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Study Skills

Understanding Assessment Tasks

Students working in the library

Assessment tasks can come in many forms at University: reports, case studies, group assignments, oral presentations, literature reviews, however, the most common type of assessment is an essay.

The most important requirements in academic essays is to ensure you answer the question and to reference your work.

The most difficult step in completing an essay or any assessment task is starting, particularly if you are uncertain of the structure or content expected.


Another helpful strategy is to brainstorm your topic. Brainstorming ideas for an assessment task opens up the creative side of your mind and encourages thinking that operates without preconceptions and censorship.

Brainstorm the key words in the question, allowing as many ideas as possible to float into your mind. The trick is to respond immediately and not censor your thoughts, many crazy remote ideas can lead to the best writing. These ideas can make your assignment original and special.

There are no right or wrong answers in brainstorming, like most other skills brainstorming gets easier with practice.

Getting Started

Work through the following five questions when starting an assessment task:

  1. Write down in your own words what you think the assignment is asking of you. Look for the operative words in the essay question. Our guide to operative word meanings (in the section "Answer the Question"), may help you to understand what is being asked.
  1. What do you already know about the subject matter?
  1. What do you need to know to help you complete this assignment?
  1. How is this assignment different or similar to others you have done?
  1. How are you going to research this assignment?