiliar with academic writing you might what to check out types of assignments. The assessment guidelines include the marking rubric (CRA) which outlines the standards used to grade your work. These often contain extra information about weighting of marks and how many references to include so it pays to read them carefully for EVERY assessment task. The instructions also include information about the accepted format, referencing style and mode of delivery for presentations. Find out more about CRA sheets.

Analyse the task instructions

Once you’ve checked out the task itself and looked at all the criteria it helps to break it down further. You can unpack the assignment by identifying key words that tell you more about what is required:

    Content words identify the topic or issues related to your task.
    Directive words explain what you need to do to meet the criteria and how to do it.
    Limiting words narrow the scope of your assessment by providing more detail.

Use the key words to brainstorm everything you know about the content (topic) so that you are ready for the next step. Find examples of directive words in the Task Word Glossary.

Research the narrowed down topic

Use the content words (which tell you about the topic) and limiting words to make a research plan. Make a list of questions that you need to answer and make sure you read with that purpose in mind. It’s important to note the searches you do so you can keep refining the search and find the most relevant, current information. If you don’t feel confident about researching a topic QUT Library has a stack of online resources to guide you through the process.

Organise your notes effectively

You need to read and note the information you have identified as useful for your assessment task. There’s no one method that works for everyone but it helps to have a basic system and to keep reviewing and refining your skills during the semester. So, make sure you develop a process to organise your information in a way that makes your life easier. Record the reference material every time you refer to a source. If you are doing this electronically use file names that make it easy to locate the information later and store the files under topics so you can locate them again for future reference. Learn more about effective notetaking in our study guides.

Make a detailed plan

Whether you’re writing an essay or preparing a presentation it always helps to have a really good plan. Use the task instructions to map out what you need to include in your assessment task.
Most written assignments require you to organise the information logically and the task instructions will often give you a structure to follow.
It may be tempting to think that it’s not so important to write a plan for a presentation but careful planning goes a long way! Planning the content, structure and timing of a presentation is essential to achieve maximum grades. Check out QUT’s guides for preparing a presentation.

The first assessment you do at uni or the first assessment for a new unit can feel a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to let self-doubt creep in. The good news is, you’re not alone at there are so many resources to support you. Check out academic help and workshops available to you this semester.

Reading a journal article

Reading for university courses is often challenging and time-consuming. Many students find that the skills they previously needed and used at school or work are not as effective for university study. Understanding and using effective active reading strategies can make your reading more meaningful, purposeful, and successful.

As a starting point, it is important to understand the unique features of journal articles so that you can better understand the content.

This short video from the University of British Colombia iSchool contains tips to help you read journal articles efficiently and effectively. The video is available here.

For further information and very useful tips, work through this Reading and note takingĀ module from Monash University.

Using news articles to improve reading

University study requires a lot of reading and, like most things, good reading comes with practice. Improving comprehension skills involves reading a wide range of texts and news articles can be an excellence source of material.

An excellent site for current news stories from Australia and around the world is the ABC. For students who use English as an Additional Language Breaking News English has a large range (and back catalogue) of news items with comprehension questions. Articles are available for differing levels of reading ability and there are many different activities provided. There are also lots of discussion and writing tasks to take the activities further.

Different types of journal articles

An awareness of different types of journal articles and their purposes can help you identify and locate articles that are relevant to a particular purpose (e.g. research for an assignment). It may also be useful when you need to explain the purpose or rationale of an article that you have read (e.g. when writing an annotated bibliography or literature review).

Here is a useful summary of the different types of articles that may be published in academic peer-reviewed journals.