Tips for handling assessment stress

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As someone who is currently undertaking an English degree, I’ve had my fair share of assessments (mainly essays) and yes, they stress me out. A lot.

The stress of assignments is enough to put you off starting them in the first place. It seems silly, but that’s the way our brains work. If we’re worried about doing something, instinct tells us to avoid it completely which is entirely counterproductive. I’ve developed a few ways of kick-starting assessments so that the initial stress of starting them and completing them is significantly reduced. As I always say when I offer tips or advice, these techniques really work for me and I’ve found that they’re the best for reducing my stress and making an assessment appear more manageable. If these techniques don’t work for you, learn from them, personalise them and adapt them until you’ve found exactly what works for you. So, here goes!

BE PREPARED

I’ve often found that the best ideas come to me at the most random times. I’ve written them down in the notes on my phone and then completely forgotten to look at them later. Of course, the logical thing to do would be to carry around your laptop/tablet or whichever device you write your assessments on but, it isn’t always ideal to be carrying your equipment around busy city centres.

So, I’ve started carrying a small notebook with me and whenever I think of an idea that I know I could use for an assessment, I jot it down in my notebook. I’m a stationary lover so of course, I pick pretty stationary (mainly pink, gold and rose gold) but any stationary works! Most of my notepads came from Poundworld but they look so much more expensive than they were. I know that when I get back to my flat at the end of a busy day, I’m going to unpack my bag and part of that process will involve the notebook. I then remember to give some time and attention to the idea I thought up earlier that day. Honestly, this idea is fool-proof and I’ll continue to do it for the rest of my degree.

COMPILE ASSESSMENT INFORMATION

If you’re already a University student, you’ll probably have heard of the term “assessment bunching” before, or something similar. This is when all your assessments for all your different modules are all due at the same time.

Each module tends to give you a module guide that will include the assessment information. Though students appreciate the information they’re given, all of the information is split amongst different booklets and it’s difficult to remember where all of the information is. In January, I sat down at my desk and decided to create a booklet with ALL the assessment information in for ALL the modules I’m taking this semester. The booklet contains:

• What the assessment is and how to complete it.

• The word count.

• Any advice the tutors have given us.

• The assessment rubric so I know what I am being assessed on.

With all of this information handy in one booklet, I know that when I’m starting a new assignment, I just have to reach for this booklet and all the information I need is contained. This saves time when you need it most and will make your brain feel less cluttered and ready to take on the assignments.

MAKE A PLAN

How patronising does that sound? I feel like this is something we’ve been told since Year 7 in high school, but I truly never understood the beauty of planning an assignment before I attempt to complete it until University.

My problem when I complete assignments is that I don’t like having to think of new things to write as I go along. I prefer to have all the information ready and then I can simply write it without having to do so much thinking. It’s the ‘thinking’ part that takes so much time. By making a plan before you do the assessment, you get the ‘thinking’ portion out of the way which means that the hard part is done! You then just have to devote a small portion of time to actually sitting and writing it all down in sentences.

If you’ve never made a plan before, you’re probably reading this thinking, “that’s nothing new. It doesn’t work, I’m never trying it.” Honestly, give it a go. The ‘writing’ portion of your assignment will be 10x easier, trust me.

GO TO THE LIBRARY

Libraries at University are interesting places; they’re 50% motivated students doing work and 50% students trying to look motivated when they’re just on their phone.

Maybe some students from degrees other than English won’t think as much of the library as I do, but I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to have SO MUCH information at your fingertips. If you take your laptop to the library, you have every single book in that library and then the world wide web ready for you to scour. I find that sitting amongst so much information makes me want to research my topic, and it makes me want to get to things done. Even when I’ve had enough of doing assessments in the library, I’ve often found myself organising the folders on my laptop just because I feel more productive when I’m there. The majority of the people in the library are doing work just like yours so, maybe sitting among other like-minded people might make you more motivated to get your assessments underway.

FINALLY, START EARLY!

I know, I sound like a mother nagging you to not leave your assessments to the last minute. Half of assessment stress is the idea that you have a deadline to meet. Even if that deadline is a month away, the stress of having a deadline is still there. The more of your assessment you can get done early, the further away that deadline will be when you finish. There is no better feeling than having a completed assessment a fortnight before it’s due and having a large window of time to check it over and over before you have to submit it.

So, there you have it. My 5 top tips on how to handle assessment stress! I hope this has been useful to you and that it (possibly) motivated you to get some of your assessments done.

If you have any topics that you’d like me to write about, please do let me know!

Eloise x

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