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Study skills: what to expect from/how to prepare for your assessments 

Students sit in a lecture theatre at Newcastle University

The things that most students dread the most during their time at University are definitely exams and assignments. But don’t worry, they aren’t as scary as they first seem and in this blog, I am going to debunk the myth that coursework and assessments are a student’s worst nightmare.

University assessments = personal development

When I was younger, I used to get very stressed during exam season, and it would  negatively impact my mental health. But when I started my Business Management degree at Newcastle University, I started to learn that assignments and exams are there for one reason: for your personal development. In life, you will always have to test your abilities and knowledge if you want to succeed, especially if we are talking about the world of work. Assignments are there to help you build up the necessary skills and knowledge that will make you succeed in the world of tomorrow.

During my time as a Business Management student, I have encountered many different assessment formats including:

The Traditional Essay

Essays are documents that you prepare over a period of time. You are assessed on your ability to critically analyse a given topic related to what you have been studying in your module/course. From my experience, it took some time to get used to essays, as where I come from in Italy, this type of assignment is non-existent.

In particular, I am talking about referencing. References can be quite tricky if it’s your first time writing an essay, but as I always say, practice makes perfect. I really stress to anyone who is starting their degree and in need of getting a clear understanding of referencing, check out the University’s library website. They provide a very clear explanation of everything you need to know. Additionally, the website ‘Cite Them Right’ is a real lifesaver when I’m writing my essays. It’s the website the Business School suggests using to ensure you are correctly referencing any type of document, from simple digital books to even internet websites and social media posts.

The more unusual assessment; a poster

A poster is literally what you think it means. It’s a one slide PowerPoint presentation that would resemble a real-life poster. It summarises in a visually appealing way, a given topic related to your studies. The reason why we are assessed through posters is that today, many companies use posters to specifically sum up, as you would in your assignments, a business strategy or anything similar. They have ultimately replaced the more outdated executive summary.

Group projects and presentations

Students work on a group project together in a library pod

Many students have a love and hate relationship with group assignments. They’d really enjoy them if they could work with their friends, but what happens most of the time is that you are randomly allocated to a team made up of people that you might not know.

This can be quite nerve-racking at first, but I can guarantee you that this can be the best practical experience you can have. The reason for this being is the fact that you will be getting used to working and communicating with strangers on a variety of topics, which is an essential experience for when you start working.

In most cases, you will be expected to develop a PowerPoint presentation that draws on an academic topic. From my experience, group projects are a great way to step out of your comfort zone and to make new friends.

Finally, an aspect I like and which makes group work similar to a traditional working environment, are peer assessments. At the end of your project, you “mark” your fellow teammates on a scale of 1-5  on their performance and contribution to the team, the results of which will be considered by the examiners when marking your work. Some like it, some hate it, but in my opinion, it makes way for a fairer environment.

The Exam

Finally, we have traditional exams. The two most common, from my experience, have been multiple choice exams and essay-style exams. Exams are supposed to test your memory and understanding of a given topic. Whenever I have an exam coming up, I always find it useful to stay up to date with lectures and reading. Froman early date, I can start memorising everything I need to know to perform well in the exam itself.

Hard work pays off

When it comes to assessments, I sincerely believe that hard work always pays off. If you attend your lectures and seminars and do the suggested reading, there is no reason to worry.

Nevertheless, if an exam/assignment doesn’t go as well you had hoped, don’t panic. Feedback at Newcastle University Business School is considered essential. For example, all of your assignments will be sent off through the platform Turnitin, which is used to check for plagiarism but also, to deliver feedback. When marks are released you will find general feedback but also specific feedback within the text itself, which in my opinion, is really helpful.

Overall, exams and assignments can be stressful, but with the correct commitment, any obstacle can be surpassed.


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Matteo is an undergraduate student studying Business Management at Newcastle University Business School.