Working on assessments can be a source of stress for a lot of students. It can be hard to figure out the best way to tackle them to make sure you’re not overwhelmed and get the results you want. Master’s student Elaine Ferrao shares her 5 strategies to manage assessments at RGU.
At RGU, many of the master’s courses do not have exams and are mostly graded on assignments given throughout the semester. Although the term “assignment” may sound easier than an exam, the challenge here is being able to manage these lengthy coursework.
As an international student, this studying system is new to me. My first semester at RGU helped me figure out that the key to managing my assessments is “Time”.
The one thing that I learned is that your first semester gives you an idea and an understanding of how things work. Through this blog, I share my experience of how I overcame the need to manage time. I hope that it helps you manage your assessments without having to struggle at the start of your university journey.
1. Managing time
My challenge was being able to manage part-time work and coursework. I’d work on weekends, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. In the 1st semester, I would often fret about the fact that some assessments were falling on a Monday or Tuesday since I would be working on weekends and wouldn’t have enough time for completion.
So, to manage this issue for the second semester, I created my own timetable with deadlines that worked according to my schedule. For instance, I knew that I work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hence, my modified schedule had deadlines on the Wednesday prior to the official deadline. This would give me time to work for my next submission and finish it on time.
2. Preparing a structure in advance
The other thing that I did was having the structure of my coursework ready at least 1 month before the deadline and making sure I had at least an understanding of the assessment requirements.
Structuring last minute only makes things haywire. It forces you to make a lot of corrections to your work since your thoughts are not on track. Whereas, structuring in advance gives you the opportunity to discuss with your lecturers and helps you get an understanding of what exactly is expected from the assessment, which is important.
Completing your draft in advance as well gives you time to discuss with your module co-ordinator, which helps you gain some genuine feedback from them and is another key to be able to do well in your assessments.
3. Knowing your brief from the beginning
Another key to managing your assessment is to know your assessment briefs from the beginning of the Semester. Most of what you need to know for your assessments will be taught during class by your lecturers. By knowing the brief, you will know when a particularly important topic is coming up. This will help you be alert, and understand with better concentration in class.
4. Maximising productivity
I chose the university library as my personal workspace to complete my assessments. My house is quite cold, which constantly makes me snack and doesn’t allow for maximum productivity.
I would also make sure that I had 8 hours of sleep because I’m not fully productive if my sleep is not complete! Listening to study music for concentration would also often help keep my mind from wandering at most times.
5. Managing expenses
My lunch would be basic ham or tuna sandwiches that I would prepare at home in the morning before heading to the university. On some days, I’d also carry a £1 cookie packet from the grocery store to satisfy my cravings.
You can also stock up on the Starbucks cold coffees from the stores, which you can carry to the library in order to help yourself stay awake. If you prefer hot drinks, you can either carry hot water (milk separate) in a travel mug to be able to make yourself a coffee in case if you feel sleepy or unproductive since these alternatives are comparatively cheaper than buying drinks from a coffee shop.
To motivate myself, I also booked a monthly bus pass which helped me avoid calculating the daily expense of going into campus. And the bonus was that, since I’d already booked a monthly pass, I would make sure to utilize it, which helped me diligently go on campus to study. It’s definitely cheaper to have a monthly pass is you want to travel more than 15 days a month!
Initially, it does get difficult to sit in the library for long hours, but you get used to it eventually. With some time, you will start loving the whole process.
Summary of key habits to manage assessments
- Since preparing your schedule is the first step, start by identifying the challenges that hinder your time, or what went wrong in your previous semester if you already had one.
- If possible, choose a study space away from your home. This will help your brain recognise this space a work environment. This is not only essential while preparing assessments, but throughout your semester.
- Know your brief from the beginning of the semester to be alert when things are discussed during lectures.
- Try to prepare a schedule for 2-4 weeks saying that you’ll give 5 days to 1 assignment or either 2 days a week for different assignments. This will help create a variation which will not make you feel bored or demotivated.
- Constantly set targets and keep sticking to them.
- While working on your assessments, don’t forget to go through the study guide which has most answers to what is expected from you. Also, do not neglect the articles provided by module co-ordinators on the CampusMoodle page. They are equally useful.
- Attend the study skills workshops. If you don’t have the time, you can listen to the recordings while on the bus or even in the background while cooking. You don’t necessarily need to take notes because the tips provided during these workshops are easy to grasp.