Hardworking female student with heap of books drinking coffee while studying at cafe

How to ace your next assignment

The results are out, and your palms are sweating. Will this be another failed attempt, or will the late nights and hard work finally reflect in your assignment results?

We often talk to students who feel disheartened and de-motivated because they put in a lot of effort, but rarely do they receive the assignment results they think they deserve. Why is this, and how can you ensure the best possible assignment results?

Some common mistakes that students make include:

  • Irrelevant information;
  • Answers are too short;
  • Some answers are not completed;
  • Assignment sections are left out;
  • Lack of application and demonstrating own understanding.

Do not despair; these common mistakes do not need to jeopardise your future or career plans. You can improve your assignment results with a few tips and tricks. The key is to work smarter, not harder, by following this plan of action:

#1 Read your assignment question carefully

Ensure that you fully understand what is being asked of you before you attempt to answer the question. For example: “Explain two training methods.” Firstly you need to scrutinise the question. Rephrase the question in such a way that it makes sense. For example, the question can be phrased as: “Describe two ways or techniques in which training can take place.”  A typical answer to the question can be: Role-playing. Participants play the roles of those involved in a specific situation. E-learning. Training is conducted online using the Internet. Read the question carefully to ensure that you understand the question. Highlight keywords and identify the task words such as discuss, explain, compare, design, evaluate, justify etc.

#2 Take the mark allocation of a question into account

Look at how many marks a question counts before you answer it to guide you with how much information you need to include. For example, if a question counts two marks, you need to write at least two relevant facts or statements to receive two marks. Similarly, when you have to complete an essay question for 30 marks, your answer should at least include 30 to 40 relevant facts or statements.

#3 Answer all sections and all questions

Answer every question, even if you are unsure of the answer. If you leave out a question, there is nothing that can be assessed, and you will receive no marks, whereas you might still receive one or two marks when you answer something relevant or well-motivated. Even more so, it is essential that you do not leave out a section of an assignment as it can easily cost you 25% - 50% of your assignment results.

#4 Demonstrate your understanding

Although you must use your study material to prepare for assignments, you still have to show your insight and comprehension when answering questions. It is essential to demonstrate that you understand theoretical concepts and know how to apply them practically. Use your examples to emphasise and motivate statements you make in your assignment. For example, suppose you state that all employees should receive orientation from time to time. In that case, you need to add an explanation such as: “All employees should from time to time receive orientation as processes and policies change, and all employees must be updated with the latest and newest work information.” When you consult journal articles, web articles, textbooks or other sources of information, include references. Also, try to change the phrases or sentences used into your own words, and add to it your ideas so that the work submitted is your own.

Bill Gates said "It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure".

Don’t let disappointing marks keep you from trying and reaching your goals. A failed assignment teaches you valuable lessons on how to improve your academic writing which is a critical skill for employers.