6 Tips When Writing Assignments

Writing assignments is a normal part of most further and higher education courses we will undertake and is an important step in demonstrating your knowledge and understanding in enough detail to pass your course.  Different courses will demand different types of assignment but I have provided 6 simple steps that you should take no matter what.  We will look at these 5 steps below.

1. Read the question!

This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many assignments I mark where it is clear that the writer has missed a whole section out because they have not read the question or the task carefully enough. Many questions or tasks have more than one element to them – make sure you read the whole task before starting your assignment.

2. Check the assessment criteria

In some courses you will have access to the assessment criteria. These are the elements that you must cover to demonstrate your understanding.  For example, one assessment criterion on the IWFM Level 3 in Facilities Management Unit FM3.01 is:

 “explain the key management functions within facilities management

Check if the assessment criteria are available for you, and if you do not have access, ask your tutor.  Often, they come provided with guidelines to help you in your assignment, so, for example, the assessment criterion above comes with the following guidelines shown in red:

explain the key management functions within facilities management

(Including, for example, people management, financial management, contract management, asset management, project management, risk management and compliance, health and safety management)

These essentially tell you what you need to cover to meet the assessment criterion.

3. Underline key words

The first key word in the task is usually the active verb – the verb telling you whether you need to identify, explain, describe, evaluate, analyse and so on. It is important that you understand what these active verbs mean because, for example, if the task asks you to ‘compare’ and then you do not provide a discussion of the similarities and differences you will not achieve the task.

Then read the rest of the question and underline other key words as shown below in a task taken from the IWFM Level 5 in Facilities Management, unit FM5.11 Project Management:

Compare and evaluate methods, tools and techniques of project management.

So, if we look at this task in more detail, you have two active verbs, ‘compare’ and ‘evaluate’.  ‘Comparing’ means you need to look at similarities and differences and ‘Evaluating’ means you should look at strengths and weaknesses, benefits and limitations or advantages and disadvantages of something.  Then we have underlined three nouns, methods, tools and techniques so you now should be clear that you have to pick some methods, tools and techniques used in Project Management and compare them all and then look at the strengths and weaknesses of using each one when managing a project.

4. Plan your work out

So many students I have come across tend to start writing their assignment as soon as they have read the question, fail to prepare and then often miss some key elements out. Remember the old adage:

Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail!

Usually, assignments are written in your own time and so you are not constrained by time in the same way that you would be in an exam so you have plenty of time to prepare.  Preparation when writing assignments, as with any other task, is key.

One way of preparing is to formulate a Mind Map.  This will help to ensure you include all aspects that should be incorporated into your answer.  With the IWFM Facilities Management courses you will probably need several mind maps, one for each task, but it will be worth your while spending time preparing like this.  An example of a partial mind map for the task in point 2 is shown below:

 

Screenshot 2021-01-12 at 11.08.56

 

5. Assume the Assessor knows nothing

By making this assumption it will help you to ensure you explain everything which will assist you in demonstrating your full knowledge and understanding. Of course, the assessor does know, or at least hopefully knows, the answers to the questions but they need to know that you know.  If you use acronyms, for example, such as SLA, always expand them on first use to demonstrate to the assessor that you know what SLA stands for, so you would write ‘Service Level Agreement (SLA)’  You can then use the acronym going forward.  If you are referring to particular techniques, try and provide a brief description of them to start with, so for example, if you are referring to ‘benchmarking’ as a method of measuring the effectiveness of a strategy, explain, briefly, what benchmarking actually is.

6. Proof Read

When you have completed your assignment, do not forget to proof read it, or better still, get someone else to proof read it for you. Often, when we read what we have written ourselves we can miss errors because we read what we think we have written, not what is actually there.  If someone else, reading your assignment for the first time, understands what you have written then you have demonstrated your knowledge and understanding.  Also, do not ignore red and blue wiggly lines under words and phrases.  These indicate spelling and grammatical errors.  Do remember, however, that you cannot rely on these 100% and you may wish to read my previous blog “Eye halve a spelling checker” for tips on using Word spell check.

 

I hope these tips have proved helpful for you and good luck with writing your assignments, whichever qualification you are studying for.

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